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The Monetary Cost of a Modified Residency Ph. D. Program


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.

2011 ($7,424.03)

$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)

2012 ($14,834.73)

$281.13, books

$1,041.60, travel, housing, and meals for three trips (second, third, and fourth of five trips for classes)

$13,512, tuition (24 credits)

2013 ($13,680.71)

$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)

2014 ($7,390.50)

$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 . . .

Total:  $39,204.97

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Apply for scholarships and use church funds for higher education if possible.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

About David Huffstutler

David pastors First Baptist Church in Rockford, IL, serves as a chaplain for his local police department, and teaches as adjunct faculty at Bob Jones University. David holds a Ph. D. in Applied Theology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. His concentration in Christian Leadership focuses his contributions to pastoral and practical theology.