By Maddie DeBilzan

A Monday-morning email from Bethel University President Jay Barnes announced the discontinuation of Bethel University Seminary in San Diego, effective after this year. The move was recommended by several working groups tasked with making decisions to make up for this year’s budget shortfall.

The decision was made based on the preference students have shown towards online Seminary classes as opposed to face-to-face degrees.

Last year, the email said, Bethel Seminary launched five fully online programs. 96 new students chose the online programs, while 87 new students chose the programs’ face-to-face counterparts.  

According to Suzanne McInroy, Bethel’s Director of Communications, there are four full-time faculty members, about 10 staff members and 165 degree-seeking students at the Seminary in San Diego.

All of the staff positions at the San Diego locations will be eliminated after this year, according to the email. Full-time faculty and some adjunct faculty members will be invited to teach online Seminary programs. Students currently enrolled in a face-to-face degree at the San Diego location will be able to finish their degrees through a teach-out program.

“The decision to close the BSSD campus has been one of the hardest decisions I have made during my time as president of Bethel University,” Barnes’ email said. “The vision and plan we have for the future of Bethel Seminary provide some comfort, but it grieves me to close the campus in San Diego.”

23 COMMENTS

  1. I’m appalled by the fact it took a board in St Paul 4 months to decide to close a school that been around 40+ years. If given the chance, we can raise the money to contribute to our share of the deficit. Dr. Arnell Motz did that for us for years. The money is out there, you just have to ask and know how to ask.

  2. I’m one of many classmates here at Bethel SD, who have tried online classes and abhor the flat, one-dimensional learning format because there’s an increased risk of miscommunication or lack there of because what people will say or ask in written communication is so different than in person. Moreover, as we are being trained to serve in church leadership position, we want to learn from and dialogue in person with experienced faculty and peers, so that we are best equipped to minister to congregations face-to-face with Christ’s love and humilty. I’m open to options like some blended learning, intensives, or experiential learning opportunies like trips to Israel, but forcing us to transition to online programs without the option to take face-to-face courses after this Spring semester doesn’t support my learning preferences or growth. Moreover, as a female M.Div. student, I don’t have as many choices to pursue face-to-face studies here in SD. So, in Jesus’ Name, I pray that the Board of Trustees and leadership reconsider this decision and see financial investments for keeping our 40 year old campus open as Kingdom investments in how God wants to build global relationship for service through Bethel SD.

  3. As a current student at BSSD, we are deeply saddened to hear of the Bethel University Board’s decision. I am heartened to see President Barnes’ comment above that acknowledges the difficulty of the decision. However I must ask why no one from San Diego was part of this decision-making process? No BSSD faculty, no BSSD donors, no San Diego church leaders, and no BSSD students were invited to participate in prayer or discerning for this momentous decision, or even alerted that the abrupt closure of our campus was a remote possibility. Bethel University aims to develop leaders, but I have to question if this is the type of leadership BU aims to develop– decisions in which those who will be most affected are not even invited to the table of discussion. The face-to-face enrollment at BSSD has stayed steady over the past ten years, while I understand it has dropped dramatically in Minnesota. The call to shut down and sell off an entire campus, and thereby end Bethel’s welcome influence in the San Diego community, over the trend preference of 10 students, without warning, seems to have come out of left field. Here in San Diego, we respect and pray for President Barnes and our BU leaders. We also wish for more transparency, and honestly, openness toward involvement for those in San Diego who have given their time, energy, and money to BSSD for 40 years. As a community, we have invested 40 years into this seminary, and we were given ONE email, and ONE business-day’s notice when alerted of the closure, and of the meeting with BU leaders last night. This doesn’t make sense, and I believe the community should be asking questions about how we can move forward toward creative solutions. I only hope that BU will be open to listen, and not shut off from the concerns of their San Diego brothers and sisters.
    With respect and prayers,

  4. Last Friday, we (students) received an email out of the blue that the Board of Trustees voted to close our San Diego campus bc of funding issues. There was no invitation to students, alumni or donors whenever these issues started to arise in advance, nor was there time to help resolve any issues and work together to build a long-term plan of preventing this issue from happening again. I asked whether the leadership could consider other funding alternatives such as a 10% cut across the board for all programs, reallocating some of the IT funding investments towards Bethel SD seminary, refinancing some of the bldgs they own, etc. But the provost just mentioned refinancing their bonds.

