Home » Southwestern Seminary Blames $140M Deficit on Overspending

Southwestern Seminary Blames $140M Deficit on Overspending

Over 20 years and two presidencies, the school went millions beyond its budget while enrollment continued to decline.

A new report from trustees at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, details two decades of fiscal mismanagement, including a $140 million operating deficit.

According to an overview of the seminary’s finances released Wednesday, Southwestern ran an average deficit of $6.67 million per year from 2002 to 2022. During that time, the number of full-time Southern Baptist students at the school dropped by two-thirds (67%) while expenses went up by a third (35%).

The decline of SBC students was significant—since the tuition for them is subsidized by the Southern Baptist Convention’s Cooperative Program, which helps fund the denomination’s six seminaries.

Overall, the school’s enrollment declined from the equivalent of 2,138 full-time students (including non-SBC students) in 2003 to 1,126 full-time in the fall of 2022, according to data from the Association of Theological Schools. (The ATC counts full-time equivalents using a different standard than Southern Baptist seminaries.)

As a result, the school also collected less tuition money from students.

To offset the deficit, the school spent from its reserves and took distributions from its endowment.

“The failure of SWBTS to navigate internal and external headwinds has resulted in a prolonged season of deficit spending that has depleted cash reserves,” according to the summary released by the trustees, who also released two decades of audits.

Much of the overspending occurred during the tenure of Paige Patterson, who was president of Southwestern from 2003 to 2018, when he was fired for allegedly mishandling sexual abuse.

The report, however, does not detail any of the spending patterns during Patterson’s tenure. Instead, …

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