No student who really wants to attend this Adventist school and is willing to work hard to be here will be turned away for financial reasons. No one.
Hard times. Skidding stock markets. Flat sales. Threatened layoffs. Unemployment. The temptation to retrench—to play it very, very safe financially—strikes the stoutest hearts.
And some may be tempted this year to withdraw from Adventist education for financial reasons.
But, wait! Hold on! Slow down! Economic hard times have hit the country hard. But as Providence would have it, never have there been more financial scholarships and grants for dedicated students than there are today.
Adventist education offers well-known advantages: Teachers that serve as external role models for character-building concepts learned at home; a curriculum that places God at the center of society, history, and science; mentoring that produces outstanding achievement, and; Guidance in extroverted outreach for souls.
But in bad economic times, the financial costs may seem overwhelming.
The good word these days is that conferences, schools, local churches, and philanthropists are doing more than ever to assist families in need of extra help.
In recent years, Walla Walla College, Adventist boarding and day academies, and elementary schools have taken giant steps forward in their ability to stand behind the promise, “No student who really wants to attend this Adventist school...will be turned away for financial reasons. No one.”
Walla Walla College assists students with information and guidance about many sources of grants and scholarships, and now, boarding academies are becoming especially creative in finding ways to offer financial assistance.
Columbia Adventist Academy (CAA), in Battle Ground, Wash., north of Vancouver, recently received two large donations from estates, earmarked for “Worthy Students.”
“At CAA, finances are not an issue. Anyone who really wants a Christian education here can be here,” says Berit von Pohle, principal.
Between one third and one half of CAA students last school year benefited from financial assistance, including Oregon Conference’s Youth Education Scholarship (YES).
Similar advances are happening at Milo Adventist Academy in southwestern Oregon, where alumni are increasingly giving sizable donations to help finance students’ Christian education. A Milo organization known as “Circle of Friends” also donates to help worthy students.
Other alumni are helping with capital expenses on campus, so the school itself can devote more of its budget to student assistance.
Parents and alumni also visit campus to serve as temporary staff assistants, assistant deans, cooks, maintenance and construction assistants, and decorators—considerably reducing expenses for the schools.
Academies are increasingly adding professional development specialists to their staffs to help channel funds toward capital needs and student financial assistance.
“We have income from our Annual Fund, restricted contributions, Church offerings, our annual fundraising event, local churches’ assistance programs, and Conference support,” says Cheryl Wren, Walla Walla Valley Academy (WWVA) director of development.
“WWVA’s tuition costs are among the lowest in the Northwest. Coupled with our assistance programs, any student who demonstrates a commitment to be here, can attend.”
Attendees at a “Building a Religious and Academic Vision for Outreach (BRAVO)” recent benefit raised more than $44,000 for WWVA.
“I’m in awe and very grateful,” says John M. Deming, WWVA principal.
“The loyalty and support of the alumni, Parent-Teacher Organization, friends, and community members financially enable WWVA to help those students who need it,” says Wren. “And with the dedication of administration and faculty, the school operates within budget.”
Like WWVA, Portland Adventist Academy (PAA) in Portland, Ore., has recently developed more creative and successful ways to bring in financial aid.
PAA’s “Committee of 100,” was formed by individuals who give $500 or more each year to help PAA and its students.
“In the past two years, the Committee of 100 has purchased new cafeteria furniture, musical equipment, and science equipment,” says Ann Axt, development director.
“The Committee has also established a $2,000 scholarship that benefits a returning junior during his or her senior year,” she adds.
PAA’s music department has also weighed in to help reduce costs and tuition, raising $500 last Christmas season for two performances. The money is being used to help cover the department’s sheet music expenses.
PAA and other academies, including some conferences in the Northwest, have established endowment funds from which the interest is used to help meet expenses without increasing tuition. “This allows large sums of money to be donated and benefit the school indefinitely,” says Axt. “It’s the gift that keeps on giving.”
While work opportunities at Northwest academies vary, boarding academy students can earn $150-350 a month, and more during summers, according to Jenienne Kriegelstein, former Milo Adventist Academy (MAA) development director.
Academies such as Milo are also developing “work sponsorships” designed to allow students to increase the amount they receive for the hours they work.
Using this plan, students contact sponsors who agree to apply a specific amount, per hour the student works, toward the student’s tuition and living expenses.
Two students at Upper Columbia Academy, for example, have signed up a total of $6 in sponsorships for every hour they work, increasing their net hourly income from a base $6.90 to a substantial $12.90.
Other plans call for three-way matching funds, in which a church, a school, and the local conference all contribute toward the student’s earnings.
Other scholarships go by various names, but at Upper Columbia Academy, a “Super Scholarship” is available to families that make special arrangements with the Academy, making regular payments (of agreed-to amounts), so that the student ends the year with a zero-balance.
In the Upper Columbia Conference, members have begun “Kid’s Educational Endowment Program (KEEP),” designed as an additional way to ensure that every Adventist student who wishes to attend an Adventist school can do so.
“The Program is designed to run until 2010 and has a goal of raising $5 million and sending 500 students to Adventist schools for the first time,” says Max Torkelsen II, Upper Columbia Conference president.
Patsy Wagner, Upper Columbia Conference director of development, says, “Each congregation in the Conference is encouraged to elect a ‘KEEP Ambassador’ to serve as an advocate for KEEP and Christian education.”
In turn, local schools will play a role in recommending students who are worthy of receiving KEEP funds, Wagner says.
Beginning this year, a “Pathways to Success” program, sponsored by the Commonweal Foundation, is available at both Upper Columbia and Auburn academies.
Designed specifically for families with lower incomes, the program grants a maximum of $4,000 a year to students who agree to work during the school year and summer vacation. Maximum incomes for families receiving this help ranges from $30,000 for a two-member family to $48,520 for a six-member family, with larger incomes permitted for families in Alaska, where the cost of living is higher and travel to an academy more costly.
Meanwhile, Linnea Torkelsen, Upper Columbia Academy alumni director, reports that alumni associations are becoming increasingly active in their support for scholarships.
“Brand new for next school year [at Upper Columbia Academy] is scholarship money for students already skilled in woodwinds and brass instruments,” she says. “Named scholarships, including memorial funds, are being encouraged. Several have been established, honoring former faculty, students, or friends of the school.”
Some local conferences, which serve as umbrella administrative centers for most Adventist schools and high schools, in recent years have worked hard to build up large endowment funds, and local churches are finding that members consistently support local “Worthy Student” funds, even in economic bad times.
“The point is, Adventist parents and students should never assume they are priced out of Adventist education,” says Dennis Plubell, North Pacific Union Conference associate director of education.
“The financial resources available to dedicated students have increased dramatically in recent times. The typical Adventist family simply cannot keep up with all the sources of assistance available.
“That’s why, if for any reason someone believes they must withdraw from Adventist schools this coming year because of financial concerns, phone your school of choice right away. There are still several weeks left this summer, before classes begin. And I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the financial arrangements the skilled financial people of our schools can help you make to ensure that you will be able to enjoy the benefits of Christian education, this year.” •