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SFTS Cite Budget Woes in Southern California Campus Closure

SFTS Cite Budget Woes in Southern California Campus Closure

Citing budget woes, the San Francisco Theological Seminary's board announced this week the closure of its Southern California campus in Pasadena.

 The SFTS/SC campus, which is located in the Kirk House Community Center on the grounds of Pasadena Presbyterian Church, will officially close by June 30, 2011, the board of trustees announced Feb. 8.

The closure of the 20-year-old residential program will help address an estimated shortfall of $850,000 in fiscal year 2012. The Pasadena program costs $450,000 annually, reported Presbyterian News Service.

"This is a painful decision for everyone associated with the Seminary," said Dr. Laird J. Stuart, interim president and professor of pastoral theology, in a statement.

Despite the decision to shut down the Pasadena campus, the board voted to immediately look at alternative options to extend the seminary programs to other locations, including Southern California. Those plans will include online and distance-learning programs to complement the academic programs at the SFTS's main campus in San Anselmo in Northern California.

"As one trustee phrased it, we have no intention of 'holing up" in San Anselmo," Stuart told Presbyterian News Service. "Southern California is such an obvious place for us to be but so might be Seattle or Reno or Phoenix. This is not an effort to pretend we can be a residential campus in San Anselmo for the foreseeable future."

"We need to learn from Southern California program and we need to learn from other extension programs because everyone realizes that part of the future is reaching out to students, making yourself accessible to students," he said.

Dr. Elizabeth Liebert, SFTS dean and professor of spiritual life, said in a statement that the seminary's pursuit of online education and distance learning venues will be important enhancements to the core academic program.

"We need to further develop our extended learning program, a plan that needs to include Southern California, as we strive to balance access with our fundamental belief in building community through worship, shared meals and personal conversations," Liebert said.

The Pasadena campus offers two degree programs, Master of Divinity and Master of Arts in Theological Studies, and one non-degree program, Certificate of Ministry Studies.

Seminary officials are currently in discussion with the 40 students in Southern California on how they can complete their education.

"It could mean that they may transfer to another local seminary or they may come to the North Campus. If there is a cost difference, we are required to cover it," said Stuart, according to Presbyterian News Service.

The SFTS campus in Pasadena is located blocks away from Fuller Theological Seminary, which gives SFTS faculty and students full access to its McAlister Library.

Over 300 people have graduated from the Pasadena degree programs.

The SFTS degree programs are fully accredited by the Association of Theological Schools and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. The seminary is an institution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

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