Southwestern makes difficult decisions amidst economic uncertainty
FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – With the growing uncertainty in the nation’s current economic situation, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary finds itself in the unenviable position of making difficult decisions in an effort to protect the institution from future financial crisis. Following the Board of Trustees’ recommendations, reductions in the current budget are being made, including the temporary suspension of many overseas travel programs and adjustments to campus facilities.
Southwestern achieves its operating budget from four sources of income: endowment income, tuition and fees, charitable gifts and Cooperative Program funds. The devaluation of the stock market has affected Southwestern’s endowment similar to many other institutions of higher education. However, Southwestern’s endowment losses have proven to be affected less than other schools. President Paige Patterson noted that Southwestern must plan wisely in an effort to avoid tuition increases for the future since indications are that the economic strain on individuals will impact charitable gifts and Cooperative Program funds.
“The seminary’s Board of Trustees has advised that with the stress on Cooperative Program giving as well as the losses sustained in endowment common to universities all over America, Southwestern must substantially reduce the current and future budgets,” said Patterson. “The seminary’s administration has been working now for some months to achieve these reductions.”
“The administration is doing the best it can to find ways to cut spending that does not involve the release of existing faculty or the students employed by the school,” said Patterson. He went on to say that current economic trends would make this goal difficult to achieve.
As part of the cost-cutting measures, the administration chose to suspend the work of the Naylor Children’s Center on campus for at least the next 18 months. “Hopefully, the financial situation will reverse itself, but Southwestern is not able at this time to sustain the operation of the Naylor Children’s Center, which annually posts a deficit,” Patterson announced. Present work at the Naylor Children’s Center will be suspended as of December 31, 2008.
Southwestern has also suspended the Oxford Study Program and all of the Traveling Scholar overseas on-site study trips with the exception of those directly related to the 2+2 program in the Roy Fish School of Evangelism and Missions. The administration hopes to restore these trips possibly by 2010, but the administration points out that even this depends upon a rather dramatic reversal of present financial trends.
“We anticipate that other cutbacks in the budget will be necessary to ensure that Southwestern maintains its debt-free operational position and to be certain that revenues cover expenditures,” Patterson stated.
“This is a most regrettable circumstance and not of our own making,” said Patterson, “but as stewards before God, we are all responsible for handling matters with as much compassion and justice as we possibly can. The goal in the end is to have a strong seminary when the present financial crisis eases.”
The administration is hopeful that these changes will be temporary and that the nation’s economy improves. In the meantime, Southwestern prays these circumstances lead to renewed emphasis on spiritual matters and a national revival. Since its founding in 1908, Southwestern has weathered many financial storms, including two World Wars, the Great Depression and economic recessions. Trusting in the Lord’s providence, the seminary is thankful that the current decisions are precautionary and that Southwestern will continue to provide theological training for men and women for years to come.
Patterson noted, “In addition to praying for our own seminary, we also pray for all six of our seminaries, each of which is facing a similar situation. We also share concern for the churches, especially those with heavy indebtedness.”