The Three Most-Often-Asked Questions

Click Here for the top three FAQs answered by Maitripa College’s dean of education: (1) Do I have to be Buddhist to come there? (2) Will I have time for my life/job/partner/kids if I enroll in the program? (3) What can I do with a degree from Maitripa College?

General Questions

 Q.   What financial assistance is available to help me pay for my education at Maitripa College?

A.  Maitripa College is committed to keeping our programs accessible to every student who wishes to study here. To that end tuition is a fraction of the cost of comparable graduate programs in the United States. Additionally, we make every effort to consider the financial concerns of each student, and to support their progress through a commitment to flexible payment options and scholarship opportunities.  You can find more information here.  Please note that U.S. Federal Student Loans are not available to fund your education at the college and we do not offer a student loan program.

Q.  How does Maitripa College not being accredited affect me?

A.  We encourage you to speak with us about the significance of accreditation to your educational plans, as the importance of it may vary by individual. In general, areas in which you may notice it include Federal loan funding, which is not available to students at non-accredited schools, transfer credits (whether or not another school awards credit for coursework is within that school’s discretion), and recognition of the degree by another school in connection with a PhD program.

That being said, the training received here has been an asset for MA students seeking admission to PhD programs, even if the credit for coursework did not map over to the other school’s program.  In addition, in practice, our MDiv students and alumni have been recognized as holding valid academic credentials when applying for Clinical Pastoral Education programs and employment as Chaplains, in Oregon, California, and New York to date.  Additionally, the Association of Professional Chaplains has recently recognized Maitripa College’s MDiv degree as the educational theological equivalency of an accredited degree, which means that our graduates’ degree is fully recognized by the only national professional organization that grants Board Certification for chaplains.

Q.  Do I need to know or learn Tibetan?

A.  During the course of your education here, you’ll probably learn some classical Tibetan language whether you intend to or not!  Our classical Tibetan professor, Bill Magee, makes the point that pursuing the study of Tibetan language is itself a spiritual practice. Some instructors will weave together Tibetan and English to skillfully convey the meaning of assigned texts. In addition, some guest instructors teach in Tibetan with English translation. Formal study of Tibetan, in courses offered by the college, is currently required for those in our MA program. Given the value of studying Tibetan, this opportunity is encouraged for our MDiv program students.

Q.  Can I audit, i.e. pay tuition, but not complete the assignments and forgo a grade?

A.  To keep the standard of excellence and the classroom experience rich for all students, we require that everyone comes to class and is prepared to the best of their ability. Because our classes are small and personalized, your opinions, curiosities, challenges, and insights contribute to enrich the course. We’ve observed in the past that students who choose an audit option tend not to be as committed to the full classroom experience. For these reasons, Maitripa College currently does not have an standard Audit enrollment option.

*In 2020-2021, in accord with policies and guidelines from Local, State, and National guidelines pertaining to education during the global coronavirus pandemic, Maitripa College courses have been offered online. Auditing options were created for use during this public health crisis and do not carry graduate credit nor a transcript; auditors pay full tuition and are expected to participate fully in courses. 

Q.  Do I have to be accepted to the degree program in order to take a course?

A. No. If a degree program is not feasible, people are encouraged to enroll as Continuing Education (CE) students at the college.   CE  enrollment is designed for those unable to start or without need to complete  a degree program but who still want to improve their knowledge of Buddhist philosophy, meditation, language, and history, or to obtain skills to enhance their professional life, or for personal spiritual formation.  More information  about CE  enrollment can be found here.

Q. Can I apply my CE credits to a degree if I decide that I want to become a full-time, degree program student?

A. CE credits accrued from successfully completed courses may be applied toward degree requirements, should the student gain admission to a degree program in the future. Currently, up to 24 credits may be internally transferred from CE into a degree program for courses taken within  recent years prior to an offer of admissions to a degree program.

Q.  Does Maitripa College provide student housing?

A.  Maitripa College does not offer student housing at this time, so you will need to make housing arrangements on your own. We are happy to connect you with other students who may wish to share housing or if we are aware of a community member who is making housing available, but it will be up to you to evaluate the situation and make arrangements.

Q.  Are there any courses offered online?

A.  Not at this time. The college has been granted degree-granting authority from the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission’s Office of Degree Authorization (“ODA”).  The ODA’s authorization does not include online programs.  In 2020-2021, the State of Oregon made exceptions to this rule, permitting Maitripa College to continue to offer our degree programs through online courses for Oregon residents for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic and while campus was ordered closed for in-person instruction. Maitripa College does not, and will not, have degree programs that can be earned fully online.

Questions About the Maitripa College MDiv Degree and Chaplains

Q. Why am I seeing a lot about chaplains related to the MDiv degree? Isn’t a “Chaplain” a Christian? What is Buddhist Chaplaincy?

A. The word “chaplain” originates in the Latin word for ‘cloak,’ and for medieval Christians, recalled the story of Saint __. This saint one day came upon a poor man, getting drenched  in a downpour, and responded by tearing his long cloak in two, giving half to the other man, so they could both share in protection from and comfort in the storm.

Contemporary chaplaincy in the United States is rooted in the nation’s founding, with the recognized needs for both securing religious freedom and serving the spiritual needs of citizens. Today, there are two defining characteristics of chaplains: they work outside of religious institutions, and they serve the spiritual needs of all people.

