A New Endowment Program for Adventist Education

It is no secret that many Adventist schools are in serious financial trouble.  Many have actually failed and have had to close their doors in recent years.  What can be done to substantively address this very serious problem?  Take Harvard University, for example.  In 2011 Harvard’s endowment program earned $4.4 billion dollars, reaching a total of $32 billion dollars (Link). Obviously, such an endowment would pretty much solve the financial problems for all Adventist schools in the world – currently the second largest Christian school system in the world.

Of course, this seems like a pipe dream given our current economic position. Yet, it seems quite clear that such endowments would have solved our current problems if more had been started just a few decades ago in earnest – as many have long suggested.  Consider that there are 1.1 million Adventists just in the North American Division (out of 16 million world wide).  If 1 million people each gave $10 per month to fund an endowment program for Adventist education at large, that would be $120 million dollars in one year and over a $1 billion dollars in just 10 years. We could really make an impact on the future of our own educational system if we worked in a unified manner to address one of the more serious problems that our church faces today.

Of course, there’s no time like the present to start getting serious about supporting Adventist education through the establishment of such endowment programs.  Toward this goal, I’m happy to announce that, finally, at least one of our conferences is getting serious about this suggestion (that I’m aware of thus far).  The Northern California Conference has just started up an endowment program aimed specifically at supporting Adventist education for the long term.  This program is called the 10+10 program, based on a commitment of just $10 per month from its constituency and others who wish to promote Christian education in northern California.  From their new website at www.adventistendowment.com:

Many have labored over a fundamental problem with Adventist education today: What should we do about the fact that tuition at Adventist schools is increasing so fast that many schools are pricing themselves out of the market?  Clearly, we need to fundamentally change the way we pay for education, or else we are going to see our schools closing one by one.

Over the past two decades, many scholarship opportunities have been set up to help students in our K-12 schools, but these funds have not helped with the ever increasing baseline tuition.  This is where 10+10 will make the critical difference!  We can help preserve the future of Adventist education in our conference by building an endowment that will be used to permanently cover the largest cost of Adventist education: faculty and staff payroll expenses.

Such an endowment program has long been needed by our church and is worthy of support by all those hoping to make a permanent impact on Adventist education, making it available to our children and grandchildren until the end of time (hopefully not too far away).

We’ve tried the “short-term” benefit approach for a long time and it simply isn’t working any more. Endowments most certainly have their value as is the case for anyone saving up for personal retirement. If one doesn’t believe in endowments, then one really shouldn’t be saving for one’s own retirement…

Endowments allow the endowed program to “retire” from the need to be constantly funded by short term donations – to become independent of the need for constant funding from the charity of the supporting constituents or the high tuition charged to parents. Endowments have the potential to allow education costs for parents to be significantly reduced if not completely eliminated all together on a permanent basis. Endowments would also allow for the weathering of economic downturns and the withdraw of vital economic support during difficult times and the equalizing of support for the poor so that the rich do not have such a significant advantage when it comes to higher education. Such a situation would also be attractive for non-Adventists looking at our church and our school system. It would be an effective witnessing tool.

 

 

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24 thoughts on “A New Endowment Program for Adventist Education

  1. I would find it easier to donate to such an endowment if there were assurance that evolution will not be taught as a fact and that Bible classes will follow the true SDA beliefs. Will there be such an assurance?




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    • @GMF:

      This is a very good question…

      It seems to me though that the educational endowment in this case is going to be under the control of the Northern California Conference, not any one particular school. This should make it more difficult for an individual school to go rogue, outside of the oversight of the entire conference. I would hope that this would also make it more difficult to promote ideas in any one of our schools that directly undermine Adventist ideals… since the entire conference would have to go rogue for that to happen on a significant scale.

      Of course, it would be even better along these lines if the General Conference as a whole started up an educational endowment program. But, for now, this seems to me to be a good start. If we wait for all the problems with Adventist education to be ironed out, we’ll be waiting forever. However, I live in northern California and I have to say that Adventist education, as it currently stands in this region of the country, is still the very best option we can provide for our young people.

      That is why I am committing myself to a sizable monthly contribution to this endowment fund.

      Sean Pitman
      http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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  2. I am far from a wealthy person who could and gladly would donate large sums of money to such a program but I could and would gladly donate some if such assurances were solidly in place. I’m sure there are many “old folks” like me “out there” who feel the same way. (Is there already such a program in place? If so please post all needed information.)




