“It is now possible for students to come to our seminary with their tuition fully funded,” announced Archpriest John Behr, dean of Saint Vladimir’s Seminary here, as he announced a new plan designed to help theological graduate students cover the cost of their education.
“Effective this coming academic year,” explained Father John, “we’re instituting a newly devised ‘matching grant’ program for students seeking either a Master of Divinity or Master of Arts degree in theology, and we’re expanding tuition grants available to students in other categories as well.
“It is our intent,” he continued, “to care for our seminarians by lowering the burden of monetary debt that so often follows priests and lay ministers as they enter the field of church work.”
The plan, which was initiated by the seminary Board of Trustees in November 2011, is simple: the seminary will provide 50% of total tuition costs in outright grants, and up to 25% more in dollar-for-dollar matching funds to qualifying students, that is, students who meet the need-based criteria set by the seminary. The other 25% of tuition would be paid through matching funds donated by ecclesial sources, such as dioceses, parishes, parish organizations, and parish aid and scholarship funds.
“In this manner,” explained Father John, “the tuition for all our students will be potentially fully funded. Additionally, these funds will be available to incoming and returning students.”
Seminary Chancellor/CEO Archpriest Chad Hatfield further noted the import of the new plan, saying, “We at Saint Vladimir’s are fully committed to fully paid tuition for our seminarians. Just as we built the Married Student Housing complex on our campus to create a close-knit community and to offer our students and their families affordable rental space, we’ve taken a leap of faith in creating this new plan to help students leave here debt free and ready to work in God’s vineyard.”
Both the Dean and Chancellor emphasized that the seminary’s commitment to pay at least 50%, and up to 75%, of the total annual tuition costs per qualifying student represents a substantial increase over what the seminary has contributed to student tuition in previous years.
“This does not mean that we have found a ‘pot of gold at the end of the rainbow’,” remarked Father John, “but rather that we’re absolutely committed to providing for our students in this difficult economy. We are likewise depending upon ecclesial bodies and parishes to take up the challenge to make seminarians debt free through their portion in matching funds, and we will be calling upon them in the future to do so.”
“It is also apparent,” Father Chad observed, “that we are contributing seminary funds to this program in hopes that potential students will seek an education at Saint Vladimir’s.
“Those new incoming students,” he went on, “through their room and board costs — which, by the way, now are comparably low and directly competitive with other Orthodox theological schools in the US — will help us replenish our general operations funds and allow us to continue funding student tuition in a more generous manner.”
Besides helping students in the M.Div. and M.A. programs through the new plan, the Board of Trustees expanded potential financial aid to four other groups of students: 1) seminarians in the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church will receive 60% tuition paid as an outright grant, with 20% in matching funds, and the amount of students eligible for funding is no longer capped at six; 2) monastics of (at least) the rassaphore rank will receive 100% tuition paid in outright grants, and the amount of students eligible for funding is no longer capped at three; 3) highly qualified and select seminarians seeking Th.M. degrees will receive Dean’s Fellowships at 100% paid tuition, and the amount of students eligible for such funding is no longer capped at five; and 4) some residential part-time M.A. and Th.M. students will be eligible for financial aid.