Some Second Thoughts

Some questions to consider: Can we expect our Christian educational program to survive when we constantly increase our annual operating deficits?

Charles B. Hirsch Secretary Educational Department, General Conference

THERE are three areas that are critical to our educational endeavor. Oddly enough each be­gins with an "F," which could easily mean "fail­ure" if a more realistic approach is not taken for the immediate future.

The first "F" I would like to discuss is FAC­ULTY. Not only do we need faculty who are dedicated to the church and who are good church members but persons who are also fully qualified academically. Thus, in the attempt to se­cure teachers, the administrator must keep two factors before him. First, Christian commitment, but that in itself is not enough. Second, there must be intellectual achievement, which can be measured by earned degrees and scholarly interests. To find the faculty with these qualifications is not an easy task and, oddly enough, teach­ers who have these attributes are also in great demand by secular institutions where the salaries far exceed for a ten-month period the level at which they stand in our schools for a twelve-month period. The de­mand for qualified personnel will not diminish but will move ever upward in the years ahead. Note these figures: In the United States thirty years ago, only 30 per cent of American students finished high school. About ten years ago the figure was 58 per cent. The U.S. Office of Education predicts by 1974-1975 it will be 83 per cent.

How we will obtain and keep the qualified teacher with a spiritual commitment within the denominational framework is already becoming the chief factor in a quality program of Christian education.

When our teachers, as well as potential teachers, see how their profession is val­ued in comparison with the paramedical and medical groups within the denomina­tion; when they see that the other family members of denominational pastors and leaders are working in public schools when there is a need for them within the organi­zation; when they often find themselves the victims of the whim of church school boards; then is it no wonder that we are continually facing a paucity of these per­sons upon whom the schools must depend? These practices similarly have not gone un­noticed among our teachers in overseas schools where the demands for qualified and dedicated personnel are greater than ever.

Seller's Market

Harold Howe, U.S. commissioner of ed­ucation, has emphasized, as have others, the teacher shortage in the United States. "The blunt fact is," he stated, "that the low pay which teachers have traditionally received is now coming home to roost." Not only is there a seller's market for teachers in the nation but especially so within the denominational framework.

Medical Dispensations

There has developed in the thinking of some persons in responsible positions an acquiescence to the idea that in order for our medical institutions to continue opera­tion, the Seventh-day Adventist employees must be compensated near or at a compet­itive rate in each community. The ration­alization is that these institutions are sup­ported by public funds and that they are dealing in matters of life or death; in the physical sense, that is. Hence, some dispen­sations must be permitted to allow them to veer away from the denominational salary scale. This type of rationalization, how­ever, is not accepted in educational cir­cles. On the national average, the teacher's income is higher than that of the nurse, for example. But within our ranks we find the opposite to be true. Why is it that a girl with a baccalaureate degree in nursing will earn more in her first year in a denomina­tional hospital than her mother who has some 40 years of teaching experience, a doc­torate degree, and an excellent reputation in our colleges? Could it be that we may have been more concerned with the mat­ters of life or death in the physical sense than we have in the matters of life or death in the spiritual sense, which is the special concern of our educational institutions.

We should be saying louder amens in ap­preciation to our faculty and outstanding teachers who are manning our classrooms, not for the monetary rewards but because of a sense of commitment and dedication.

Update Teacher? Tools

The second "F" is FACILITIES. These include not only classrooms, science labora­tories, faculty and administrative offices, residence halls, gymnasiums, auditoriums, and libraries but the latest in teaching de­vices and audio-visual aids; special labora­tories for languages, behavioral sciences, and other disciplines; and data processing, automation, and computers in the over­all operation of the school program. Proper facilities mean better use of faculty talent and opportunity for additional learn­ing on the part of the student. The teach­ers' tools of yesterday must be updated as are those of the modern business office and the operating room in the hospital.

More Tangible Support Necessary

The third "F", and a vital one, is FINANCE. The financial picture facing our educational system in the future is far from any semblance of a rainbow. Our schools are rapidly absorbing all available funds and in addition are assigning future subsidies to current capital expenditures. On the other side of the ledger, those who are supplying these subsidies—the confer­ences and the unions—are finding that it is getting more difficult to sharpen their pencils in other areas in order to satisfy the appetites of these growing institutions. The demands for new churches, elementary schools, and academies have placed a con­stant pressure on the conference treasuries, and in some cases the requests of the colleges are accepted as something akin to leprosy.

Yet, with only three sources of funds—the students' tuition, the conference-union subsidies, and outside contributions (which for our denominational schools are almost nil)—what other alternatives does the college have for obtaining funds? Our policy prohibits the acceptance of Government funds in the United States. Tuition increases have certain limits. It may well be that the next level in our or­ganization beyond the union conference will have to give more serious considera­tion to giving more tangible support to higher education.

A glance at some college budgets soon reveals how depreciation and operating funds are being diverted consciously and unconsciously from other critical areas; yet, the schools are doing this with full knowledge of their boards, for this is one way to save on interest rates and obtain immediately some of their capital needs.

It must not be forgotten that the com­pletion of a building may be the end of one capital cost, but it is the beginning of a new operating cost. Expansion means new employees, the academic, and the non­academic, as watchmen, assistant deans, secretaries, clerks, janitors, grounds main­tenance, and others—all seeking higher wages with the Government minimum wage law as a primer. Every edifice, whether constructed for residence halls or food-service area, classroom or administra­tive purposes, is a "budget-busting" eco­nomic migraine.

