Membership in The Association of Theological Schools is open to schools located in the United States and Canada that offer graduate theological degrees, are demonstrably engaged in educating professional leadership for communities of the Christian and Jewish faiths, and meet the Standards and criteria for membership established by The Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada (hereafter the “Association” or “ATS”). Current members include Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox graduate schools of theology that reflect a broad spectrum of doctrinal, ecclesiastical, and theological perspectives. Only theological schools that offer at least one professional graduate degree for communities of the Christian and Jewish faiths are eligible for membership. The Association offers an Affiliate status for other interested entities (described in section 2.15 of the ATS Bylaws).
There are three levels of membership (Associate, Candidate, and Accredited). All three levels are members of ATS; the last two are also members of the Commission on Accrediting (hereafter “Commission”). These three membership levels must be sought in the order listed—a process that takes at least three years, though six to eight years is more common. Only Accredited Members, not Associate or Candidate Members, are eligible to participate in Title IV funding programs from the US Department of Education. For clarification on any of this information or on completing this application, please contact the Director, Accreditation Services.
Associate Membership requires completion of this application, review of it by ATS staff to determine if all eligibility criteria are met, a one- or two-day site visit by an ATS staff member to verify the information in this application, recommendation of the ATS Board of Directors, and approval of two thirds of the ATS membership at the ATS/COA Biennial Meeting. This application is due by September 1 of the year preceding the Biennial Meeting, held every June in even-numbered years. The application process for Associate Membership requires a minimum of 10 months to allow enough time for all the steps listed above, but it could take much longer if submission comes at any time other than September 1 of an odd-numbered year. The initial cost for applying for Associate Membership is $5,000, due at the time of application. That $5,000 application fee is not refundable, regardless of the outcome of any part of the application process. In addition, the school will be billed for travel costs for any ATS staff visit as part of the Associate Membership process. The school is also responsible for providing local transportation to and from the nearest airport, lodging at a local hotel (usually for one night), and meals during the one- or two-day site visit. If the ATS membership approves a school’s application for Associate Membership, the ongoing costs for Associate Membership consist of annual dues, the formula for which is described on the ATS website. Associate Membership does not qualify a school to participate in Title IV federal funding programs in the United States. Associate Members are required to complete the ATS Annual Report Formseach fall. See the Note at the end of this form for further information about the application process for Associate Membership.
Candidate for Accredited Member status is open only to Associate Members, who must petition for candidacy within five years of receiving Associate Membership (more established schools may petition in the first year). Candidacy is a three-step process (described in the chapter titled “Petitioning for Candidate for Accredited Member Status” in Guidelines for Petitioning the Board of Commissioners): (1) written notification that the school intends to pursue candidacy, (2) completion and submission of a 50-page internal readiness report that evaluates how well the school aligns with the ATS Commission Standards, and (3) a site visit by accrediting staff to interview key personnel and review related documents. Once those three steps are completed, the ATS Board of Commissioners will review all appropriate materials and either grant or deny candidacy, usually within six months of the staff visit. Candidacy is typically granted for two years. Costs involved in candidacy include travel expenses for the staff visit, which will be billed to the school. The school is also responsible for providing local transportation to and from the nearest airport, lodging at a local hotel (usually for one night), and meals during the one- or two-day site visit. Ongoing costs for candidate schools include payment of annual dues, as well as any costs incurred by the school in preparing the readiness report. Note that candidacy for ATS does not qualify a school for participation in Title IV federal funding programs in the United States. Schools listed as Candidate for Accredited Member status are required to complete the ATS Annual Report Forms each fall.
Accredited Membership is open only to schools first granted candidacy by the ATS Board of Commissioners. Pursuit of Accredited Member status must typically be completed within two years of achieving candidacy. Accredited Membership requires the school to complete a self-study process and submit a Self-Study Report (typically 100–125 pages) that demonstrates how the school meets all applicable ATS Commission Standards. Chapters Two, Three, and Five of the Self-Study Handbook describe what is expected in this process. The ATS Commission staff also host an annual Self-Study Workshop each September for schools beginning the self-study process. Once the Self-Study Report is submitted, the ATS Board of Commissioners will review it and, if deemed adequate, will authorize an evaluation visit for initial accreditation by a committee of three to five peers. Based upon that committee’s recommendations, as well as the school’s own Self-Study Report, the Board will then vote whether to grant initial accreditation. That vote typically occurs within three to six months of the evaluation visit. The feefor an initial evaluation visit, as well as ongoing costs for Accredited Member schools, are described on the ATS website. Accredited Members are required to complete the ATS Annual Report Forms each fall.
