Like other Southern Baptist entities, Southern Seminary has announced changes in budget due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. SBTS/Special
From Baptist Press and LifeWay
Citing affects from the coronavirus pandemic, several Southern Baptist agencies have announced changes in operations over the last week.
Southern Seminary reduces budget, institutes structural changes
LOUISVILLE (BP) — Meeting virtually and in executive session April 20, the Board of Trustees of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary approved a revised business model and a budget reduction of 30 percent, which includes a 15 percent tuition decrease – but also cuts in staff and other unspecified structural changes.
The decisions came as SBTS faces the economic crisis resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Saying “these are deadly serious times,” SBTS President R. Albert Mohler Jr. told trustees the pandemic has magnified issues already faced by American higher education, but pledged the seminary would remain faithful to the mission of faithfully training church leaders.
SBTS’ 2019-20 budget ($53.2 million) will be trimmed by $16 million, to $37.2 million, for 2020-21. Responding to a question from Baptist Press, Mohler declined to provide details on the number and nature of faculty and staff layoffs, saying the “implementation is still underway” in some cases, and that he wanted to respect private personnel situations.
Trustees approved lowering tuition and eliminating the $250 technology fee for online courses, and Mohler said other fees would also be reduced or eliminated when possible. He said the moves were made in part because all classes have moved online during the pandemic, and in recognition “that our students are experiencing economic stress,” and added the goal was to “pass along every possible savings to students.”
The revised business model for SBTS will include changes to the seminary’s academic structure, but Mohler declined to elaborate except to say they were part of an “already operational strategic plan to seek to reduce the net number of academic programs in order to make it easier for students to understand the curriculum and for the seminary and the college to deliver that curriculum.”
The board of trustees also authorized its financial board to approve further adjustments to the budget if necessary. Rick Staab, who serves as the financial board’s chairman, said the financial board unanimously supported the actions, saying “the effort to preserve the institution … requires quick and decisive action.”
SBTS and Boyce College reported total enrollment of approximately 5,500 students for the 2019-20 academic year before the campus closed and classes shifted online because of the pandemic.
SBTS is uncertain whether fall semester classes will include on-campus offerings, said Mohler, but adding the seminary was well-positioned for the abrupt transition last month to online classes as the school has been conducting distance-learning programs for 25 years. He said all of the seminary’s major degree programs, including more than 100 courses, were available online.
Go here for the full Baptist Press story.
Southeastern Seminary trustees vote to delay budget approval until June
WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP) — In its spring meeting, the Board of Trustees of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary postponed adoption of a budget for the 2020-21 academic year and authorized the seminary to participate in the federal Paycheck Protection Program.
While meeting virtually April 20, SEBTS president Danny Akin told trustees the seminary plans to “move forward wisely, carefully and cautiously” during the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. He said delaying budget approval until “on or before June 15, 2020,” will allow the administration to have a better idea of the financial challenges the seminary faces.
SEBTS’ 2019-20 budget is $31.2 million. In an attempt to help offset potential revenue losses of up to 30 percent, the trustees authorized the school to seek financial relief from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act stimulus bill enacted by Congress last month.
Under terms of the Paycheck Protection Program, administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration, businesses – as well as churches and other faith-based nonprofits – with fewer than 500 employees are eligible to receive loans of up to 2.5 times their average monthly payroll, with a cap of $10 million per loan, in order to cover expenses like payroll, utilities, and rent or mortgage payments. With 472 employees, SEBTS would qualify for nearly $3.51 million in relief, but the school has not yet determined how much it might request.
Akin said the intent in seeking the relief is to be able to avoid other measures like faculty and staff layoffs. The school has instituted a hiring freeze and frozen unnecessary spending, as it did during the 2009 downturn.
Akin told trustees he anticipated the 2020-21 budget, when finalized, would be reduced from the 2019-20 budget. He said the administration has created plans to survive cuts of 5-30 percent.
Trustees also learned from Akin that enrollment at SEBTS and The College at Southeastern surpassed 5,000 for the 2019-20 school year. Akin said the school has approximately $250,000 set aside in a fund to assist students with financial needs. He added the administration’s goal is to keep tuition fees flat.
The full Baptist Press story can be read here.
LifeWay announces budget cuts, staff reductions
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — LifeWay Christian Resources is implementing a series of budgetary freezes, cutbacks, and staff reductions in response to the economic crisis resulting from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
LifeWay CEO Ben Mandrell cited a steep and steady decline of sales since mid-March, as well as uncertainty in the ability to host camps and events this summer as reasons for the actions LifeWay is taking.
“LifeWay stands to lose tens of millions of dollars of revenue that the organization would normally generate over the summer months from camps, events, VBS, and ongoing curriculum sales,” Mandrell said. “LifeWay is mitigating these losses as much as possible through various expense reduction plans, including staff reductions and cuts in non-employee expenses. Additionally, LifeWay will likely have to use money from its reserves to cover a portion of the lost revenue.”
LifeWay will reduce staff, freeze all hiring and discretionary spending, and suspend salary increases and matching 401K contributions for all employees. In addition to these measures, the members of the executive leadership team will give up one month’s salary beginning in May.
These temporary expense reductions go into effect May 1. LifeWay is expecting to cut $25-$30 million of recurring expenses from its operating budget.
LifeWay announced last week they are exploring options for the sale of Ridgecrest Conference Center and Summer Camps in North Carolina due to changes in organizational strategy, rising costs, and uncertainty surrounding COVID-19.
The full LifeWay press release can be read here.