The author of this essay appreciated reading the responding considerations, thoughts, and discussions brought forward in response to the various issues addressed in this letter to college presidents regarding school finance. It seems also appropriate to mention some subsequent clarification and observations.
Unlike my friend Rick mentioned in the essay, most students did not pay of their full tuition costs with their half time campus job but most made an important financial contribution. That extra $500 the student earned, combined with help from the parents, was what enable the family budget to fill in the missing amount to keep the kid in school. In regards to my friend Glenn, I do not know the details of Glenn’s home life but I know he pretty well lived at the school year round. He worked at the broom shop half days during the school year and all day most of the summer. The broom shop and its manager along with the rest of us were kind of Glenn’s family. Without the on-campus employment there would have been no Adventist education for Glenn.
I didn’t work off my full tuition but my folks said it was cheaper to have me at school than at home and we paid full out-of-local-conference tuition. As a teacher I had parents who worked two jobs a piece and sold tacos on the weekend to keep their three kids in Adventist schools. I had a teaching colleague that once said, “I didn’t know it until I became an adult, but in reality my folks really didn’t have any living room furniture when I was a teenager in order to keep us kids in school.” The school I have been affiliated with, both as a student and as a teacher, student jobs helped many families to participate in the Adventist school system. Each day when we teachers enter the classroom we need to keep that in mind as well as should a whole lot of other people. Generally there is not one solution to any big problem but if there is one solution to this problem it is commitment and student labor has traditionally been part of that committment.
As one respondent to this essay mentioned there are labor laws and other regulations that continuously crop up that schools have to deal with when running work programs. A couple of years ago the teachers at my school were told that there was a new law that now made it illegal to have a student worker come in during a student’s free period between classes and work as a teacher’s reader grading papers, helping to set of the equipment for a chemistry lab, etc. Actually it is almost impossible for a kid to work at all. In these highly litigious days one is foolish to have a neighborhood kid come and mow his lawn because if someone become injured on or off the property the finical consequences of a lawsuit could render you the one mowing someone’s lawn in the future. These days a prudent property owner should insure that anyone hired to work on your property is bonded, licenced, insured, etc. because if anyone get’s hurt the property owner is ultimately responsible. The paper work, the risk, and government rules and regulations make it almost impossible for a kid to get hired even as a bag boy at a market or be a simple errand runner. Boarding schools are handling these stipulations very well and STILL have work programs but not as they once did mostly because of impacted academic schedules and because industry has been forced to move elsewhere.
Also mentioned by one responder, the school class schedule and it’s variables are the absolute working backbone of any academic campus. I sat in Academy curriculum committees when we were having to make decisions about how we were going to accommodate the necessary changes required because of UCLA’s new admissions requirements. We regularly had students that made application to UCLA, frequently students who got accepted, and parents who wanted their offspring to at least be eligible to apply. Subsequently, within two or three years we were also reviewing new admission requirements from PUC, La Sierra, Southern, and others which reflected nearly identically the admissions requirements previously instituted by UCLA. Curious, I began to explore other well-known public university admissions requirements and they seemed to mirror UCLA almost identically.
An additional requirement to graduate from our school was a 25 hours per year work experience which many students obtained from being employed part-time, or participating in the volunteer program at the local hospital. They were thrilled to have our students and the student gained many good employment experiences even in the volunteer program which often led to getting hired later on. About five years after we built these increased college entrance accommodations into our curriculum, I happened to pass by the volunteer office in the hospital and out of curiosity stuck my head in to see how many of our kids they had in the volunteer program. NONE. The supervisor said she had been with the volunteer program for three years and didn’t know any high school kids had ever been in the program. I drew the conclusions the kids simply had no time left in their day because of the new high school academic loads. It is arguable that there were other reasons but I never heard of any reports of problems with students working in the hospital.
In all fairness it should also be noted that the nudge toward increased graduation requirements actually began a couple of years before colleges began increasing their entrance requirements and as a result of the now somewhat since maligned NATION AT RISK report. Sitting in the Glendale Academy curriculum committee discussing the impact these new “Nation at Risk” recommendations were going to have on the high school curriculum, the math and science departments said, “This is going to kill the electives programs in schools.” Some years later mainstream media began to report that there are no arts and music programs in high schools. Technical programs and Home Economics (where one learns about proper nutrition) are long extinct.
