This is the third part in our series on the economic realities of living a theological vocation in the academy. The first part focused on the difficult job market, and in the last post we discussed the challenges of making it as an adjunct. Now we’re going to turn our attention to the difficulties facing those who have already landed full-time positions.
First, as I already mentioned, theological schools around the country face declining enrollments, and I’m sure we all know people who have had their positions terminated as a result of the corresponding budget cuts. Although positions in higher education are probably still more stable than many, shaky economic realities have many wondering if they will still have jobs in years to come.
And those who have retained their jobs increasingly find that the nature of the vocation has changed around them. As institutions seek to be more flexible and reach more students, faculty face increased expectations to accommodate in ways they may not have originally anticipated. Teaching at multiple locations, on the weekends, or evenings, and creating and managing online learning courses are becoming normal aspects of the academic life, often leaves faculty wondering if this is really what they signed up for.
If declining enrollment and changing job expectations were the only challenges, though, we would be facing something relatively manageable. At least the fundamental nature of our industry would remain the same. The challenge, however, goes further, with many raising questions that go to the heart of the academic theological vocation itself. And this is happening at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.