As the past week involved numerous discussions about financial aid, budgets for the coming year, and some personal financial issues at home, it stands to reason that my mind is filled with thoughts about the many costs involved in life. In fact, though our tendency is to want free things, in fact even free things come with a cost. There is always a cost - to me or to others - - often hidden from view through overpricing items or taxing some to benefit others.
Over 75% of those attending a congregation that was renting the building of a church I served in the inner city were below the poverty line. Yet these mission-focused Christians donated more each week for the ministry of their church than received by our larger group of wealthier suburban church members. The difference I learned was in cost assessment; either serve God or be religious for the least cost possible. Mind you this is not my judgment of them, but their spoken words at different times. My congregation relied on endowment for church operations while members, retired corporate executives, stretched themselves to give a few dollars weekly. An interesting note is that the renting congregation were joyous Christians amidst adversity, while the other congregation was often sullen and judgmental about others in need.
I am thankful that UCA started using the FACTS system to assess financial aid needs. Based on the report, the Finance Committee makes hard decisions, balancing the expressed needs of UCA families and the FACTS aid suggestion. Reports are anonymous, identifying each family only by number in order of application. Each family is asked how much they felt they could afford to pay, and FACTS offers an impartial assessment for the committee to consider. The committee knows that it takes about $6,000 per student to cover only the salaries for our faculty and staff, not to mention the building and other costs. In essence, some aid is given to every family. The cost of an education which combines academics and character is never fully covered by tuition.
Thus my surprise when periodically a middle income family is identified as able to pay at least a portion of the tuition by FACTS while the family suggests they are unable to pay any tuition, in essence requesting a free education. Is this realistic? Each gift of financial aid must come from other sources, donors who see the vision and value of UCA, or teachers willing to sacrifice for the sake of the child. Thus the importance of fundraising at UCA.
I have generally found that if there is something that is highly valued, the cost is less likely to be a barrier. Things judged valuable will cost something, and people will make every effort to cover the cost! Think of the costs that have been associated with things that benefit us.
Education – Many parents and families have given of themselves in time and funds to educate each of us; especially if we have been blessed with a college education. Freedom – Need I elaborate on the sacrifice of our Armed Forces, giving time away from families for long periods and even suffering death so we might enjoy the freedoms of living in the USA.
Every Food and Commodity we enjoy – This s a subtle one. Did you know that every consumer product or the parts that make it travels by ship to our shores? And every ship is crewed by international seafarers who are paid low wages and are away from their families 9-12 months at a time; seldom seeing their children grow up to support their family. We are indebted to them though they are anonymous to most of the world.
Life and Nurture – As we approach Mother’s Day we must not forget the cost of parenting that our mothers have given to enable us to enjoy life, to be fed, and to mature into adulthood. Salvation/Redemption – Can we ever forget the cost of God’s Son that we might know eternal forgiveness and hope? Certainly death on the cross was the ultimate cost offering life to all who believe in Christ.
Perhaps the real issue is not about cost, but about priority. I remember a few homeless people dropping by my church office. Though unemployed, they had the latest electronic gadgets, ostentatious jewelry, while asking our church to give them food or funds. My method was to engage them in conversation trying to assess their life in areas from finances to God and focusing on long-term needs. I wanted them to evaluate decisions – never to tell them what they are to do, realizing every decision must be theirs, hopefully made prayerfully. Midway many would leave for the rest room, never to return; perhaps the cost of listening to me outweighed the need for food.
God’s provision is assured to all who trust in Him. What cost is adequate for a child’s quality Bible-based education? What would make it a top priority for the remaining years of our children’s school if they were receiving God’s perspective on life, eternal hope and faith? Is there anything more important than the building of leadership qualities in our students? This is an expense that is only needed for a brief time in life, but enables them to have a future that only God can give.
My dad often said, “Nothing is free. The trick is deciding what to pay for.” He had little to give financially, but spent most every non-work waking hour helping others and supporting the work of organizations that helped others, including his church. He and my mother understood the joy of serving Christ, of being satisfied with little, yet supporting my pursuit of education. And I am sure he would say today, with a smile, “It was well worth every cost.”
Maybe it is time to change our thinking from considering costs to investing in our children’s future. I am thankful this was the perspective of my parents. Having seen the change in the lives of UCA students during this brief year, I am sure the investment made by families, faculty, and others will be blessed by God as they see young people grow to be mature leaders in our communities. After all, that is the investment we are all making at UCA.
-- Rev. J. Loring Carpenter, Interim Head of School