    And I never would have guessed in a million years that a university that first started as a seminary would so easily write us off part of the seminary, so that it can make invest in other areas like high tech classrooms for main campus in St. Paul. We only have 1 printer to share in our library and desktops that run in slow motion bc they have to ping to St. Paul servers to boot up. And our classrooms just have a projector and one white board, not plug in play stations. With that said, for the leadership to say they want to follow the trends of offering online programs sounds comical bc we haven’t seen them follow the trends of offering faster technology or higher quality computers at San Diego library or classrooms here.

    I actually moved from DC to San Diego just so I could I could attend classes in person bc I had horrible experiences w other seminaries’ online programs. And I’m not the only one. Many of classmates last night conveyed how bad their experiences have already been taking online classes and that they wouldn’t be their first choice if given the option. Moroever, some of my classmates have disabilities and are not tech saavy, so providing an online only option automatically excludes them, which is the anti-thesis of who Christ is and what the gospel stands for. And for female M.Div students like me, I don’t have many options for seminaries that recognize women in leadership. Moreover, online classes are a very poor way to learn from faculty, communicate clearly, build community, and practice having diffcult conversations bc we will be ministering face to face with congregations not online. Thus, forcing us to transition to an online only curriculum bc of trends versus asking us in San Diego what we needed. What would it take for the Board of Trustees to see us as part of the Bethel family and see our building as not extra income to make money from?

  5. Last Friday, we received an email out of the blue that the Board of Trustees voted to close our San Diego campus bc of funding issues. It was like a kick in the chest bc it was so abrupt. There was no invitation to us – students, alumni or donors – help resolve any issues and work together to build a long-term plan of preventing this issue from happening again. And their decision and rollout felt like something I would expect from a corporation versus a Christian university. When I asked whether Dr. Barnes and Associate Provost Randy whether they could consider other funding alternatives such as a 10% cut across the board for all programs, reallocating some of the IT funding investments towards Bethel SD seminary, refinancing some of the buildings they own, etc., Randy just mentioned refinancing their bonds.

    I never would have guessed in a million years that a university that first started as a seminary would so easily write us off part of the seminary, so that it can make invest in other areas like nursing, business, and high tech classrooms for main campus. Here in Bethel San Diego Seminary, we only have 1 printer to share in our library and desktops that run in slow motion bc they have to connect to St. Paul servers to boot up. And our classrooms just have a projector and one white board, not plug in play stations with multiple whiteboards. With that said, for Dr. Barnes and provosts to say they want to follow the trends of offering online programs sounds comical bc we haven’t seen them follow the trends of offering faster technology or higher quality computers here at Bethel Seminary San Diego library or classrooms.

    And for female M.Div students like me, I don’t have many options for seminaries bc many do not recognize women in leadership. I actually moved from DC to San Diego just so I could I could attend classes in person bc I had horrible experiences w other seminaries’ online programs. And I’m not the only one. Many of classmates last night conveyed how horrible their experiences have already been taking online classes and that they wouldn’t be their first choice, if given the option. Moreover, some of my classmates have disabilities and are not tech savvy, so providing an online only option automatically excludes them, which is the anti-thesis of who Christ is and what the Gospel stands for. Moreover, online classes are a very poor way to learn from faculty, communicate clearly, build community, and practice having difficult conversations bc we will be ministering face to face with congregations not online. Thus, forcing us to transition to an online only curriculum bc of trends versus asking us in San Diego what we needed. ***What would it take for the Board of Trustees to see us as part of the Bethel family and not as a means to make extra income?***

    Praying the Lord continues to consecrate Bethel Seminary San Diego for His purposes and glory alone, in Jesus’ Name.

    • *…what we needed is not a commitment to excellence and covenant community in Christ. ***What would it take for the Board of Trustees to see us as part of the Bethel family and not as a means to make extra income?***

      Praying the Lord continues to consecrate Bethel Seminary San Diego for His purposes and glory alone, in Jesus’ Name.

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