United Theological Seminary Announces Initiatives to Reduce Student Indebtedness

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Dayton, OH seminary's Financially Fit 2 Lead program seeks to increase student financial literacy.

The over-indebtedness of seminary students and graduates of theological schools in North America is a major concern United wishes to help address.

United Theological Seminary is pleased to announce Financially Fit 2 Lead, an innovative new initiative that will help United students combat educational indebtedness.

Research conducted by the Auburn Center for the Study of Theological Education and data from the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada indicate that student educational debt in excess of $30,000 is now common for seminary graduates, and some students are graduating with loans in excess of $100,000. When combined with low compensation packages and inadequate financial literacy, this burden of debt is limiting the ability of some graduates to accept calls into ministry.

“The over-indebtedness of seminary students and graduates of theological schools in North America is a major concern United wishes to help address,” said United’s President Dr. Wendy J. Deichmann.“

The core goals of FF2L are to reduce student loan indebtedness and relieve the financial pressures that can threaten a graduate’s ability to successfully function in a ministerial setting. United’s students will soon have new opportunities to increase their understanding of the financial issues that impact both personal and vocational well-being. This will include pre-admission counseling, budgeting tools, realistic salary expectations, and developing a personal financial plan. United also has a commitment to increase scholarship opportunities and offer ongoing financial awareness education.

"Students in greater and greater numbers are choosing to finance their education,” said Demarus Crawford-White, Project Manager for FF2L. “Student loans are an option, but they are not the only option. A bit of planning and short-term sacrifice can go a long way in gaining an education without creating a large debt. Students often feel that it can't be done, but it can."

Also part of the FF2L program is transforming United’s Alumni/ae Ambassador program, which was developed several years ago to connect current students with alumni/ae working in professional ministry. The FF2L program transforms the Ambassador program into the Alumni/ae Ambassador Mentoring Community, which is being designed to help students understand the importance of financial literacy.

“Alumni/ae will be identified and trained in financial literacy and then matched with students to help them develop core skills in financial literacy and leadership,” said Brice Thomas, United’s Director of Alumni/ae Relations.

Thomas said the program would include the use of VineUp, a social media website similar to Linkedin and Facebook, that allows students to search for skills that are important to their professional development and connect to alumni/ae mentors who have those skills. The site will also have job search functionality, messaging features and a comprehensive resource section that will house articles and videos on financial literacy and other topics of interest.

United Theological Seminary, now in its 143rd year, is one of the fastest growing theological schools in the United States. United offers accredited, innovative graduate and non-degree education programs for both clergy and laity.

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JoAnn Wagner
United Theological Seminary
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