One responder refers to the numerous accrediting agencies to which an institution of higher learning must answer as well as its individual specialized professional programs (nursing etc.) Using due caution here, wanting to be careful not to be cavalier or careless in asking legitimate questions, or being considered critical in anyway of a valuable system, it is never-the-less legitimate to ask how much of these accrediting specifics and details, and other similar types of requirements instituted, really reflect assessed and true essentials? How much of the accrediting specifics are essential and how much has nonessential preference crept into the accreditation requirements? How much falls into the category of “Although not an essential it would be really, really, nice to have . . .” which then becomes part of the standards the institution must incorporate. Any nonessential standards and requirements ultimately ends up as a costly add-on to the school program and student tuition.
How much are these inadvertent best of intentions (and sometime selfish and personal intentions) overwhelming an organization’s or institutions’s ability to function in a practical, efficient, useful, and and productive manner. For example, if you ask your high school history teacher how many years of history and social studies a teenager should have in high school, because of the teachers devotion and committed confidence in the importance of their subject matter, the history teacher is likely to say “Four years, preferably five if we could work it into the schedule”. If he were give power of decision over the curriculum just how many history classes would be added to the schedule because of his personal preference?
I’m acquainted with the construction of a new hospital built not long ago which involved the approvals, credentialing, and certification of a lot of approving bodies with one very important state approving agency called ASHPD as the hospital was in the state of California. During one ASHPD visit the inspector mentioned that he was not happy with the installation of a particular item of equipment and that tens of thousands of dollars in revisions needed to be made. When it was called to the inspector’s attention that the item was installed in a manner that actually exceeded the previously approved requirements, including those receiving ASHPD’s previous approval, the inspector said, “Well it doesn’t meet my approval”. The tens of thousands of dollars of correction, insisted upon by the inspector, were made because the costs of delaying further construction, to raise a legitimate dispute, would exceed the costs to make the reinstallation of the equipment. It was just better to go along and get along.
Likewise, who wants the academic reputation of having created unnecessary problems with the school’s accrediting agency by questioning perceived unnecessary requirements that add to the cost of education. When as a teacher we faced our own periodic process of accreditation we did chuckle and scratch or heads over certain time consuming, cost consuming, often newly added accreditation requirements. But we always did our best to make honest, credible, and professional changes as required while saying among ourselves “This really doesn’t seem to make much sense but we just have to do it. We don’t want to make any waves. Just ignore it and give them what they want.” Even though there were always questions by the teachers and the administration about the sensibility and feasibility of some requirements it was always agreed not to buck the system but just ignore it and give them what they want. Thus accumulating each time more and more requirements that had to be met – and paid for. Many of these well intentioned and ever growing requirements are overwhelming, not only the talented administrators. but the institutions themselves.
The question is, in regards to all the agencies that colleges and universities are having to answer to, all schools really, are some of these requirements truly necessary? Are some of the requirements merely an extra layer of preferred frosting on the educational cake and thus overburdening the ability of an institution to survive? To stay cost effective? Are there a lot of little unnecessary refinements placed upon these institutions by accreditors, by insurance companies, by state and federal laws, ad infin nauseam, that are crushing down on the institution’s administration and overwhelming the institution itself . . . and the cost to operate the institution, albeit with the “best of intentions”?
Often we try to solve big problems with one big solution. The solution I suggest about making room for the academy half school/half day work program is not THE solution. Generally big problems are caused by the collection of many varied factors. The ability of a kid to work and help pay off some of the tuition is one of those factors, or it was since the very inception of Adventist schools. Often among educators the problem solving solution mentioned is one of Endowment. “If only or schools had good endowments many of the problems of financing our schools would go away.” In the 2008 recession Harvard announced the recession’s effect had been so detrimental to its endowment (one of the largest educational endowments in the world) it was being faced with the possible reduction in professorial staff. There is not one magic bullet. There are many small factors that when collected together help solve big problems. Student employment is one of those ways in academy and college. What are some other solutions comprising this pool of resources that solves the problem of educational costs?
Feeling it was appropriate to notify college presidents about this Spectrum essay I emailed several with a link to the Spectrum website. While observing their institution’s websites I noticed links to “Board of Trustees” and “ Members of the President’s Council” etc., with long lists of names of people involved in making decisions regarding these institutions. I know they discuss and pray about such things but are they, are we, is anybody, actually DOING something. As in “We have a plan and are moving forward. Someone needs to take the risk involved and it shall be us.” Instead it appears all across the educational spectrum, instead of going to from hand wringing to handshaking, we have gone from hand wringing to shoulder shrugging.
Much of the culture of Adventism and its ability to carry out its mission is shaped by this educational system. If it fails the church will be weak and disoriented. Somewhere someone(s) needs to step up and take true leadership. Take some risk to innovate, create, experiment, to solve this problem which is not just a problem in higher education, but is a systemic educational problem.