March 2019 News Perspective Online

Office of Development: The Importance of Student Scholarships

We all know that education is important. As the cost continues to rise, some sobering facts have emerged:

  • Average student loan debt for the American college graduating class of 2017 was $39,400, up six percent from the previous year.
  • Americans owe more than $1.48 trillion in student loan debt, spread out among 44 million borrowers. That’s about $620 billion more than the total U.S. credit card debt.

Most graduates from Perkins, or any theological seminary, do not enter high-paying careers. The type of education that Perkins provides is not inexpensive because it is personal, intensive and comprehensive. In spite of that, we do not want our graduates to be saddled with overwhelming debt.

That is why many donors have helped raise scholarship money for Perkins students. We have three scholarship emphases:

  • Endowment scholarships often bear the name of a person, family or organization that gave the gift. By SMU policy, these scholarships must be at least $100,000 so that, when mature, they produce approximately $5,000 per year. In order to mature, they must be in effect for four or five years so that the value will not fall below the size of the original gift. During those initial years, donors who give this scholarship sometimes give a yearly equivalent of the money that the scholarship will produce once it matures. The scholarship endowment funds are invested carefully and managed by SMU. Donors of endowed scholarships receive yearly reports about the endowment performance and for what it is being used.
  • Specific program scholarships, such as Perkins Scholars ($7,000 per year for three years for a total of $21,000), or music scholarships ($10,000 per year for two years for a total of $20,000), are very important.
  • General student scholarships are gathered in several accounts that are donated through the annual fund. These funds are awarded at the discretion of the Office of Financial Aid and the Business Manager. Money raised through the successful Public Life Personal Faith Scholarship Luncheon is used in this way. Also, some donors have contributed funds from estates, not large enough to create an endowment, which are used in the family’s name to provide aid over a specific number of years.

Dean Craig Hill has often stated that the highest fundraising priority at Perkins is obtaining money for student scholarships so Perkins can fulfill the mission of educating women and men for faithful leadership in Christian ministry.

I would be glad to talk with you about how you can help the next generation of pastors, leaders and nonprofit workers by donating to one of the scholarship efforts at Perkins. Please contact me at or visit online.


John Martin
Director of Development
Perkins School of Theology