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  3. I just noticed that there is such a program in place in northern California but I would want one that is nation wide. After all, if our kids aren’t already in danger here in the southern union also (as well the rest of the US) it’s most likely only a short matter of time till they will be.




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  4. Endowments are not in harmony with our SDA mission or stewardship principles. For every dollar that our schools can use, we have to donate about $100 to benefit the banks that hold the money and loan it out to make money. In this late period of earth’s history, it is no time to be storing 99% of our resources in banks and operating off the tiny interest payments while the banks make big money of off the money that should be in use for our mission. Let’s contribute $10 or more per month, but let it go toward direct support of our educational program, not to support the banks. Instead of having billions in the bank, let’s invest directly in our kids’ education. Would the Lord be pleased to find billions in endowments when He returns instead of being invested in our children’s education. We will have to walk away from our institutions and the endowments will be tied up, as they currently are with many universities that are closing for lack of students. Perhaps we need to set up a committee to study the theology of endowments, but I think if we just think clearly, we will know that it is not the best solution to our problems. We just need to practice good stewardship.




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    • @Edwin Reynolds:

      I see endowment programs as good stewardship. They are focused stewardship and allow funds to be dedicated to a specific cause without being siphoned away to other causes or be spent on issues for which the monies contributed where not intended. They also provide money indefinitely where the monies contributed up front eventually pay for themselves, keep up with inflation, and lightening the burden of future generations when it comes to funding Adventist education.

      Now, I know that time is short for this planet. However, it has always been short throughout Adventist history. We need to live like this is our last day on Earth, while planning for future generations at the same time. Jesus Himself told us, “Occupy till I come”. I believe that efforts to fund such endowments, without holding back on our regular stewardship giving, is the best we can do with the monies that God has put in our care as His stewards.

      After all, our current system for funding Adventist education, in particular, simply isn’t working. Our schools are closing at record rates because we are simply pricing ourselves out of the market for Christian education.

      Sean Pitman
      http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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  5. Edwin makes a valid point. The 1% return he mentioned is an underestimate of the funds that can be earned, as it should be closer to 5%. Nevertheless, the program could be 20 times more effective in the short term if the monthly payments went directly into education rather than into a fund. Twenty times!!! Do the math.

    Endowments have their value, especially when it comes to large, one-time gifts, but for continuous contributions like the monthly payments proposed here, donors should seek the most effective return they can get.




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    • @Professor Kent:

      We’ve tried the “short-term” benefit approach for a long time and it simply isn’t working any more. Endowments most certainly have their value as is the case for anyone saving up for personal retirement. If you don’t believe in endowments, then you really shouldn’t be saving for your own retirement…

      Endowments allow the endowed program to “retire” from the need to be constantly funded by short term donations – to become independent of the need for constant funding from the charity of the supporting constituents or the high tuition charged to parents. Endowments have the potential to allow education costs for parents to be significantly reduced if not completely eliminated all together on a permanent basis. Endowments would also allow for the weathering of economic downturns and the withdraw of vital economic support during difficult times and the equalizing of support for the poor so that the rich do not have such a significant advantage when it comes to higher education. Such a situation would also be attractive for non-Adventists looking at our church and our school system. It would be an effective witnessing tool.

      Sean Pitman




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  6. The conferences need to also monitor closely what our younger children are exposed to at our schools. Not all teachers adhere to the distinctive belief. My 12 years grandaughter is attending our Adventist Academy for the first time. She is in 7th grade. For there Spiritual retreat the Oct 1st thru 5th the 7th -10th grade classes are being taken to a a Non-Adventist camp where a Non-Adventist youth pastor will be leading. This youth pastor’s mentor is also Rick Warren.
    When I spoke with the Academy Principal and told here we were not to do this according to Counsel from the Spirit of Prophecy because of the spiritualist dangers, she was totally oblivious. I spoke with my grandaughter and she will not be attending this was her own decision. My grandaughter at 12 years of age has more common sense than her teachers.
    I have also called our local conference and spoken to our Conference School superintendent. They have told me they will look into this.




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  7. Sean, if you think it’s hard to get Adventist colleges to teach Adventist doctrine now, wait until they are heavily endowed. We conservatives have been easily outmaneuvered by liberals for control of such institutions as AUC, which was a doomed institution about to go belly up, and CUC (now Washington Adventist University), which is also kinda shaky. Liberals like Guy, Geraty, and Wisbey have been firmly in control of La Sierra for a generation. Hold out the carrot of effective financial independence from the church through endowments, and conservatives will be able to hold on to the rest of the colleges for . . . oh about 30 seconds.




