“…be proud of your Adventist education.”

These words were spoken by Dr. Reginald Burton as he addressed Union College’s graduating class during last May’s commencement. He reflected on his own journey from Amarillo Junior Academy to Enterprise Academy to Union College to the medical school at Loma Linda University. “I often compared my educational preparation with those who went to larger and better funded schools,” he said. “My education was never lacking and was often superior.” Burton is a leading trauma surgeon, having studied at some of the nation’s most prestigious institutions, now practicing at Bryan LGH in Lincoln, Nebraska.

His words came as no surprise to me since I have heard similar statements often through my years in our church. His testimony is backed by a solid research project known as Cognitive Genesis. That study offered many enlightening conclusions. Some of us predicted the test scores of Adventist students would be higher than national norms, since private education frequently leads the world of public education when the nation is taken as a whole. What was remarkable to me was that no matter when in her/his development a student joined an Adventist classroom or campus, improvement began immediately; and the longer the student remained in our schools the better s/he did.

Bottom line—the school system your church operates, at a large cost, yields a return on investment both in this life and in the kingdom to come that makes it very worthwhile. As Dr. Burton said, you can be proud of your Adventist education.

So here’s my question

Why are not more of our eligible children in our schools? Surveys reveal a variety of answers ranging from convenience to lack of information to cost. And in the minds of some, there remain questions of quality.

The matter of convenience is a tough one. We simply cannot put schools in every neighborhood where our church members live.

We can, however, do better at presenting up-to-date information (see resources on opposite page).

No doubt cost is a serious factor. Balancing the budget, whether in our families or in our local or regional institutions, is not easy. There are only three ways to do it: Increase income; decrease expense; or a combination of both.

On the income side: With current enrollment levels, many if not most of our schools have the capacity for more students. If our enrollment were to increase significantly, our costs per student could be reduced slightly, or at least not increase. And any reduction would be welcome. Some of our schools are looking for new streams of revenue to partially offset tuition costs, and that is laudable. Also, this would be a good time for setting up operating or capital endowments to assist with the long-term development and support of our schools. And for those who wish for immediate results, there is the Worthy Student Fund in most of our churches that can always use a bit more.

On the expense side: As I sit with our conference committees while our educational staff reviews academy spending plans, I can assure you the treasurers in our schools at every level have learned to live within razor thin margins. Budgets have no fluff and no wiggle room. Where cuts can be made, they are. But most of the time cutting further is not a viable option. My hat is off to our treasurers who continually find ways to “make it work.”

It is a huge breath of fresh oxygen when an unexpected gift comes in to a given school. Often when that happens terms like providence or miracle are employed to express appreciation.

As you consider the school year soon to begin, I would urge you to consider putting your children, or helping your grandchildren, into an Adventist classroom. If you are not in that category I would invite your prayers and your generosity. Both are investments in eternity.