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Changes to Bethel Seminary San Diego

Colleagues:

As we continue our work to create a more sustainable financial model for Bethel, I am writing to share Cabinet’s decision regarding the College of Adult & Professional Studies, Bethel Seminary, and Graduate School working group. Cabinet deliberated potential recommendations and came to the difficult decision to close the Bethel Seminary San Diego (BSSD) campus.

The Bethel University bylaws require that Board of Trustees to vote on the campus closure decision. The board’s deliberations helped to ensure that we made the wisest decision we could for the future of Bethel Seminary and the university as a whole. After an extensive analysis, their vote resulted in a clear decision to close the BSSD campus. This will conclude the work of the first four working groups.

This was a difficult decision, but we believe it is timely and strategic. Nationally, and at Bethel, more students are choosing to complete their seminary degrees online. In the last year, Bethel Seminary made five programs available to students in a fully online format, including the Master of Divinity. In the first year, we saw 96 new students enroll in those online programs compared to the 87 total new students enrolled in the same programs offered face-to-face in St. Paul and San Diego combined. This fall, students again showed a preference for online ministry preparation programs over face-to-face programs.

These local trends, combined with national trends, show that we must invest even more in transformative online seminary education. This work can make seminary education more sustainable, accessible, and affordable by:

  • Shifting investments from brick and mortar to endow seminary operations to make seminary education more affordable to students by lowering our operating costs.

  • Keeping ministry leaders in their ministry context to enrich their learning experience and allow for mentoring from their local church.

  • Taking Bethel Seminary from a regional focus to a global focus that will allow us to educate future leaders for kingdom work all over the world.

The decision to close the BSSD campus means that we will sell the building in San Diego and put the proceeds from the sale into an endowment to support Bethel Seminary long into the future. We will provide each face-to-face student studying in San Diego a teach-out plan tailored to his or her needs. All current BSSD students will be supported so that they can earn their Bethel Seminary degree.

Because this will be the last academic year in the San Diego building, we will eliminate the staff positions at that location. We will invite all San Diego full-time faculty, and adjunct faculty members as needed, to continue teaching in online programs.

The decision to close the BSSD campus has been one of the hardest decisions I have made during my time as president of Bethel University. The vision and plan we have for the future of Bethel Seminary provide some comfort, but it grieves me to close the campus in San Diego. We remember and pray for our colleagues, students, and friends affected by this decision, and continue to remember those affected by decisions announced last month.

Although these are challenging times, I wholeheartedly believe Bethel University must educate future leaders for the church and beyond. Our world needs church leaders educated at Bethel Seminary. May God continue to lead us in our efforts.

Serving together,

Jay