Laura Hemmer said if there’s one thing a prospective Concordia Seminary student should not do, it’s look at the price tag of tuition before talking to her.
“If you just look at the website and you just look at the portion that tells you about how much it costs to come to Seminary without even talking to someone, it’s daunting,” said Hemmer, Concordia Seminary’s director of financial aid.”
But, she said, the annual $25,000 tuition should never discourage students from pursuing their plans. That’s because the average student pays only one-fifth of the annual tuition — about $3,200 annually.
Hemmer said it is her mission to help students have as little student debt as possible by the time they take their first call. It’s a much different philosophy than any other colleges where Hemmer has worked.
Other schools often tell students how much they will pay per credit hour and point them to government grants and loans to help pay for it.
After working at financial aid offices in several St. Louis area colleges and trade schools, Hemmer arrived at Concordia Seminary in 2014.
She was happy to adjust to the Seminary’s debt-free approach. During her college years, she committed to leaving school with no debt.
“I had to pay for the last two and a half years of it on my own,” she said. “When I got my undergrad, I was
working a job where I was making $11 an hour and literally every penny of it went to the school so I didn’t have to take out loans. It was hard.”
Hemmer said it’s a rewarding challenge to help students get their finances in order. She enjoys helping distribute donor funds, large and small, to the students who need them the most. Sometimes that takes a little detective work to identify the students in need.
The average seminary student pays about $3,200 annually in tuition thanks to generous and faithful donors.
“I’ll say, ‘Has anyone heard of anything? Any new babies being born, anything that’s happened?’” Hemmer said. “We had $100 come in one day, and that day a baby was born. A new baby is expensive, and $100 buys a lot of diapers.”
Hemmer said the generosity of Concordia Seminary donors in supporting students sets the Seminary apart.
Last year, the Seminary’s financial aid office was able to assist third-year student Rob Bailey in locating a supportive donor and additional grant money to assist him with some of his outstanding loans.
Bailey said in the midst of financial difficulties, he found comfort in Christ. “I was reminded who my Lord was, that He has everything under control and I needed to stop trying to be my own lord,” Bailey said. “My faith, my hope is in Him.”
This article originally appeared in the Spring 2016 Concordia Seminary magazine.
Kendra Whittle is a communications specialist at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.