On Thursday, January 29, the Concordia Seminary, St. Louis Board of Regents took a bold step: To guarantee that all tuition costs will be covered for new, first-year students who enroll in the Master of Divinity or Alternate Route programs at Concordia Seminary for the 1998-99 academic year and demonstrate financial need.
In a January 30 letter to prospective students, Dr. John F. Johnson, President of Concordia Seminary, stated, “While this guarantee is only applicable to the coming year, I also want you to be aware that our goal is to make this same tuition guarantee on an ever-increasing basis, year-by- year, class-by-class. Thus, while I cannot guarantee at this point that your tuition costs will be covered in total for every year you are enrolled at Concordia Seminary, I want you to know that we are working fervently to make this desire of ours a reality for you.”
During the 1995 LCMS Convention in Saint Louis, the Church passed a resolution stipulating that seminary tuition costs for those preparing to serve as pastors be covered in full. As this resolution was presented from the floor of the convention, Dr. Johnson spoke in favor of its adoption. Yet, he also made the Convention aware of the challenge it posed to our seminaries and to the Church.
Additional support is needed from the people of the Church if the goal of tuition costs being covered for all students is to be reached. In fact, an additional $8 million in endowments is needed between now and the year 2,002 to provide full tuition assistance for a student body no larger than today’s. In addition, the Seminary’s development staff has set a challenging goal of gathering $5.5 million in direct student aid gifts between now and 2,002. “We call upon the people of God, who have demonstrated their commitment to the preparation of their pastors, to do so with renewed vigor in the future,” said Dr. Johnson.
In November of 1997, a special committee was formed at Concordia Seminary to study the possibility of greatly increased financial assistance for students. The committee studied a number of possibilities and recommended the plan which was adopted unanimously by the Board of Regents. This plan not only guarantees tuition costs for new students but also increases the level of aid received by those currently in the upper classes at Concordia Seminary.
The new policy is contingent upon students submitting all the necessary financial aid forms in a timely manner. It also assumes participation by a student’s home congregation and district in meeting the costs of seminary preparation.
In implementing this aggressive policy, Dr. Johnson stated, “This new policy is the right thing to do for our students and it follows the desire of the Church, as expressed in convention. While many men consider becoming pastors, Concordia Seminary does not want finances to be the reason that the Church does not receive a pastor.”