Theological schools seek mergers

There are nine Christian theological graduate schools and seminaries in the Boston area and many of them are exploring mergers and other ways to deal their financial challenges.

Last year Episcopal Divinity School developed a partnership with Lesley University, selling a third of their campus to Lesley. Boston College has absorbed Weston Jesuit School of Theology. Now Andover-Newton Theological School, in Newton, MA, is seeking a merger with Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School in Rochester, NY.

The merger talks between Andover Newton and Colgate Rochester Crozer – both schools that are already the result of mergers, as their compound names suggest – are following a gradual national trend. Two decades ago, 80 percent of the members of the Association of Theological Schools were freestanding; now just 70 percent are.

“Theological schools tend to be smaller institutions in the higher education world, and it’s getting more and more difficult for small higher education institutions to exist or flourish economically,” said Daniel O. Aleshire, the president of the association, which represents 253 Christian institutions with 79,000 students. Aleshire said there are two major factors affecting theological schools – the rising expense of running a school because of increasing expectations for technological and administrative support and the decline of some of the religious denominations that once supported the schools.

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