FAQs

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DEGREE PROGRAMS: Master of Divinity, Master of Arts in Social Change, Master of Arts

How long are the degree programs?

  • Mdiv: Most of our students work, have partners, families, and lead full lives. Most students average 4 years.
  • MASC: 2 years
  • MA: 2 years

Do I need to take the GRE?

No, for the MDiv and MASC degrees.  Yes, for the Common MA.

Can I pursue my degree completely online?

You can pursue your degree mostly online through our flexible low-residency option: 30 of the 90 credits for the MDiv and up to 24 of the 48 credits for the MASC degree must be completed in-residence. Courses for any given academic year are scheduled one year ahead, for your planning ease.

Where will I find work with a MASC degree?

You will be prepared to assume a professional role in institutions and organizations that work for progressive social change. The employment field includes non-profit organizations, social service agencies, political action organizations, administrative and leadership positions in denominational bodies and religious associations, church staffs, educational programs, health organizations, community centers, interfaith organizations and research institutes. Learn how recent MASC grads are applying their degrees.

Can I talk to students who have graduated from the MASC program?

Yes, email recruitment@sksm.edu to make the request. In the interim, listen to an audio podcast of two Starr King students discussing what excites them about the Master of Arts in Social Change degree program; what drew them to the academic community; and what they learned in the required course, Educating to Counter Oppressions to Create Just and Sustainable Communities.

RESIDENCY MODES: HIGH (RESIDENTIAL) and LOW (DISTANCE)

Is it possible to take online classes that transfer to the degree program and, if so, is there a limit to the number of classes/credits permitted?

Yes.  The option to study online before matriculating gives you a chance to experience our courses and our institution, as we support your discernment of both path and call.  Should you be accepted into Starr King’s degree programs, financial credit for up to six online courses taken within seven years prior, as a Starr King Special Student, will transfer towards the completion of your MDiv and the MASC degrees.  In-residence academic credit earned at any GTU school, regardless of when earned, will apply towards your degree.

What technology requirements must my computer meet to take online classes?

  1. Regular access to a computer with broadband internet capabilities;
  2. Internet Explorer or Firefox browser (Firefox strongly recommended. Safari is presently incompatible with Moodle.); and
  3. Latest version of the free Adobe Acrobat Reader;
  4. An audio/video player (some courses incorporate audio or video and most computers come with players.  They also can be downloaded for free from Windows, Apple, and elsewhere. See SKSM Online Education Technical Support for more information.

When are online class times scheduled?

Most online class discussions happen in discussion boards where class participants engage each other through chat correspondence. These are asynchronous and you discuss readings and course content according to your own schedule. Live time, however, is encouraged. Skype is primarily used; Google Hangouts and freeconference.com are also utilized. Individual instructors decide and most poll the students for best times.

Honestly, can I get grounding in theological and ministerial study without physically being in a community of fellow seminarians?

Yes, you can, through low residency student cohort groups and the all-school symposium.

Student Cohort Groups: recent graduates provide leadership and guidance to ensure group check-ins, reflection, and community accountability in geographic locations where low-residency students reside.  Cohort group members communicate regularly through various mediums and meet at the fall symposium.

Symposium: a gathering of the whole learning community, meaning interns return, faculty and staff who work in low residency modes would return, and, of course, low residency students return.  The first symposium is scheduled to take place in the late August (see Academic Calendar for dates).

This short video best explains the varied ways we teach, you learn, and how we form community:

What kinds of low residency courses are available?

Distance learning includes online courses and fieldwork, in the form of internships, chaplaincy residences, and other community-based placements.  At least 1/3 of our courses during any academic period are offered online.

If I want to complete my low residency courses online within three years for the MDiv, what would that path look like?

About 20 graduate level full-semester online courses over a 36 month period, depending on the number of credits offered for each course.

What kinds of high residency courses are available?

High residence courses can be semester-long during the Fall and Spring, week-long intensives during January, week-long intensives during August, day-long Saturday intensives, as well as domestic and international immersion learning opportunities that range from four days to two weeks.