Part 2: The Application Criteria
This application is based upon the eight “membership eligibility criteria” described in the ATS Procedures, section I.A–H. All information supplied on this application or in any required appendices must be in English.
“The school is located in the United States or Canada, offers graduate, professional theological degrees, and is demonstrably engaged in educating professional leadership for communities of the Christian and Jewish faiths.”
Name of person completing this application:Click here to enter text.
Title of person completing this application: Click here to enter text.
Email of person completing this application:Click here to enter text. Name of applicant school:Click here to enter text.
Full mailing address of applicant school (Note: Mailing address must be in United States or Canada):Click here to enter text.
Website of applicant school:Click here to enter text.
If this school is part of a larger entity, please describe1:Click here to enter text. 1 ATS membership is open only to schools that have an “accreditable entity” that offers graduate, professional theological degrees. If this school is part of a larger entity that offers more than that (e.g., undergraduate degrees or graduate degrees not related to theology or ministry), please describe above the nature of the entity that offers only graduate degrees related to theology or ministry (e.g., a school or department within a university or a faculty of theology).
List the mission/purpose of this school:Click here to enter text.
List the names of all graduate, theological degrees offered by this school.
Note: at least one graduate degree must be oriented toward ministerial leadership (e.g., MDiv, MA in Ministry, DMin, etc.).
Name of degree program
% can be earned via distance ed.5
2 List which ATS Commission Degree Program Standard this degree addresses (e.g., A, B, etc.).
3 Total credits required to complete this degree; if not semester hour credits, please list unit used (e.g., quarter): Click here to enter text.
4 List the number of students (headcount, not FTE) enrolled in each degree program during the current term.
5 Indicate what percentage (if none, put 0%) of this degree can be earned via distance education (e.g., online).
“The school has operated long enough, typically three or more years, for at least one group of students to have earned all necessary credits and to have graduated with the Master of Divinity degree or the first theological degree offered by the school.”
List the year the school was officially chartered: Click here to enter text.
List the year classes were first offered: Click here to enter text.
List the year the first students graduated: Click here to enter text.
List the number of initial graduates in that group: Click here to enter text.
Append to this application a list of graduates, including their current occupations.
“The school has an adequate number of properly qualified professors working full time at postbaccalaureate theological education. Normally, this adequacy will be represented by the equivalent of six to ten full-time faculty.”
List all the full-time faculty teaching graduate, theological courses at your school. You may include in this list full-time employees (e.g., president or dean or librarian) who teach part time.
Note: Append to this application a CV for each full-time faculty member.
If you list fewer than six full-time faculty, provide a rationale in an appendix.
6 If a full-time faculty member teaches only in this school, put 100%. If, however, he/she teaches, for example, eight courses per year but two are in an undergraduate program, then put 75%.
“The school has a student body of sufficient size to provide for a community of peer learning appropriate for graduate education. Ordinarily, all students in the theological school shall hold an accredited baccalaureate degree.”
List information about enrollment trends for your school (not any larger entity of which you may be a part).
2 Falls Ago
3 Falls Ago
4 Falls Ago
Total number grad students
FTE7 of grad students
Number of new grad students
7 FTE (Full-Time Equivalency) is based upon the total number of graduate credit hours taken during that fall term divided by the typical number of hours taken by a full-time student in each degree program.
What percentage of your current graduate students do not hold an accredited baccalaureate degree?
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“The educational program of the school consists of graduate-level studies in the broad range of the theological disciplines designed for preparation for ministry.”
List the website where your degrees are described, including the degree program goals and curricular requirements for each degree.
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“The school evidences openness to the community of theological schools as demonstrated by all of the following:
“regular participation of faculty in activities of professional or learned societies;
List the professional/learned societies in which your faculty regularly participate.
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“an openness to cooperative relationships with current Association member schools; and
Describe how you value cooperative relationships with current Association members.
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“a commitment to participate in the larger community of theological education, and especially a recognition of the diversity that characterizes the community.”
Describe why you desire to participate in the larger ATS community.
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“The school conducts an educational program of quality, stability, and permanence by having:
“adequate physical facilities;
Describe the nature and extent of your physical facilities (e.g., The school owns a 10,000 square-foot, two-story facility built in 1995 that houses eight offices, four classrooms, a library, and a student lounge, with ample and safe parking for all students and staff. The building meets all state codes and is ADA and wireless accessible).