Most people obtaining an MDiv degree from a seminary, theological school, or graduate school are obtaining the degree as an educational qualification for professional chaplaincy. However, that is not the only thing you can do with an MDiv! (see below).

Increasingly, Buddhists have recognized that the fruits of their practice – compassion, skillful means, equanimity, non-anxious presence, willingness to face suffering, seeing the sacred in death and dying, etc. – are a good match for meaningful livelihood as a chaplain. Chaplaincy associations and employers have noticed that Buddhist values and practices are aligned closely with the competencies desired in a good chaplain, and pathways to professionalization for Buddhists (and non-Christians) have steadily expanded to meet the needs of changing religious demographics in North America. The emergence of Buddhist or contemplative spiritual care has been pioneered as a field of theory, praxis, research, and education since 2010.

All chaplains need to be grounded in their own traditions in order to draw out the spiritual resources of others and be in service to their needs. Buddhist education for spiritual care creates doctrinal, ethical, spiritual, personal, and religious foundations for discerning one’s personal theology of care. The relationships to tradition, to teachers, to community and peers become supports for growth of compassion, wisdom, and ethics, empowering capacities to meet the suffering of others right where they are, and respond appropriately.

Q. Does an MDiv from Maitripa College qualify me to become a Chaplain?

A. Chaplains work in a wide variety of institutions and contexts, and employment criteria vary, but a degree alone is not sufficient for Professional Chaplaincy. Some organizations and individuals provide spiritual care as offered by volunteers. Some employers require only a theological degree such as an MDiv, others require an MDiv plus a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE), and some recognize the value of specialized certificates, such as in social justice, community, environmental, or palliative chaplaincy. The Department of Justice requires a degree and specialized requirements for chaplaincy in the Armed Services and VA Hospitals. The most rigorous employment requirement, found in all hospitals and common in Hospice and prisons, is Board Certification from the Association of Professional Chaplains’ certification office (BCCI). There are four requirements for Board Certification, two of which Maitripa College can provide as recognized by APC: Graduate theological education of 72 credits (Maitripa’s MDiv); Endorsement from a Faith-based Community (Maitripa is an Endorser); Four units of CPE; and minimum hours of provisional employment as a chaplain.

Q. If I am interested in pursuing a meaningful livelihood as a Board Certified Professional Chaplain, what is my path from MDiv degree application to certification? How long does it take?

A. If one pursues the MDiv at a full-time pace, the degree can be completed in three years as follows: Your first year of an MDiv begins in late August, with a 6 week break in the winter, and spring term concluding in May. MDiv students are encouraged to enroll in the Classical Tibetan Language Summer Intensive, June-August. In this first year, students are encouraged to understand APC requirements for Endorsement, and begin to consider where they want to obtain Endorsement. They should request information from potential endorsers about their requirements, and integrate this preparation into their degree planning. The second academic  year, August-May, is ideally followed by one unit of external internship in Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE), June-August. In the fall semester of the MDiv student’s second year, CPE is discussed in depth, and students draft applications to CPE programs. Students are encouraged to submit applications to CPE admissions committees between November – February of their second academic year for a summer unit. Students are encouraged to apply in October of their third year for Residency programs. The third year of the MDiv may be completed in May, and student may have completed Endorsement requirements, or still be working on them. If a CPE Residency has been secured, a postgraduate full time CPE program typically lasts from September-August. Residents seek employment following CPE, and become eligible, after 2 years, to apply for Board Certification. Students may also continue to pursue Endorsement in postgraduate years, up to the time of applying for Board Certification, by which time it must be obtained.

Some Maitripa students prefer to complete some or all of their MDiv degree on a part-time basis, or have family, work, or other obligations to balance with graduate school. Many students complete the MDiv in four years, and students are permitted to take up to seven years to complete the MDiv degree requirements.

Q. How do I get into a Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) internship program? Is it required?

A. Maitripa College does not require, but strongly encourages, one unit of CPE (internship), and awards 6 transfer credits towards the degree for successful completion of one summer or extended unit of CPE. Students are solely responsible for their applications and fees to external CPE programs.

Maitripa College is not responsible for successful placement of students in CPE internships or residencies, but past students have had a 100% acceptance rate for internships.

Q. What can one do with an MDiv degree?

A. The majority of MDiv graduates pursue a career in chaplaincy or spiritual care, but it is also a springboard for other studies and careers. It is excellent preparation for continued graduate training in counseling, spiritual direction, doctoral studies, education, and so forth. The MDiv is also a masters level academic degree that can prepare one for leadership in spiritual communities, non-profits, and schools.

Q. Where do chaplains work?

A. Chaplains work in settings where people may experience challenges, transitions, conflict, grief, or joy. Chaplains accompany people in their search for meaning, coping with suffering, advocating for institutional or systemic change, and observance of rituals and ceremonies. Settings include: hospitals, prisons, colleges, hospice/palliative care centers, nursing homes, airports, sea ports, all branches of military and the national guard, ecological and environmental organizations, neighborhoods, social justice movements, affiliated with congregational ministries, addiction and recovery programs, mental and behavioral health programs, community celebrants/officiants, search and rescue teams, disaster and emergency response agencies, refugee and humanitarian agencies, etc. People who wish to serve as chaplains to specific populations or in specific contexts may need to be entrepreneurial to demonstrate the value of what they can offer to the mission of a potential employer, to create jobs, programs, or offer themselves as volunteers.