Rebounding Enrollment: An Exploration of Factors that Influence Students’ Decisions to Enroll in Graduate Theological Education at the Atlanta Campus of Reformed Theological Seminary
This capstone project seeks to identify factors that contribute to selecting Reformed Theological Seminary, Atlanta campus, as a school of choice for prospective students, and provide evidence-based recommendations for improvements to increase enrollment. I used a mixed methods approach was used to analyze survey and interview data The questions included personal factors about applicants (demographics, background, prior education, current family and work status, and financial stability), community factors (support from local churches, friends, etc.), and institutional factors related to RTS Atlanta, as perceived by applicants (theological stance, academic rigor, availability of housing, financial aid packages for students, etc.), accompanied by specific questions that sought to capture how these factors contributed to each perspective student’s decision whether or not to enroll. The findings supported that personal characteristics such as a calling from God and clear vocational direction are important, as is the accessibility of education (in terms of location, schedule, and financial resources). Institutional characteristics such as location, academic rigor, theological doctrine, financial aid packages, and a sense of community are things that were important to most applicants who participated in this study. Community factors, such as church involvement and encouragement of a faith leader for a student to attend seminary also play a vital role in the decision to enroll. Based on survey and semi-structured interview responses, I have crafted eight recommendations that fall under three categories: ready engagement with applicants, building a true community at the campus level, and deploying strategic marketing with enrollment goals in mind.