Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary could get an $11 million infusion of cash if a planned sale of 15 acres of property to the City of Fort Worth goes through.
The sale of most of its Carroll Park student housing complex, which encompasses 20 acres separate from the main seminary campus, would be a financial boon to the Southern Baptist Convention seminary that recently has experienced declining enrollment and a multi-million budget deficit that has yet to be publicly reported in detail.
The city has put together a public-private partnership to acquire the land — currently populated with 1950s-era duplexes and triplexes — and convert it to permanent housing for the homeless and for families fleeing domestic violence.
The full 20-acre tract was listed for sale in October. The city’s proposal is to buy three-fourths of that, leaving behind a doglegged section that runs behind a school.
The city announced March 1 that the seminary had accepted its offer, contingent upon a due diligence period of a few months. A city news release said families in need could begin occupying the dwellings later this year.
Selling off this property — which is no longer needed for student housing — could be a boon to the seminary’s finances.
According to the latest data Southwestern filed with the Association of Theological Schools, published online by the SBC Executive Committee, the seminary booked a $15 million loss in net assets for the most recently reported fiscal year.
Those same ATS financial statements show total net revenue dropping from $71 million to $33 million in the year most recently ended. That includes $14 million in depreciation and a $21 million drop in investment income — most likely tied to stock market performance last year.
Five months ago, seminary leaders acknowledged a significant operating deficit but still have not given any public accounting on the matter.
Five months ago, seminary leaders acknowledged a significant operating deficit — reportedly as low as $6 million and as high as $12 million — but still have not given any public accounting on the matter.
Financial mismanagement and a dramatically declining enrollment were among the reasons trustees cited for the sudden resignation of President Adam Greenway last fall. As previously reported by BNG, the seminary’s enrollment had dipped to the lowest level since World War II.
The six SBC seminaries file fuller financial and enrollment reports with the Executive Committee annually. The fall ATS report provides a brief snapshot of some fall enrollment trends and some year-to-year financials.
According to the fall data provided to ATS, Southwestern’s enrollment has remained fairly steady from fall 2021 to fall 2022 — still among the lowest number in decades but not getting lower.
For the fall, Southwestern reported a full-time equivalent enrollment of 1,126 in its master’s, doctoral and non-degree programs. That’s up 19 from the prior year. Fall enrollment in the master of divinity program was reported at an FTE of 262, compared to 234 the prior year.
One bright spot in the fall enrollment report is the admission of 137 new M.Div. students this fall.
One bright spot in the fall enrollment report is the admission of 137 new M.Div. students this fall, up from 96 new students the prior fall.
The property to be acquired by the City of Fort Worth includes 140 units in duplex, triplex and quadplex units. A sales flyer from the commercial real estate firm handling the sale had listed the site as likely for tear down and redevelopment. But for now, the city plans to use the aging housing as-is.
The units were built in 1951 as military housing, and the seminary purchased the property in 1965, renaming it for the school’s founding president, B.H. Carroll. Carroll Park sits in an older, well-worn section of South Fort Worth — with a higher-than-average crime rate — that is located just blocks from a tonier section of town surrounding Texas Christian University.
“This project is a perfect example of Fort Worth’s commitment to families and ensuring every child has the support they need to be successful,” said Mayor Mattie Parker. “As we face a crisis of family homelessness across the country, we are fortunate in Fort Worth to have nonprofit and philanthropic partners that are committed to working alongside the city to ensure we are investing in the needed housing and services for our most vulnerable.”
Mayor Parker thanked Southwestern officials for working with their coalition, despite having a cash offer on the table from another buyer.
“This agreement with the City of Fort Worth to move forward with its purchase of 15 acres of the Carroll Park property is not only welcome news for Southwestern Seminary, it is the next chapter in a 115-year partnership between the seminary and the city we call home,” Interim President David Dockery said. “We are overjoyed that this property so many seminary families have called home over the decades can now be used to meet a critical need in our city — housing for the most vulnerable among us, including families experiencing homelessness.”
The $11 million will come from several sources:
- One Safe Place has committed to raise $5 million.
- Tarrant County Samaritan House Inc. was awarded $4.1 million in federal funds by the City of Fort Worth that could be moved to this project.
- The Rainwater, Morris, Amon Carter, Sid Richardson and Paulos foundations together have pledged $1.9 million.
“With family homelessness at an all-time high, we are excited to see a development that will allow us to give so many families a place to call home,” said Lauren King, executive director of Tarrant County Homeless Coalition.
This one project could make a significant dent in the problem of homeless families in Fort Worth. In the last quarter of 2022, there were 200 homeless families compared to the last quarter of 2021, when there were about 130 homeless families – more than a 50% increase.
The 140 existing units will be divided between One Safe Place and Tarrant County Samaritan House, with about half dedicated to homeless families and half dedicated to families fleeing domestic violence.
Behind the numbers: How Southwestern Seminary’s enrollment came to be the lowest it has been since World War II | Analysis by Mark Wingfield
What happened at Southwestern and why does it matter? | Analysis by Mark Wingfield