A 2005 study by Auburn Theological Seminary in New York shows that between 1991 and 2001, the average student loan debt for new pastors more than doubled to $25,018, from $11,043. If the trend continues, by 2011 about 84 percent of seminary students will have to borrow to finance their education, with an average loan burden of more than $54,000, the Auburn study showed.
In its own survey of seminarian students last year, the Episcopal Church found that students halfway through their training already had amassed an average of $42,874 in debts ”” on track to graduate owing well over $50,000. Meanwhile, the median compensation package for new Episcopal clergy hovers at $44,500 per year, a starting salary that’s considerably higher than in many other denominations.
“Financial planners say that if you graduate from school with a $36,000 debt, you should have an income of $60,000 in order to handle your finances and move forward,” said John Mittman, executive director of the Society for the Increase of the Ministry, an Episcopal office that has been studying seminarian debt.