This Friday, I will be graduating from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC, with a Ph. D. in Applied Theology with a concentration in Christian Leadership. I’m somewhat meticulous with keeping track of certain details, and I thought it would be helpful for others to post my record of how much it cost me for my Ph. D. program. I know this kind of information would have been helpful to me at the outset of my Ph. D. program, and I hope it will be a help to others considering the same.
What follows below is a listing of total expenses for each year with a breakdown of how that total came to be. Also, though there are four years listed, I completed my program in three academic years (2011–12, 2012–13, 2013–14). Another note is that my Ph. D. program was a modified residency program. This means that I took my classes in week-long modules (or intensives) rather than being present to take semester-long classes. I should also add that students who are members of SBC churches would pay only half the tuition costs that I did since SEBTS is an SBC seminary.
$2,000, initial deposit for my seat in the Ph. D. program (non-refundable – makes you think twice)
$530.93, travel, housing, and meals for two trips (entrance exams and first of five trips for classes)
$617.70, books (includes $299 to learn German through Rosetta Stone – not required)
$796.40, new laptop, office software, and related expenses
$3,479, tuition (7 credits)
$1,041.60, travel, housing, and meals for three trips (second, third, and fourth of five trips for classes)
$13,512, tuition (24 credits)
$90, books and fees for two library memberships
$510.71, travel, housing, and meals for two trips (fifth of five trips for classes, oral comprehensive exams)
$13,080, tuition (22 credits)
$653.92, graduation costs (regalia rental, dissertation printing and copyright fees, diploma fee)
$1219.58, travel, housing, and meals for two trips (dissertation defense, graduation – approximate – this includes flying with my wife for graduation)
$5,517, tuition (9 credits)
Throughout all of this, I was granted $4,125 here and there through scholarships and other funds designated to go towards my tuition. All in all, out-of-pocket costs were . . .
If I could give any advice from my singular experience as to how to pay for a modified residency Ph. D. program, here would be a few thoughts:
- Use libraries for books you have to read but do not need to buy to keep in your library long-term. If they must be bought, buy books through church book funds as much as possible.
- Apply for scholarships and use church funds for higher education if possible.
- Even if you live a distance away from your school, it is typically cheaper to drive a car with good MPG than to fly for each trip. I lived 12 hours away from my school for years 1 and 2, and 14 hours away for year 3. I drive a Chevy Cobalt – about 35–40 MPG on the highway. Flying was always more expensive.
- If you know someone in town near your school, lodge with them instead of campus housing. At the least, use campus housing instead of hotels.
- Try to eat cheap meals such as TV dinners during class weeks, but plan to spend a little extra as well by going out to eat with professors and classmates. You don’t get the chance to see these men very often.
- Apply good financial habits in general. Keep a written budget. Wait to buy your wants. Budget for the upcoming years as to how you will pay for the whole program.
- Budget for tuition to go up in cost about 5–7% each year. My tuition began at $497 per credit hour for the first year of my program. The next years were $556 (12% increase), $584 (5% increase), and $613 (5% increase) per credit hour.
- Consider whether or not your spouse can work to provide additional income. God’s face shined upon my family in providing my wife with a job as a nurse. Her income helped to pay for a lot of tuition costs.
- Take advantage of a monthly payment program. Ph. D. programs typically allow students to pay five or six monthly payments for a semester’s worth of tuition.
- Consider that a Ph. D. is not for everyone. Sometimes the funds are just not there. For all those who would like to do a Ph. D. but cannot, if it is any consolation, at the end of the day, the value of a Ph. D. is only as good as it is put to use.