In a January 20 webinar for seminary leaders, a researcher for the Association of Theological Schools highlighted sobering data gleaned from surveys of new students at the association's member institutions.

Thirty percent of entering seminary students plan to work more than 20 hours a week and 35 percent plan to work 10 to 20 hours a week while in seminary, while 22 percent do not plan to seek a paid job. These and other details were revealed by Dr. Jo Ann Deasy at a webinar on January 20 that was presented by the Association of Theological Schools. Deasy based her report on the Entering Student Questionnaire (ESQ) data from this year, which was completed by 6,196 entering students at ATS member seminaries, which represented a 37 percent response rate.

Deasy, director of institutional initiatives and student research for ATS, stressed that seminaries should assess their local communities and determine if businesses offer enough part-time employment opportunities to meet student expectations. If not, financial aid should be adjusted.

The financial situation of incoming seminary students in 2015 improved only slightly compared with students entering in 2014. About 10 percent of today’s full-time M.Div. students have educational and non-educational debts of more than $60,000, a slight decrease from last year’s figure of 11.2 percent. About 53.6 percent of today’s M.Div students have debts totaling $10,000 to $60,000, a slight decrease from 53.8 percent in 2014-15. The remaining 37 percent of entering students have total debt of less than $10,000.

This debt data represents entering M.Div. students only. For complete results of the survey, visit


Image credit: "Window Cleaners" by Jennifer Morrow, text added