What are some ways I could meet my 30 hour residential course requirement?

Take contiguous courses in a concentrated period by moving to the Bay Area for one year. Or, spread them out during your tenure, a little at a time, and come to town for specific learning periods. Courses for any given academic year are scheduled one year ahead, for planning ease. If you live close enough, you take one 3 credit class per learning period: semester, intersession, or summer. You can also count Skypeable classes (mixed residency courses) as meeting the residential requirement. Symposium, the annual three day all-school gathering, the Boston Immersion, and the General Assembly (UUA) Intensive offer 1.5 credits.

What is immersion learning?

In-depth learning that takes place in the physical context of a congregational or community internship, a chaplaincy/clinical pastoral education program (CPE), or travel to a geographical social/culture/religious location.

What other GTU schools offer a low residency Masters in Divinity?

Other GTU schools offer distance learning for individual courses, but Starr King is the only GTU school offering a low residence Master of Divinity Program. The Association of Theological Schools has approved fewer than 50% of its accredited schools for distance learning and Starr King is among them; 90 credits are required for the MDiv and 30 of them must be completed in high residence. They can be taken at Starr King or any entity within the GTU.  As a degree candidate, you may also cross register for courses at UC Berkeley, Holy Names University, and Mills College.

SPECIAL STUDENT: TAKING COURSES OUTSIDE OF A DEGREE PROGRAM

What is a Special Student?

This is the official student status for community members who take courses at a GTU school, including Starr King, but who are not matriculating as a degree candidate at a GTU school, including Starr King.

How much is one 3-unit course?

$1,989, as of the Summer of 2011.

I am thinking of applying for a degree program, but don’t know if seminary is for me. Can I take one class?

Yes.  The option to study before matriculating as a degree candidate gives you a chance to experience a course and our institution. You may register as a Special Student, the official GTU designation for non-matriculating students. Special Students may take high residency courses or low residency courses. View course descriptions to select courses by type (online, residential, immersion or intensive).

Get more registration information.

Will the classes I take as a Special Student count towards my degree?

In-residence academic credit earned at any GTU school within the past 7 years will apply towards your degree, but not financial credit.  Academic and financial credit for up to six Starr King online courses, taken from January 1, 2008 on, are transferable towards the completion of your degree program.

May I audit (sit in on a class for the duration of its run, without fully participating in the form of homework, projects, etc.) a class?

We do not allow auditors because we value the full contribution and participation of all course attendees.

CERTIFICATE PROGRAMS

What will the Certificate in UU Studies do for me?

Our certificates are used for the following purposes:

  1. to supplement the education of UUs studying at non-UU seminaries who wish to be fellowshipped by the UUA;
  2. to try out the seminary experience, while considering degree programs;
  3. to provide continuing education to those who already have MDivs from non-UU seminaries;
  4. to bolster the professional experience of lay leadership already working in religious environments;
  5. and to enhance the job-readiness of those with second-career and other vocational aspirations.

What are the required courses for the UU Studies Certificate?

There are no required courses that make up the UU certificate program. You can select courses with a specifically UU theme.  Program Director Rev. Dr. Susan Ritchie is also willing to make suggestions.

VISITING STARR KING AND THE GTU

What is the best time to visit the school?

Any day that works with your schedule and that holds a class you would like to visit is best, but Tuesdays stand out as a great day to visit.  Student conceived, designed, produced, and led chapels/ritual arts services are held every Tuesday at 1pm.  Also, the director of the Master of Arts in Social Change program holds office hours on Tuesdays.

FINANCIAL AID

What is financial aid?

Monetary assistance offered to help meet your educational expenses. There are two broad categories:

  1. gift aid, which includes grants, scholarships and stipends that do not have to be paid back and
  2. self-help aid, loans, such as Stafford, which must be paid back. Work study is money earned from employment on campus or in non-profit organizations.

Starr King is a member of the Graduate Theological Union (GTU) and the GTU Financial Aid Office apply through the GTU for government loans and work study.

Am I eligible for financial aid?