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    • @David Read:

      That is why it is better to endow educational programs at the conference or even the General Conference level. This would have the effect of giving the organized church more control when it comes to the governance of our church schools, making it much harder for an individual school to go rogue independent of the church at the conference level or higher.

      Sean Pitman
      http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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  8. Sean Pitman: We’ve tried the “short-term” benefit approach for a long time and it simply isn’t working any more. Endowments most certainly have their value as is the case for anyone saving up for personal retirement. If you don’t believe in endowments, then you really shouldn’t be saving for your own retirement…

    Retirement. Now there’s an interesting analogy. I didn’t realize your (or the conference’s) plan was to save up money for decades before dispersing it.

    Sean Pitman: Endowments have the potential to allow education costs for parents to be significantly reduced if not completely eliminated all together on a permanent basis.

    A select few parents. Get real.

    Again, endowments have their purpose, but when derived largely from long-term accumulation such as from a monthly payment plan, their benefits are realized mostly or entirely by future generations. In all likelihood, disbursements will not begin until a target value is reached. If it takes 20 years to reach that target, and Jesus returns before then, well, I suppose no one at that point will be embarassed that they clicked a thumbs-down on this concern. No one will really care that their money accomplished nothing other than to incite a minor skirmish at a minor website and pay for a fund manager’s annual vacation to Jamaica, Tahiti, Sydney, and elsewhere. Well done thy good and faithful student.




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  9. Does anyone know the status of future plans for Atlantic Union College? I find it incredibly sad that the oldest Adventist educational institution in the world has closed its doors. I have heard that a School of Evangelism may be starting at Founder’s Hall (EGW gave money to build this historic building), but so far no word on the future for AUC since the merger with WAU fell thru.




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  10. Endowments are very nice to have. But as long as spiritual formation (or any of the other names for it) is being taught to our theology majors within our colleges, I cannot see God blessing these institutions. God has told us to stay away from spiritualism but it is being taught right under our noses at our colleges to our future ministers. I cannot support this through endowments or even just plain donations until a thorough clean-up is done in our schools of higher education.




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  11. I fail to understand those who see evil everywhere they look.

    What is “spiritual formation,” which so many of you fervently believe is inherently evil? Go to Wikipedia:

    Spiritual formation is the growth and development of the whole person by an intentional focus on one’s spiritual and interior life, interactions with others in ordinary life, the spiritual practices (prayer, the study of scripture, fasting, simplicity, solitude, confession, worship, etc.).

    While spiritual formation can be applied to any religious ideology, here is how it is generally applied within Christianity:

    In Christian Spiritual Formation the focus is on Jesus. It is a lifelong process as a believer desires to become a disciple of Jesus and become more like him. This would be possible because of the divine grace of the Gospel and the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit. Dallas Willard writes that “spiritual formation for the Christian basically refers to the Spirit-driven process of forming the inner world of the human self in such a way that it becomes like the inner being of Christ himself.”

    Where is the evil in this? Every single Christian, including SDAs, should embrace spirtitual formation in these generally understood terms. If you think our SDA institutions are teaching it in different terms, how is it being done differently? And where do you get your “facts” from? What’s your source?




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    • @Professor Kent:

      The elements of what is commonly known as the “Spiritual Formation” movement or the promotion of “Contemplative Prayer” by the leaders of this movement are what undermine Christianity in that they mirror various forms of eastern mysticism. Some of these elements make “truth” relative to the individual and negate the primary importance and objectivity of the claims of the Bible.

      There is also a danger in various forms of prayer that “empty the mind” via the use of repetitive words or phrases (regardless of the type of “centering” word or phrase chosen). The mind and thoughts are directed inward and the mind made open to suggestion without critical thinking or comparison to the claims of the Scriptures. The higher thoughtful mind is not engaged. In other words, one’s personal experience and feelings take primacy over intelligently and rationally considering the written Word and having an intellectual conviction regarding its origin and authority.

      Such methods are now being preached from some of our pulpits and taught in some of our own schools. These ‘New Age’ mystical concepts are indeed a source of concern for our church today – as well as all Christian churches.

