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On Seminary Accreditation and the Church-State Divide

For years the U.S. Department of Education has emphasized the role of higher education in preparing a workforce that can compete in the global economy, however it's influence is largely limited to its ability to fund school programs. Hence, government is interested in accreditation standards because they identify schools worthy of federal funds, and those standards can be influenced by DC-determined educational requirements: if you want federal dollars, you must meet regulations and criteria established by the federal government; and the accrediting agencies are evaluated to determine their fidelity in enforcing those expectations.

According to Daniel O. Aleshire, executive director of the Association of Theological Schools, it is now "fair to say that the current criteria and guidelines suggest that the government has concluded that it knows more about how to accredit institutions than do the accrediting agencies." When applied to theological education, however, problems arise related to the Church-State divide. Indeed, some observers question whether the government should have any role in seminary education at all, including questioning whether federal loans and grants should be available for seminary education students.

These and other "murky" dynamics related to seminary vs. governmental oversight are explored in an interview on seminary accreditation with Mr. Aleshire published in In Trust, the magazine of the Association of Theological Boards of Education. For more on seminary accreditation, standards, and comparative programming, explore the In Trust website, and our "Research on Seminaries" section, located under the "Research" tab. Also see our article, "Best Resources for Researching Seminaries."

 

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