Note: If more space needed, provide an appendix describing the facilities.
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“a library that is adequate in the following ways to support graduate degree programs: holdings, staff, access to electronic information resources, and space for collection, study, and services;
Number of print volumes (books/journals) in library: Click here to enter text.
Number of print journal subscriptions: Click here to enter text.
Number of e-books: Click here to enter text.
Number of full-text e-journals: Click here to enter text.
Number of electronic databases (e.g., ATLAS): Click here to enter text.
Square footage of library facility (approximately): Click here to enter text.
Percentage of shelving that is full (approximately): Click here to enter text.
Seating capacity of library facility (number students): Click here to enter text.
Number of computers available for student use: Click here to enter text.
Number of full-time library staff: Click here to enter text.
Number of part-time library staff (and FTE): Click here to enter text.
List the library director’s academic qualifications. Click here to enter text.
“adequate financial resources; and
Describe briefly how the financial resources of the school are adequate to ensure the school’s institutional vitality and educational quality. Append a copy of the school’s two most recent audits, and a copy of the current budget. (If the school is financially embedded in a larger entity, append the audits for the larger entity; however, the current budget should reflect only the revenue/expenses for the applicant school, not the larger entity.)
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“other institutional and educational resources required for the program.”
List any extension sites the school operates.
Location of site (complete mailing address)
Degrees Offered There
% of Degree
Can Be Completed
“The school has a governance and administrative structure appropriate to the institution and characteristic of North American institutions and a degree of autonomy sufficient to determine and carry out its basic purposes, including authority to oversee its academic programs.”
List the number of members serving on your board. Click here to enter text.
List the number of those elected by your board. Click here to enter text.
List the number of administrators serving your school. Click here to enter text.
List the number of administrators who are full-time employees. Click here to enter text. In addition to any appendices requested above, append to this application as PDF documents the following items (label each clearly):
a copy of the school’s legal charter and corporate bylaws
a complete roster of board members (with occupation, gender, ethnicity, address, and board officers)
a current organizational chart with titles and names, indicating which offices are held by administrators
a copy of the school’s catalog
a copy of the school’s handbooks for faculty and for students
Have you read and do you agree to abide by all applicable membership criteria and responsibilities stated in the ATS Bylaws and the ATS Procedures, and, if approved for Associate Membership, to seek to follow all applicable Standards and Procedures of the ATS Commission on Accrediting?
Complete this application (in English), save it as a single PDF document, and email it as an attachment (along with any other required appendices—combined into a second PDF document—in English) to Director, Accreditation Services. This application is due by September 1 of the year preceding the ATS/COA Biennial Meeting, which meets in June of every even-numbered year. Typically within two weeks of receiving this application, the Director, Accreditation Services will notify the school that it has been received and is appropriately completed. Once that determination is made and that verification is sent, the school will be invoiced by the ATS office for $5,000, payable within 30 days of receipt. No further action on the application will be taken until the $5,000 payment is received. Upon receipt of payment, several ATS staff will review the completed application to determine if the school meets the membership eligibility criteria. At that point, usually within four weeks of receipt of payment, an ATS staff member will contact the school to inform them of that determination. If the review indicates the membership eligibility criteria have been met, the staff member will arrange a one- or two-day visit to the school at a mutually agreeable time. If the review indicates the eligibility criteria have not been met, the school will be informed of that decision. Please note that the $5,000 application fee is not refundable, regardless of the outcome of the application at any point in the process.
Note: If the ATS staff determines the information in this application appears to meet membership eligibility requirements and a site visit occurs, the staff member conducting that visit will write a report evaluating how well the school meets each membership criterion. That report, along with this application (and any appendices), and five letters of support8 will be submitted to the school and to the ATS Board of Directors for the Board’s review and recommendation at its spring meeting preceding the ATS/COA Biennial Meeting. After the ATS Board meets, it will notify the school whether it will recommend the school to the membership at the Biennial Meeting. If it does, the school will be invited to attend that meeting (at the school’s own expense). Associate Membership is not granted, however, until at least two thirds of the member schools present at the Biennial Meeting vote to approve the school’s application.
8 As part of the application process for Associate Membership, the school is required to provide five letters of support from any current ATS member schools of the applicant’s choosing. All five letters of support must be received by the Director, Accreditation Services prior to the initial staff visit.