Schirin Rangnick, Contributing Photographer

Starting next year, the Divinity School will cover the full cost of tuition for students with demonstrated financial need, Dean of the Yale Divinity School Greg Sterling announced.

In addition to offering full tuition scholarships, the aid packages will also cover the school’s “comprehensive” and “board” fees, which total $1,770. This new plan will affect both new and returning students for the 2022-23 academic year. Sterling further announced the establishment of 10 ministerial leadership scholarships. 

“We are taking this step to encourage those interested in ministerial careers to make the commitment that it takes to enter a lifetime of service to churches,” Sterling said in a press release.

Covering full tuition has been a publicized goal for the Divinity School since 2015, when the school administration announced its intention to provide full tuition scholarships by 2022. Senior Director of Alumni Engagement and Development Barabra Sabia told the News that these full scholarships have been a priority for “more than a decade.”

Full tuition scholarships will reduce students’ educational debt and allow them to focus on their religious “calling,” according to Associate Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Vernice Randall.

“This exciting new development in YDS financial support will help to decrease our students’ need for excessive education loans,” Randall said in a statement. “Reducing the debt level that they must manage on limited incomes will allow them more freedom to do the work to which they feel called and are passionate about.” 

Over the 10 years, the Divinity School has raised more than $40 million for student scholarships. The school’s Annual Fund has increased by 60 percent and the school has established nearly 175 new endowed scholarship funds. Funding for these scholarships has come from several different sources: the Annual Fund, Andover Newton Seminary, the Berkeley Divinity School and the Yale endowment. 

Still, fundraising can sometimes be a challenge for the school. Sabia noted that the small size of the Divinity School’s development team might cause them to miss certain funding opportunities. Additionally, the school faces difficulties raising funds from its alumni, as theology is often not a lucrative career path.

“Most of our alumni do not have significant resources with which to fund the school’s priorities,” Sabia said. “But they are some of the most philanthropic donors with whom I have worked.” 

The most common reason that admitted students choose not to attend Yale Divinity School is because they receive larger financial aid packages from other schools, according to the Divinity School’s website. The Harvard Divinity School offers full financial aid for tuition and also provides $10,000 stipends for living expenses. Similar divinity programs at the University of Louisville and the University of Notre Dame are entirely tuition-free.

Divinity school scholarships are often necessary for students because they generally do not go into top-paying jobs after graduation.

“It is no surprise that most of our graduates go on to careers that are not highly remunerative,” Sabia said. “Achieving this milestone enables our graduates to pursue their callings without the burden of debt. Sending moral leaders out into a world that needs them more than ever is essential to our mission and to serving society.”

According to Sabia, this accomplishment has not relaxed the school’s ambition to free students from educational debt. The development team is looking forward to raising more money for students’ living expenses through Yale’s University-wide “For Humanity” campaign.

The new tuition policy will not just affect Divinity School students, but the world they graduate into, Randall said.

“If students cannot adequately fulfill the purposes for which they choose to attend divinity school, and if indebtedness impedes their ability to pursue their callings, the problem will not just be for the students, but also for the world that needs their dedicated service,” Randall said. 

The Divinity School was founded in 1822.

Alex used to cover all things the Divinity School. Now, she serves as Weekend Editor. She's a junior in Trumbull majoring in English.