Enrollment Growth, Accreditation and Student Composition

In 1963, the Earlham School of Religion produced its first graduating class, consisting of three M.A. students: Lawrence Barker, Paul Van Ness, and Anne (Webster) Weaver.  The following year, ESR also produced its first B.D. graduate, John Keith Miller.  By 1964, student enrollment at ESR had increased to 24 Full Time Equivalents (FTEs) comprised of 31 students.  To accommodate this growth in enrollment, ESR expanded into Barclay House in January, 1965.  That same year, the School submitted its initial application for Associate Membership status with ATS.

Gaining Associate Membership status required the School have at least 25 FTEs of B.D. students and six teaching faculty, while full accreditation required it to have at least seven full-time faculty.  ESR's application for Associate Membership was finally accepted in late 1968, and announced in early 1969.  In 1973, ATS granted ESR provisional accreditation, the School having attained an enrollment of 45 FTEs comprised of 56 students.  That same year, the School also managed to increase its faculty roster by two, for a total of seven full-time faculty, thanks to the generosity of a long-time Board of Advisor member; Willard Ware and his wife, Edith.  With this growth in student enrollment and the faculty roster, along with a corresponding expansion of library resources, ESR finally received full accreditation from ATS in 1975.

Since receiving full accreditation, ESR's enrollment has gone through several phases of development, as illustrated by the accompanying chart.  Enrollment continued to expand during the 1970s, reaching an all time peak in terms of FTEs in the 1980-81 school year, the year after Wil Cooper's retirement as Dean.  In that year, ESR welcomed a total of 82 students consisting of 65 FTEs.  Two years later, ESR conferred degrees on its single largest class, with three graduates receiving M.A.s, and the remaining 22 receiving an M.Min. or M.Div.  Since that time, ESR's enrollment has fluctuated somewhat.  The number of student full-time equivalents slightly declined during the 1980s, and then remained steady in the 1990s, averaging 40 to 50 FTEs each year.  The student headcount, on the other hand, after experiencing similar declines after 1981, grew dramatically throughout the 1990s, reaching an all time high of 104 students in the 2002-03 school year.  These trends in FTE versus headcount point to the presence of an ever increasing number of occasional and part-time students.  At the same time, though, the number of graduates produced by the School has remained relatively stable, with an average of twelve graduate degrees awarded each year.


Throughout ESR's forty-five year history, it has consistently maintained a high proportion of Quaker students relative to its overall student population.  Since 1975, more than half of ESR's student population has been Quaker, with the average proportion being roughly 60% Quaker to 40% non-Quaker during that time.  Those ESR students who identify themselves as Quaker have come from every branch of Friends, domestic and international, as illustrated in the accompanying chart.  The proportion of Quaker students coming from FUM, FGC, Conservative and Independent meetings is roughly equivalent to their total numbers.  Evangelical Friends, on the other hand, while they have always been a significant presence at ESR, have been proportionately under-represented.  Seven percent of ESR's Quaker students have come from an Evangelical background, while EFI Friends constitute 30% of the total American Quaker population.  ESR has been actively addressing the presence of Evangelical Friends at the School; an effort perhaps best reflected in its faculty composition.  Two of ESR's seven teaching faculty —David Johns and Phil Baisley —come from an evangelical background, as does its Associate Dean, Tim Seid.

Of the non-Quaker students who have attended ESR over the past forty-five years, by comparison, an extremely wide variety of Christian denominations have been represented, ranging from African Methodist Episcopal to Wesleyan.  The largest proportions of ESR's non-Quaker students, though, have come from the following faith backgrounds: Unitarian Universalist (13% of all non-Quaker students), United Church of Christ (11%), and United Methodist (10%).  A small number of ESR students have also came from non-Christian religious traditions, including Jewish and Buddhist.

Summing up the nature of ESR's student composition vis-à-vis Friends: the School has had a majority of Quaker versus non-Quaker students, and among its Quaker students all the various branches of Friends have been well represented.  This ratio of students from a Friends background and the diversity of Friends perspectives represented compares favorably with the other four graduate level seminaries in the U.S. that also possess a mandate to serve the ministerial training needs of Friends.  These four institutions are:

  • Malone College School of Theology in Canton, Ohio;
  • Haggard School of Theology at Azusa Pacific University, in Azusa, California;
  • George Fox Evangelical Seminary at George Fox University (previously known as Western Evangelical Seminary, acquired by George Fox University in 1996) in Portland, Oregon; and,
  • Houston Graduate School of Theology in Houston, Texas.

While no official statistics are easily available on the number or proportion of Quaker students who attend these institutions, anecdotal evidence would seem to indicate that, in no cases, does the proportion of Quakers exceed 10% of the total student population; and in most cases, it is lower than 5%.  In some cases, the low overall proportion of Quaker students is compensated by the inclusion of a 'Friends Center' within the seminary, as is the case with the Haggard School of Theology, which allow it to focus greater attention to Quaker theology and traditions.  As all four seminaries identified above primarily serve the ministerial training needs of Evangelicals, their student representation from other branches of Friends is minimal.  That leaves ESR as the only graduate seminary in the country, and likely the world, where Quakers compose a majority of the student body, and whose Quaker student body represents the entire spectrum of theological perspectives among Friends.

Statistical Comparison of Seminaries Serving Friends, 2003-04 (source: ATS)
  Annual Operating Budget Endowment # of F-T Faculty Faculty FTE Library Collections (# volumes) Student Head Count Student FTE Tuition
Earlham School of Religion $1,610,000 $26,000,000 8 10.5 413,000 77 43.6 $7,581
George Fox Evangelical $794,000 $1,300,000 7 14 66,000 242 117.9 $10,240
Haggard School of Theology $2,539,000 $0 12 16 222,000 348 185.0 $8,940
Houston School of Theology $897,000 $200,000 7 24 36,000 216 90.1 $6,300
Malone School of Theology No comparable data readily available, as Malone is not a member of ATS