Three Out of Seventy Plus

In 1965, of the seventy-plus academies, only three completed the fiscal year with a gain. Our loss for net operations, without donations, amounted to $2,823,062.49. After donations the deficit was reduced to $1,053,720.73, and only 14 academies came out in the black. In addition more than $5 million was contributed for capital ex­penditure while the liquid assets were $4,627,938.87 below the cash requirement. The authorized operating capital was short $4,005,118.11.

The colleges for the same period, 1964­1965, did not fare much better compara­tively. Their net loss without donations amounted to $884,407.80; after donations the deficit was cut to $449,173.49 (this put 7 of the 11 colleges in the black). Capital donations amounted to $2,610,579.13; liq­uid assets were $6,706,314.42 below the cash requirement. The authorized operat­ing capital was short $6,234,663.48.

In North America alone this church contributed more than $7,963,843.08 in capital donations and $3,152,923.05 in op­erating, making a total of $11,116,766.13 for colleges and academies.

Student charges for these two groups amounted to $26,923,243.37, and the ratio of collections to charges was 99.2 per cent, which shows a remarkable diligence on the part of the institutional credit mana­gers!

How Long Can We Continue?

The big question is how long we can continue in this direction. Can we expect our Christian educational program to sur­vive when we constantly increase our an­nual operating deficits; when we prolifer­ate our programs and courses in a vain attempt to copy larger universities; when we offer programs that are far too expen­sive for the number of students demand­ing them and which programs could be obtained elsewhere without an infringement on our beliefs; when we plan build­ing programs without taking a hard look at the potential maintenance costs; when we build with tastes that go beyond what the budget can stand; and when we in­volve ourselves, not only in deficit think­ing but deficit spending beyond reasonable limits?

Positive Suggestions

Aiming for academic quality and opera­tional self-support is not an easy task, but positive steps can be taken to move in this direction and the following are some sug­gestions:

1.     Administrators must be willing to bring expenses down to income.

2.     There should be more experimenta­tion with the year-round school from the elementary to the level of higher educa­tion, keeping in focus the greatest possible use of buildings and campus facilities.

3.     There should be a continued trend toward the consolidation of schools and programs and elimination of those that are substandard.

4.     The vested interests of conferences and unions in their educational programs should give way to that which is best and most economical for the church at large. Pool-purchasing and other methods to help economize should be considered.

5.       The existing parochial borders should be restudied so that students in one union will be able to know what is available in other Seventh-day Adventist schools. There should be a better commu­nication of what this division has to offer in educational opportunities to all of the constituency.

6.       The curriculum offerings should be limited to fundamental needs. Our col­leges cannot be all things to all men. No one school can or should be expected to do everything but should plan on doing what it can afford to do well rather than to pretend in many areas. Overextension is no doubt the chief problem facing our schools today.

7.       The size of faculty and administra­tion should be restudied, and adequate sal­aries should be provided for qualified per­sonnel.

8.       There must be a continuous attempt to improve the quality of the academic program. This would include a closer scrutiny of faculty graduate study, and the types of degrees that are being pursued while these individuals are receiving finan­cial support from our institutions or con­ferences.

9.       The constituency and supporting bodies should find some relief from the burden of perennial deficits in order to participate in greater capital giving.

10.    The boards of trustees for these schools must assume their responsibility to the best interests of the church. In doing this there would be an increasing amount of meetings and conferences and a closer dialog with their administrations. The idea of board members traveling hundreds, and often thousands, of miles annually for one or two meetings, where without prior orientation and study some doze through the reading of reports, is evidence of an unprofessional approach and irresponsibil­ity.

There is need for an informed and en­lightened trusteeship, one that is not con­cerned chiefly with whether or not the school is making a gain or a loss but where more consideration is given to the present and the long-range academic program. Trustees must exert their proper preroga­tives in seeing that the real purposes of the institution are not negated by external and internal influences. At the same time they must be devoted to the idea of intellectual freedom and must identify themselves with the mind of the academic world. When they cease to value intellect, that is when the school is moving in a hopeless direction.

In conclusion, we should remember that there are other areas that must be consid­ered in the near future. Here are a few: Christian education for our blind and deaf-mute children, for our secondary young­sters who do not go on to college but who desire vocational education, and for pre­schoolers who are now being given special attention in educational circles; scholar­ships for our students who are eligible for State scholarships that restrict their attend­ance to schools within the State; and a greater attention to our Seventh-day Ad­ventist students taking graduate work at secular universities, who are too often left isolated from fellow believers and left spir­itually unchallenged by the local pastor.

Thus we can see that there are a few challenges facing us in the educational pro­gram of the church. I understand that in Southeast Asia there is a witch doctor who can summon demons to surround a man in the middle of the night, making him fearful of going forward, backward, or stay­ing where he is. Perhaps this is our dilemma! We are caught in frustrations some­where within our past, present, and the future.

We know that in our own strength we are held in the vise of circumstances that ofttimes seems unbreakable. It is our di­vine Father who clears the debris, unclouds the mind, and brings order out of chaos. We are His instruments, carving the hu­man scene for the eternal good, but we must permit Him to direct us in our endeavors.

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Charles B. Hirsch Secretary Educational Department, General Conference

March 1967

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