Our world has been turned upside down. Little did we know, when the school year began, that the biggest change in the history of American higher education would take place during the second semester. One hundred percent of university students in the United States are now completing their studies online!
No one knows which changes will be transitory and which will be long-lasting.
What we do know is that “people are still being called to ministry,” as Margot Perez-Greene, Associate Dean for Enrollment Management, says. But she adds, “Financial aid is the greatest determining factor as to whether a student can or cannot enroll at Perkins.”
It is hardly surprising that financial aid is the key. Many prospective students explain that, after accruing debt in undergraduate studies, the prospect of significantly adding to that load in order to then go into ministry (hardly a lucrative career) feels daunting. Recently, a potential applicant with great academic and leadership qualifications was reluctant to apply to Perkins because of the stress and difficulties he has endured due to accumulated undergraduate debt. Insufficient financial aid is keeping some well-qualified people out of ministry!
Nevertheless, God is still calling people to ministry, in the church and through other avenues of service. Our task is to find partners who will help them acquire the training and skills necessary to fulfill their calling.
Of course, this year is … unique. I have never seen anything like this in my many years in higher education. Two great impediments face students who are contemplating seminary:
- Never have we experienced clearing out campuses and teaching a semester completely by distance learning. Students who are making final decisions about whether or not to attend seminary are now faced with new doubts and difficulties brought on by COVID-19. The pandemic has cut into employment, family responsibilities and educational efforts in many ways.
- The pending schism in the United Methodist Church also makes attending seminary problematic. The UMC General Conference originally scheduled for May 2020 has been postponed, creating even more doubt and apprehension in prospective students’ minds. What will the Methodist Church look like in a year? And how will they fit in?
Financial aid in the face of unsettled times is essential. Current and future students of Perkins need your help. Every dollar counts!
Would you join in supporting Perkins? Let me suggest that both the “SMU Fund for Perkins,” the Dean’s discretionary fund and “Student Financial Aid” are our highest priorities. Both of those funds can be found on the Perkins giving page. Please take a minute right now to click on giving.smu.edu/schools-areas/perkins to make sure that qualified students can come to Perkins and complete their studies. A gift of any amount is important and appreciated.
John A. Martin
Director of Development