“Our Troubles Are upon Us”: Declining Enrollments at Adventist Colleges and Universities in North America Suggest Need for New Approach

While graduate student enrollment at the 13 Adventist colleges and universities in North America has grown by 1.2% over the last seven years, undergraduate headcounts have declined by 3.4% over the same period (2012-2019), according to a November 5, 2019, press release from the Association of Adventist Colleges and Universities (AACU). The consolidated 2019 fall enrollment for AACU institutions totals 22,971 students.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://spectrummagazine.org/news/2019/our-troubles-are-upon-us-declining-enrollments-adventist-colleges-and-universities-north

Nancy, I realize this study is ONLY dedicated to our Post - High School
age adults in the Seventh-day Adventist church.
HOWEVER, the FAILURE with this type of study is that it does NOT
look at the WHOLE Spectrum of North American Education.
Elementary [many “church schools” are closing in NAD], Academy
enrollments, and the Universities.
I see two factors [there are probably several others]

  1. If PARENTS are NOT sending their kids to elementary [going to
    a non-SDA public or private school], will probably be less inclined to
    attend an Academy [again a non-SDA public or private school], and
    then WILL BE CONDITIONED to NOT attend an SDA College or
    perhaps has NO NEED to attend a college at all.
    There are 2 and 4 year programs many places near home if they
    perceive the need.
    Others, may have begun learning a TRADE in high school age, will
    continue and not attend any college at all.

Demographics could be collected through Pastors of EACH SDA
church in the NAD over 20 years. Pastors could list each person by
a local number. Where attending grade school, jr high, high school,
any higher education – college [2 or 4 yr], or a trade school. The
persons could be followed up to about age 25-30.

Another PORTION of the collected Demographics could INCLUDE
the intensity of involvement in the Church over a 20 year period.
Would assist with movements of 18 to30’s “leaving” the church.
Also, be helpful to know if attending other Christian groups instead,
or discontinued ALL Christian activities.


Offering more online degrees and courses are a very cost effective way for the colleges and universities to generate revenues. It is a very popular way to get an education and continue to work…which appeals to both younger and older students. Online education is also cheaper for Higher Ed to produce revenues without the traditional Brick and Mortar sites.

Though It can be a highly unpopular concept…Adventist Higher Ed may have to have to downsize to a centralized Main Campus (or 2) with just a few satellites. Much more cost efficient and has been done by other Denoms successfully such as the LDS. Each decade has had its challenges and Adventism is going to have to adapt or go the way of AUC.


Sorry, long post.

I have two children, one in college, one in SDA high school. My spouse went to only SDA schools through college. I went to SDA school from 6th - Sophomore in college then transferred to public university (I felt PUC was too dogmatic when I was there and real questions were frowned on).

My oldest child is at the local state school. She is living at home, annual cost is $10K. Any SDA college would require living on campus and would be roughly $35K. Hard to see how an extra $100K is worth it. Better not to be in debt, especially since she changed majors and added a couple more years to the process.

My youngest (Sophomore in HS) is thinking she wants to attend an SDA college. But she can get her GE’s out of the way at a community college that is 3 miles away for $46 per unit. A full load of 15 units, even with all fees would cost $748 per semester or $1,496 per year (maybe $3K with books).

As with her sister, she could go to the local State U for $10K. If she chose local UC school (15 miles away), a very well-respected school it would cost under $15K per year if she lived at home.

Hard to support the SDA university, just because.


2nd post. Someone mentioned about declines at the K-12 grade levels. I’ve been deeply involved in our local SDA school. Money issue, enrollment issues, etc. Frankly, it’s been this way since the late 80’s. There are pictures of graduating classes at this school from '75-'85 that had close to three times the current enrollment.

The SDA schools, both then and now refuse to recognize the environment we are in. They didn’t account for the ending of the baby boomer generation. They didn’t recognize that those groups (me), would both delay having children AND make different educational choices than previous generations. They ignored that for decades, after high school graduation, 80% of children who attended church with their parents quit attending as soon as it was their choice (not just an SDA phenomenon). And, perhaps most importantly, they didn’t anticipate the rise of private schools who compete for students that generally offer academic excellence versus our lip service to that idea while the reality is academic mediocrity.

We still don’t recognize that we have to fiercely compete for a limited pool of students. We offer a sub-standard education, and do a terrible job marketing.

Top notch schools spend between 5% - 14% of their budget for marketing purposes. We spend less than 1%.

But it’s much more than just marketing. We prep our kids so they can get accepted to an SDA college. Our competitors are prepping their kids to get into the best colleges in America. Parents who care about education will choose the non-SDA school, even when it’s more expensive.

Several years back, when my youngest was in SDA kindergarten, at the last parent/teacher conference of the year, the teacher did not know that my child could do simple division and multiplication and could spell many words. The teacher’s comment was “well we don’t want her to get too far ahead or she’ll be bored in first grade” (yes, this really happened).

