GRADUATING PREPARED TO SERVE
Twenty-six remarkable people are commencing this year. We will send them forth to provide holistic ministry to Unitarian Universalist congregations and organizations; to witness and work as progressive religious leaders; and to serve as interfaith chaplains, scholars and teachers, and community activists. Their lives will be dedicated to carrying forward what their Starr King theological education has empowered them to do: counter oppressions, cultivate multi-religious life and learning, and create just and sustainable communities rooted in deep faith and love for life.
Rev. Gary Smith, an exemplary Unitarian Universalist minister, will be awarded an honorary doctorate. Beloved friend of Starr King School, Rev. Smith has taught countless ministerial students to preach, has mentored ministerial interns during his long tenure as minister in Concord, Massachusetts, and has given inspiring leadership to the Jericho Road Project which addresses root causes of poverty and changes lives. We rejoice in his ministry and are delighted to bestow this honor.
SUPPORTING THE NEXT GENERATION
As we honor and celebrate this graduating class, we will take an offering to support the next generation of students. Seminarians today face unprecedented economic challenges. In the past, they have funded their theological education through a combination of part-time work, family support, loans and grants, and the liquidation of their personal assets. To receive a Starr King theological education, people make choices to sell their homes, cash in retirement funds, and spend their savings. For many, now, however, the economic crisis has removed these financing options from the table.
You can contribute to this special offering right now by clicking here.
Nationally, today's students are graduating from college and graduate schools with the highest average debt on record. The debt of seminary students exceeds national trends. Starr King students have cumulatively taken out over $1 million in loans for this current fiscal year to pay for their education, and the average debt of those graduating with an M.Div. from Starr King is $65,000, a very challenging burden for people entering congregational and community ministries.
Our students' experiences are a clear indication of what many have surmised: we are heading in the direction of decreased accessibility for college and graduate studies, including a seminary education. The burden of student loans -and the rising default rate- is a central concern of the nationwide Occupy Movement. Our staff and student body, many of whom are active in the Oakland Occupy Movement, recently hosted a school-wide forum on the issue this spring.
OPENING THE DOOR TO MORE STUDENTS
We at Starr King are doing our part to make multi-religious/Unitarian Universalist theological education more accessible. Our long-range strategic plan, adopted by our board of trustees in 2008, opens our door to more students by implementing low-residency study options for students at Starr King. This helps keep costs down for students, and gives them the flexibility to stay in their home communities and continue their employment while earning a seminary degree.
We offer our two online certificates, one in UU studies and the other in Multi-Religious studies, to make our educational offerings available to religious educators, interested lay people, and students in non-UU schools who need additional courses to prepare for Unitarian Universalist ministry. We are in the quiet phase of The Campaign for Starr King School, a $15+ million capital campaign, which includes a significant increase in scholarship support. We now allow for spring enrollment by first-year students. And this past fall, we voted to freeze our tuition at 2011 rates.
SHELTER ROCK $100,000 GRANT
We are delighted to share the good news that the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock has just awarded Starr King $100,000 for incentive tuition grants and financial aid for our students over the next fiscal year. A grant of this size will significantly lessen the financial burden of our incoming students, and can provide the boost needed to enable some to attend Starr King who otherwise would give up on the dream of a theological education. We are grateful for Shelter Rock's legacy of investing in the two Unitarian Universalist seminaries and thank the congregation for supporting the next generation of emerging ministers and religious leaders.
SPECIAL THANKS TO REV. KELLY FLOOD
In closing, I extend a special thank you to Rev. Kelly Flood, Starr King's 12-year lead fundraiser, who announced at our April board meeting that she will be wrapping up her work for the school in December 2012. Between now and December, she and I will work towards the goal of tripling the $1 million planned-gift pledge that has recently been made to the school. We will also lay the groundwork for our campaign to move forward after Kelly's service to the School has concluded. Over the years, Kelly has ensured we've raised the millions necessary to advance the mission and educational commitments of Starr King. We will miss her enthusiasm and can-do spirit, but we look forward to seeing her work as a State Representative in the Kentucky House flourish!