U.S. citizen or permanent resident students can apply for financial aid by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form and your school’s supplemental application.

Each year the GTU Financial Aid Office, the administrative body that processes the financial aid application process for all GTU member school students, creates your student budget. The budget takes into account tuition, fees, books, living costs, your income, assets, and family size to determine your contribution. Financial need is determined by subtracting your contribution from the standard student budget. The difference between these two figures is your student need: STANDARD STUDENT BUDGET – YOUR CONTRIBUTION = YOUR NEED. The application deadline is April 1.  Get a head start by filling out a FAFSA form online at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/.

What kind of financial aid is available?

Government Aid: the GTU financial aid application process http://www.gtu.edu/admissions/financial-aid/financial-aid-how-to-apply

Starr King: Upon admission, you may apply to Starr King for need-based grants that generally range from $1,000 to $5,000. Contact sksmadmissions@sksm.edu
Unitarian Universalist Association: If you are considering ordination in the Unitarian Universalist denomination, visit http://www.uua.org/leaders/leadership/ministerialcredentialing/16213.shtml for scholarship information.

www.gtu.edu: the GTU scholarship database http://www.seedwiki.com/wiki/gtu_scholarships

Your Denomination:  The denomination of your faith-based-organization may be a funding source.  Inquire directly.

Do I have to apply for financial aid every year?

New application forms are posted to the GTU Financial Aid website in mid-December each year http://www.gtu.edu/admissions/financial-aid/financial-aid-priority-deadlines. Visit the financial aid page on Starr King’s website directly for guidance related to need-based institutional grants.

I may not be able to meet the financial aid deadline. Will this affect my aid?

Yes, this may affect your aid. Both the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form and the Starr King’s supplemental form must be filed before or postmarked by their respective deadlines.  Students who apply on time receive priority consideration in the award process.

I plan on meeting the May 1st application deadline. Won’t I have missed the GTU’s April 1st FAFSA deadline?

Technically, yes.  However, it is not too late to apply.  The GTU processes Starr King’s student aid packages upon receipt. However, students who apply on time receive priority consideration in the award process.

I made a lot of money last year. Should I still apply for financial aid?

Yes, you never know what you may qualify for, if you don’t apply. You may at least be considered eligible for the Stafford unsubsidized loan to help cover your educational expenses.

What is the unsubsidized Stafford loan?

The unsubsidized Stafford Loan is a federal loan not awarded based on financial need. Unsubsidized means you are charged interest from loan disbursement until it is paid in full. You can pay this interest while matriculating and during grace and deferment periods, or you can allow it to accumulate.

Am I eligible for this loan?

Yes, if you are at least a part-time student. At Starr King, 6 to 8 credit hours taken in a given semester is considered a part-time status.

How much Stafford loan may I borrow?

Up to $20,500 each academic year for the unsubsidized Stafford loan. Starting in the 2012-2013 academic year, subsidized federal loans will no longer be available to graduate students.

TUITION AND FEES

What is a Continuing Semester Fee?

The fee charged for students who take longer than the estimated time to complete their degree: three years for the MDiv and 2 years for the MASC degree. This fee is charged in lieu of tuition, which is about half the cost of regular tuition.

Can I pay for my courses online?

We are currently not set up for receiving online payments, such as credit cards, PayPal, etc.

DISCERNMENT PERIOD: THE TIME YOU TAKE TO DECIDE IF SEMINARY IS FOR YOU

I am older and I hesitate to apply. Does it make sense for me to pursue this life-long calling at my age?

Of course it does and congratulations! Our students well-represent all decades of adulthood.  We have graduated octogenarians and currently have degree candidates in their 50s and 60s, as well as a healthy dose of those in their 20s and 30s. Check out our entering student surveys to see what you have in common with our students.

What advice do you have for someone beginning the process of discernment?

Read everything you can about the academic programs you are considering, talk to current students, and talk to practicing ministers, as well as MDiv graduates who choose to use their MDivs outside of a congregational setting.

