Okay, confession time: My brain project during the last year has been a doctorate . . . at a less than wonderful school. By the time I finished my degree, I had learned that the school, once with a good reputation as an independent school, had suffered dramatically. Now I have a Ph.D. from a school that I just don’t trust. Sigh.
The school, Northwestern Theological Seminary (NTS), had a decent, if not great reputation during the last few years. Slowly, through about 2009, its reputation got better and many more scholars started to approach it. The big advantages were low tuition and online classes.
The disadvantages were long periods without responses from the faculty – several months without grades according to many students. But starting about two years ago, the responses from faculty became so rare that many people quit. This seemed to satisfy NTS, possibly because there are no refunds. When students would go many months without a grade or response from the instructor, they would quit, and the school would retain the money. A very sad condition.
I did some great research and work on my dissertation, and I think came close to earning the doctorate in a regular seminary. But overall, I see & sense that NTS isn’t the right call for anyone unless the complete lack of instruction doesn’t bother them. I got my degree, but dozens did not. No refunds, no apologies. Just “give us your money and wait” seems to be the pattern.
In any case, if you want to read what I wrote, there is a link below. You can decide if I deserve the doctorate degree or not. It was exciting and hard work doing the research and the writing. The interaction with the faculty was not exciting (in fact, hardly even existed.) In the last week of school, I went to bat for other students who have not received any communications from the school for several months. I didn’t accomplish a thing except being passed quickly and graduated. What can you say? Sigh.
Now what do I do? Not really sure. The best seminary schools are certified by ATS. But there are many schools whose reputation exceeds the standards of ATS (including non-American universities, Bob Jones University, many others.) There are at least a half-dozen or so “Trinity” seminaries, some certified, some not. Some, like Northwestern, are tiny institutions without office space of their own and operating from homes and churches. Even these are not necessarily poor choice. For example, Columbia Evangelical Seminary is a great school with a very small office, no classrooms, and a strict instructor who supervises most of the course work. Some are in small corners of large college campuses. A few are actually pretty big. Wesley House, my college at Cambridge in the U.K., is the smallest college at Cambridge. We had less than thirty students in all areas of theological study, but the reputation of being a Cambidge student/graduate is extremely strong. My schooling through the Community College of the Air Force (CCAF) included 250,000+ airmen who were my classmates. CCAF gives out strong degrees also, all focused around the special skills of enlisted women and men. I have attended more than twenty collegiate schools in the United States alone. The Northwest experience was unique, odd, and sadly disappointing. I do not recommend the school, but I am otherwise unsure. At least I survived a year, and my brain is working better (the Greek and Hebrew continue to get better.)