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.