APPLYING: WHAT IT TAKES TO BE CONSIDERED FOR ADMISSION

Are international student visas arranged by the school or are the students responsible for that?

Upon admittance, we work with you to secure your F-1 visa.  You are responsible for paying the I-901 fee, which is currently $200: http://gtu.edu/centersandaffiliates

Do you accept transfer students?

Yes, from accredited Master of Divinity programs. Upon admittance, you may petition to have your credits assessed for transferability. Regardless of how many transfer credits are accepted, you must complete a minimum of two-years of study at Starr King.

Can I receive credit for previous related life experience and education?

Previous life experience and education are highly valued and taken into consideration during the admissions process.  On average, one-third to one-fourth of each entering class possesses at least one master’s degree and many more have significant public interest/public service experience; your scholastic and vocational achievements will enhance your experience here and make your presence a welcomed addition to the school. Academic credit for prior degrees earned, however, is not transferable toward an SKSM degree program. Academic credit for life experiences that take place during the course of your degree program matriculation at Starr King, in the form of independent study, special reading courses, and write-ups, is available.

Do you consider applicants without bachelor degrees?

With or without un undergraduate degree, we examine the totality of your academic, professional, and spiritual experiences, as demonstrated by your application. Additionally, you must demonstrate your ability to do graduate level work and be open to transformation.

CURRICULUM: REQUIREMENTS YOU MUST MEET BEFORE YOU GRADUATE

How are the degree programs structured?

There is one required course and eight thresholds.

What is the required course?

ECO Core Intensive: Educating to “Create Just and Sustainable Communities that Counter Oppressions”. (As of this writing, the next course is offered during summer session in August 2013.) The earlier in the program you meet the ECO requirement, the better.  It is foundational for understanding our approach to theological education.

What are the eight thresholds?

You must achieve competency in eight areas: pastor, prophet, preacher, scholar, counselor thea/ologian, teacher, artist.  You may use the entire menu of the GTU (9 seminaries and 11 academic centers of distinction, centers, programs, and affiliates to meet these thresholds.

Does it cost to take classes at UC Berkeley?

Free cross-registration for one class each semester is available to degree candidates at the University of California, Berkeley, which is two blocks from Starr King. Master of Divinity students may take as many as six courses (one per semester) during a three-year MDiv program. MASC students may take as many as four courses (one per semester) during a two-year MASC program.

Is the focus on Unitarian Universalist doctrine or is it possible to tailor the program to meet more of my interest/needs?

Our educational philosophy is multi-religious.  This pedagogy is inspired by Unitarian Universalist values. Student agency is a critical component of our educational philosophy. In collaboration with your advisor, you choose from the full menu of the GTU Course catalogue to determine what best meets the required academic thresholds, as well as your professional and spiritual needs.

GRADUATES: LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES

I am a Starr King grad. How much does a course cost?

Residential course: Space permitting, you may take up to one complimentary high residence course each semester.  If you take the course during the Intersession or Summer Session, it counts as one semester-long complimentary course.

Online course: Space permitting, you may take one online course per academic year in lieu of one high residence course each semester. Limited enrollment courses access must be approved by the instructor.

I am a graduate of a GTU member school. Is there a discounted Starr King course cost available to me?

We do not extend the course discount courtesy to non-Starr King grads.

CHAPLAINCY

What is a chaplain?

A clergyperson or lay person who provides pastoral services to a secular institution for the purpose of practicing within that institution.

What is chaplaincy?

Theological education occurring in clinical settings where ministry is being practiced, including hospitals, veterans’ facilities, hospices, psychiatric and community care facilities, workplaces, geriatric and rehabilitation centers, and congregational settings. The general activity performed by a chaplain includes crisis ministry, counseling, ritual, worship, education, help in ethical decision-making, staff support, clergy contact and community or religious institution coordination.

COMMUNITY

How large is your student body?

There are approximately 80 students enrolled in the school. On average, 20 degree candidates begin their program with us each Fall, with a handful more starting each Spring.  We are part of a community of 1,500 (students, faculty, administrators, staff) as a member school of the Graduate Theological Union.