      Sean Pitman
      http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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  12. Endowments are great…for the recipient of the endowment. But do they just allow the recipient to continue on in their ways? Have our schools had to learn (like the private sector) how to make do with less, cut the fat, et cetera to survive in this economy? If they, the schools) are insured of plenty of money, will they ever change? Will the money come with strings to guide how the money is spent and what on?

    Part of the problem with SDA education is the same as other education and that is the proliferation of easy money…student loans. Why is the “inflation rate” of education so far ahead of the monetary inflation rate and even the health inflation rate? Has the student loan, obtainable by anyone who can breathe, helped or hurt? Do we have degrees that are virtually useless? I am willing to bet that we all know of students who may not have even graduated and have mountains of debt, SDA’s included.

    What about professors who publicly scoff at SDA principles? And have we gotten away from what Adventist Education should be? Are we content with health and other degrees that provide great incomes, but the emphasis is off of “finishing the work” and instead now on supporting your family comfortably through your retirement, giving to the latest building project (was it really needed)? Does this lead to complacency and laodeciaism (if that’s a word)?

    Don’t get me wrong. Even with the problems at SDA institutions, I still believe our children are much better off at these institutions than most other public/private schools (as witnessed in lurid detail by my wife teaching in the public school system.) All three of my kids attend SDA schools, thank God!

    Any other thoughts?




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  13. So here I sit–a “very old lady”–totally confused and not having a clue as to whether to donate or not–or where to donate if I should.

    As things stand now I think I will just continue putting my own little amount to my current “missionary out reach” of buying “Steps to Christ” and “Who Do You Think You Are?” and passing them on to the clerks in the stores where I shop or other people I meet that I think would like them.

    If and when you folks decide on what, how and where to help in this very worthy project let me know and I’ll do what I can then.




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  14. Sean Pitman: Such methods are now being preached from some of our pulpits and taught in some of our own schools

    And your source for the pulpits and source for the schools is? When you make condemnations, you should bring facts to bear.




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  15. Tom Harebottle: Even with the problems at SDA institutions, I still believe our children are much better off at these institutions than most other public/private schools (as witnessed in lurid detail by my wife teaching in the public school system.)

    Why is your wife working in the public school system? Were the sacrifices too much to work in the SDA system — the sacrifices you think others instead should be making?




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  16. Adventist schools have suffered as the church has fragmented. I spent several years on an Adventist school board. We could not accomplish much because there was profound basic differences on the board and within the church constituency regarding what the school should be. Some wanted a school that focused primarily on evangelism, others wanted a high quality academic program, some wanted an orchestra, others cared deeply about a “quality” sports program that spent significant time off campus traveling to games around the area competing in a local Christian sporting league. And you can’t have it all. Sending kids away from school to participate in sports leagues at 1:00p.m. 1-2 times per week inevitably impacts everything else, from academics to music to work programs to witnessing activities. Appeals to Ellen White’s counsel usually led to the various individuals picking and choosing what of Ellen White’s counsels get taken seriously and what get ignored. The failure of our educational system is the failure of us.

    I agree with the Endowment idea, however. And it is best managed at the local level with deep conference input (as is the case with school boards for each of the schools). If the endowment is too divorced from the local school, support will not be forthcoming, if it is too local it often becomes the tool of a visionary wealthy ‘benefactor’ who uses the money to buy the type of school s/he wants.

    What we dearly need are qualified, experienced and committed leaders at the level of principals and conference Educational Secretaries. These individuals make or break a school. They keep the values straight, they encourage struggling teachers, they set the tone for academic and extra curricular activities and with the right vision and skill, they create a product that is attractive to families. THESE PEOPLE SHOULD BE FUNDED BY CONFERENCE MONEY (TITHE) as they are key to the ministry within constiutent churches.

    This needs to happen NOW. Adventist schools are shrinking. Another generation of this and we won’t have our schools.




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  17. I agree with David Read and others that this program is simply another way of getting our money and still keep going in the wrong direction. Sean’s idea that the Conference will help protect the integrity is ridiculous.

    Look what the NCC is doing now: women’s pastoral ordination, SDA pastors endorsing “gay marriage” the horrific examples of staffing at our SDA colleges, including PUC, the out-of-control problems of alcohol and drugs (especially pot) at PUC, etc.

    Who in their right mind could support the “Conference” especially the NCC being in charge of this system?!




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  18. A few weeks ago, a representative from the NCC came to Sac Central SDA Church to sell this idea. It was met a with lukewarm, at best reception.

    Some SDA’s may be ignorant enough to let the NCC pull this scheme off, but many will not.




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