Yes, I’m frustrated.


Completely agree that the SDA educational mindset was not to “adapt”…but now there is no choice which isn’t the optimal time to make changes- but here it is.


It is an extraordinary privilege to attend Andrews University, which is a world famous institution of higher learning. But not every young Seventh-day Adventist is going to be a winner in life. Most young Seventh-day Adventists I encounter are not Andrews University material. Many are called, but few are chosen.

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I didn’t know that Andrews was world famous.


Home Schooling.
That is WHY some parents do homeschooling. NOT fenced in to
learning just so much per school term.
However, other homeschooling parents DO limit their kids learning
by their lazy behaviors toward teaching.


Back in 1982,83 Southern was offering an early evening program
to RN’s to complete requirements for BSN. I took advantage of it.
In my class MOST of the students were non-SDAs. It was a good
I don’t know about the enrollment rate of non-SDAs at Andrews –
if there are any.
Oakwood in Huntsville, ALA and Andrews have foreign students.
Probably more than some of our other ones.

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Both my children attended non adventist k-12, and opted to to to AU for their college experience. BOTH came home after an expensive year questioning the point of going there! They found the students to a large degree clickish , grouped mainly by ‘what academy did you go to’? Further, they were saddened that they found the same drugs, alcohol, and other issues that they shied away from in high school! My son died, but my daughter finished her education at a public university and is a contributing member of both the church and society!


My understanding is that PUC had largely non-SDAs in the nursing program in the 1990s and 2000s and that this was still true just a few years ago, because for anyone who wanted to take nursing in northern California getting into a program involved lotteries and was very difficult. My understanding was that fairly recently this program significantly aided in propping up the college financially. I do not know the current situation.


As I read Bible prophecy, President Michael will be implementing the Mark of the Beast soon (National Sunday law in 2020) So, Adventist Education should not be expected to continue much longer. Thus, in MHO we should be sounding the 3rd Angel’s warning rather than worrying about troubles that are coming at the right time.

Just to understand you:
Who is President Michael? How come he can implement a National Sunday Law? For which country? Btw, Europe is big enough for immigrants and it is well proven to take care of refugees :wink:


It’s really difficult to find a reasonable justification for spending so much money with SDA education in places where there are good public schools.

I realize that in the US there are really good public schools mostly everywhere, so we have that option. In many countries around the world public education is just unacceptable and it’s worth sending the children to a private school.


Maybe @Hischild knows something we don’t… It may well be that TW was not chosen for a 3rd term for the “election” in 2020? :wink: Michael must be the real deal.

“I need a favor, though”…, please save me a bed in that refugee camp!


My experience with homeschooling is that parents say that it is finances, yet who can question this? But from looking over the larger group of homeschooling parents (and they are a very, very large group these days) I am going to make a guess that there are other reasons at play.

My best guess is that homeschooling families are the most conservative families and they want their children to be shielded from liberal Adventist children. And having experienced the SDA schools in the area where I live I cannot blame these parents in this regard. If I shared their views I would act in the same way and I say this because the SDA schools are not what they once were. I will grant that part of what people think schools “once were” is idealized, but nonetheless there is a problem in SDA schools. It is a problem compounded each year by the continued loss of nearly all conservative families and their children to homeschooling. Schools are certainly quite different than the SDA schools of my childhood in the 70s and 80s.

Families like my own, who were what I would have called moderate theological Adventists, but thoroughly Adventist in lifestyle, become the defacto conservatives among families that are not actually functioning Adventists. In my children’s SDA elementary school many children were brought by grandparents who wanted to make up for the lack of SDA lifestyle and teaching in the home and another large percentage were simply not SDA and were brought to the school for other reasons. The feeling of the school was not really very Seventh-day Adventist and I could understand why conservative SDAs would not bring their children. They could say it was finances, but it was probably because they did not approve of what was happening in the school.


Ah…, those “liberal Adventist children” out there… :roll_eyes:

The same reason is often why many Adventists will not send their children to a public school. “Stay with Mommy, it’s better for you.” Thus depriving them from a very important experience in human life called socialization. One day those kids will be grown ups and will be part of a large society.

Children cannot be hidden forever - I mean, shielded. They will need a job and will have to go to grocery stores, malls, and Costco. I believe that in order to prepare them for such threatening and perverse environments and dangerous encounters(:roll_eyes:) it would be better to vaccinate them since childhood by exposing them to the damning society more generously… But then, again, I realize that many parents are against vaccination…

Can’t win!

Maybe those kids will one day need the services of the “Spectrum Three Amigos,” 1.@elmer_cupino 2. @cincerity 3. Myself :+1: :+1:


I couldn’t agree more. I’ve met a lot of mothers who seem to think they can shield their children forever. It’s upsetting.


Yes, the same “evils” are to be found at any SDA college/university…but it does make some parents feel that it is a “safer” environment.