What's Adventist about Adventist Higher Education

Speaker: Categories: Aug 14, 2010


[49min, 56sec / 42min, 57sec]


Have you been a student at one or more of the SDA colleges or universities? If so, how would you rate that experience in terms of value gained for cost involved? Are you a parent of a student currently attending such an institution? What other options, if any, did you consider before committing to have him or her enroll there? And to what extent are you satisfied with the commitment? If you had it to do again, would you make the same choice?

Dr. Steve Pawluk notes:"The Seventh-day Adventist denomination operates 15 institutions of higher education in North America. These colleges and universities charge tuition rates ranging from about $16,000 to $25,000 per year of undergraduate education, not counting residence hall and food expenses. Additionally, the denomination subsidizes colleges and universities, providing approximately 10% of their annual operating income. Fundraising for special projects and capital improvements generates additional millions of dollars of support from loyal alumni and friends of these institutions. All in all, it requires significant financial and human resources to support a system of higher education that serves an estimated 30% of Seventh-day Adventist young adults."

The question is: Is it worth it?For an estimated 70% of Seventh-day Adventist families, the answer appears to be that it is not. In some cases, the alternative of a quality education in a state-operated institution seems, to them, to be the better choice. For others, the opportunity to study in an Ivy League or other elite private. institution seems more attractive. For many others, Christian colleges or universities operated by other denominations fulfill their educational and spiritual needs. Yet, for students enrolled in Seventh-day Adventist institutions of higher education, the answer is often an enthusiastic"yes,"and the financial sacrifice made to attend is generally deemed to be a good investment.

The fundamental question is one of value. Is Seventh-day Adventist higher education worth it?

Some have decried the allegedly misplaced priorities of Seventh-day Adventist families, citing expensive vacations, huge homes, and luxury vehicles as the"real"reason that Seventh-day Adventist education is deemed, by some, to be unaffordable. While that may be true for some, our speaker is proposing that a more fundamental problem is not so much concerning cost as it is that Seventh-day Adventist education has not provided a sufficiently compelling answer to two questions:

• Why, and how, is a Seventh-day Adventist education better than that offered by other Christian colleges and universities?

• Why is a Seventh-day Adventist education important in light of the strong youth ministries, caring pastors, and mission activities offered by our congregations and conferences?

Pawluk will propose some responses that he believes will help us develop a more convincing answer to these two questions.


Steve Pawluk serves as the provost of La Sierra University in Riverside, California. Prior to this he was professor of administration& leadership and chair of the Department of Administration& Leadership of the School of Education at La Sierra.

Pawluk's perspectives on Seventh-day Adventist higher education have been sharpened, not only by his work at LSU, but also by his prior employment as the senior vice president for academic administration at Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, Tennessee, and as professor of education and the dean of the School of Education& Psychology at Walla Walla College (now University) in Washington. He also has experience as the superintendent of schools and youth director for the Montana Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, a pastor who also spoke on a daily radio program on the local country& western station, a high school teacher, a reserve police officer, a welder, a licensed contractor, a city council member, and a door-to-door cutlery salesman.

Pawluk's wife, Carol, teaches at Loma Linda Academy and both of their children attended Seventh-day Adventist schools until their graduation from Walla Walla University.

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