The notion that enrollments at theological schools rise in tough economic times did not hold true for Protestant and Catholic seminaries in North America this academic year. In fact, over the past three years, the total student population slipped about 6 percent—down to 75,500 from a three-year plateau in mid-decade when more than 80,000 students were studying theology.
“The idea of going back to school seems to have worked for U.S. education in general,” said Daniel Aleshire, executive director of the Association of Theological Schools, but not for seminaries, whose enrollment slid again in the past year about 2 percent, according to ATS data released in April.
Mainline Protestant schools have seen enrollments rise and fall over the past decade. Between the fall of 2000, when student bodies totaled 22,651, and last fall, when they had 22,068, mainline seminaries had peak years of 24,133 in 2002 and 24,024 in 2005.