How Can I Pay for School?
The Answer Has Been Here All Along
One of the biggest hurdles in pursuing higher education is the question, “How am I going to pay for it?” Getting a master’s or doctorate degree at a university or seminary is expensive.
“I first heard about it in 2007 when I was pursuing an M.Div. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY,” says Nathan Cecil, associate pastor for Family Ministries at Bacon’s Castle Baptist Church in Surry, VA. You may not have known about “it,” but much-needed help is available for Southern Baptist students who choose to study at certain Southern Baptist schools.
The Charles B. Keesee Educational Fund was established in 1941 by the late Mr. and Mrs. Charles B. Keesee of Martinsville, VA. Their desire was to make sure pastors and ministry leaders received the education they needed to better represent the Gospel. The couple started with $279,000, an amount that has now grown to $67,000,000 in total assets.
“I applied for and received a grant from the Keessee Foundation each and every semester throughout my entire M.Div.,” Cecil shares. “I completed my M.Div. in 2011 and can honestly say that other than the Cooperative Program, no other organization or individual played a more significant role in funding my seminary education than the Keesee Educational Fund.”
The fund distributes more than $3 million in grants annually to 700 applicants planning to attend select schools with a Baptist affiliation. In the past, grants have ranged up to $8,000 per year for a maximum of four years for students at the master’s degree level and up to $3,000 per year for a maximum of three years for students pursuing a Doctor of Ministry degree. The amount of the grant can change from year to year. This year, the maximum grant amount per student will be $7,000.
Dr. Brian Autry, SBC of Virginia’s executive director, is not only a proponent of the Keesee Educational Fund, he was also a two-time recipient: “Several generations of pastors and missionaries have been blessed by Keesee, enabling students to receive a first-class education.”
Dr. Chuck Lawless, dean and vice president of graduate studies and ministry centers at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC, agrees with Autry, “The Keesee Educational Fund, especially when it’s combined with the contributions of the SBC Cooperative Program, allows many of our students to attend Southeastern Seminary for minimal cost. This fund not only helps our students earn degrees debt free, but it also frees them up to focus on their training to take the Gospel to their neighbors and the nations. Our partnership with Keesee greatly assists us in preparing Great Commission-focused ministers and missionaries.”
The Keesee Fund grants are administered by a board of trustees who review students’ applications and eligibility for aid. Applicants must be residents of Virginia, North Carolina, or South Carolina (they must prove 12 months of residency prior to beginning their degree). They must also be a member of a Baptist church and have the intention to enter the Baptist ministry upon graduation.
The Keesee Fund recently made a big announcement. Its board has now approved students in Liberty University’s Rawlings School of Divinity to become eligible for grants to pursue graduate training in ministry. Liberty is one of two institutions to be newly approved this year—the first to join the program in 11 years. Students pursuing Liberty’s residential Master of Divinity degree, select Master of Arts degrees, or a Doctor of Ministry degree will be eligible to apply.
Dr. Ed Hindson, dean of the Rawlings School of Divinity, is thrilled for this opportunity: “We are truly honored to know that [Keesee has] added Liberty to its list of schools because of our commitment to training Baptist students for the ministry.”
I’m thankful that we have strong seminaries and schools, as well as scholarship resources available.
“A new generation of pastors and missionaries are being called out,” adds Autry, “and I am thankful that we have strong seminaries and schools, as well as scholarship resources available.”
“I can’t help but thank God when I think about the Charles B. Keesee Educational Fund,” concludes Cecil. “The ministry of the Keesee Fund has not only laid a foundation for my life and ministry but continues to build upon that foundation. It continues to offer significant financial aid in the completion of my doctoral degree. Three semesters in, I can confidently say that the Keessee Fund continues to be a significant source of financial support for my family and me.”
Subscribe to the Proclaimer for Free
Not yet receiving the Proclaimer? The print version of the magazine mails three times a year, and there is no cost to readers. Why not sign up now?