The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom.
Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Proverbs 4:7 (NIV)
“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?” (Luke 14:28)
Paying for Seminary is something one needs to consider before embarking on such an endeavor.
But what are you paying for?
The content you can get for the price of an internet connection and a library card. In fact, if someone wanted to simulate the MABLE degree I’m doing, they could probably go through my blog in detail, buy the books I talk about, do the assignments I describe, and come away with a similar knowledge base (but there’d be no class interaction or professor involvement with that method).
As the dean of the Seminary once explained to me, it’s the credentials. The official recognition is what you’re paying for. If I plan to use my degree to open career opportunities (or at least have that option), or as a prerequisite into a doctoral program (or to at least have that option) or something like that, then yes, I want the credentials. But if one’s studies are simply for personal interest/benefit, there are far cheaper ways to learn what you want to learn.
I used student loans to pay for college. While I was in college, during a class on Romans, we came to Romans 13:8
“Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another”
The professor said he wished students would consider that verse before taking out student loans. I remember feeling convicted, like it was too late. Happily, I managed to pay off my student loans in just a few years, but when it came time for Seminary, I did not want to go into debt again to do it. That meant I had to pay for everything.
I dare say that if someone is still paying off their college student loans, perhaps they should focus on that before paying for Seminary…
There’s plenty of scholarships out there. Just not for Seminary students. I think the only one I found (that I was eligible for) was the Logos Seminary Scholarship, which I applied for, but never received. There’s other scholarships that are school specific or denomination specific, so check the school you’re applying to, and check your denomination.
But the first place you should go is your church. Do they support your studies? Are they willing to help out with the finances? Regretfully, I come from a small church that can’t even afford a pastor, let alone give our bursaries. But they support me in other ways, like I can preach there whenever I want.
Paying for it
The only way I could afford Seminary without debt was to study part-time. We looked at our budget, and figured we could afford for me to take 4 classes per year.
That meant staying off campus and continuing to work. We just couldn’t afford to move to campus and study full time.
Once someone enrolls in a MA program at Briercrest Seminary, they have 7 years to complete the degree (9 years for an M.Div). 60 credits is about 20 classes, which means I’d have to do at least 3 classes each year to finish on time. I actually charted it all out, with suggestions on which classes to take in which order, based on course offerings from previous years. I didn’t really start Seminary until I could see the big picture in front of me, and have an idea on where/when the end was as well.
I charted out the Seminary studies on a spreadsheet, making a time line for myself. Then I added other rows for other responsibilities. What am I doing with work that year? Church? What grades will my kids be in? I compared it to the rest of my life.
Naturally, such a document is not written in stone, since I end up tweaking it every few months or so. But working out a plan at least gave me the comfort of knowing it was possible. Perhaps that’s just something my personality needs.
Once I was satisfied that it seemed achievable, I launched in.