Saturday, October 13, 2018

So How Much Does a Christian School Education Cost? And Who Pays For It?

Providing a Christian school education for your child requires consideration of your family budget and its ability to make tuition payments because Christian schools are privately supported and don't receive tax dollars.  And the other side of that issue is that parents are also paying taxes out of their income which go to the public education system where they help pay for an education in schools their children are not attending.  Because Christian schools are are private and do not get any tax dollars, the funding must come from those who enroll their children in the form of tuition payments. 

But Christian education isn't designed to be a privilege only for those who have the means to afford it.  The "average" cost of a year of private education in the US is over $13,000 per year.  In Illinois, it is somewhere around $12,000.  A year in the public school system costs the taxpayers about $14,000 per student, because of services, programs and the transportation they must provide.  All costs inclusive, parents of students at MCA pay $5,200 if they have one child enrolled, and with the discounts averaged in, the average cost per student paid directly by the parents comes out to about $4,300 per year.  That's a bargain. 

So how does that work? Someone else is "paying" the other part of that annual expense in order to make attending a private, Christian school a reality for your children. 

The "Teacher Scholarship"
The payroll and the maintenance of the facilities are the two biggest expenses of a school.  And since most of the staff is made up of teachers, who are qualified professionals with a specialized degree equipping them to do their job, the payroll includes benefits like professional development, which also cost money. 

We know that parents make a financial sacrifice to send their children to MCA.  On the other hand, did you know that the teachers here make a financial sacrifice to enable you to send your children here?  You pay tuition.  They give up the salary and benefits they could be earning if they worked in a local public school.  The difference between what a public school teacher in Illinois makes after ten years of teaching experience and what an MCA teacher makes after the same years of experience is over $25,000.  In addition to that, public school teachers get some benefits, including having most of their retirement benefit paid by the school they work for, as much as 90% of their health insurance premiums covered and at least part of their dental plan, disability, unemployment tax and life insurance premiums paid.  MCA teachers get a small paid life insurance policy, and a partial payment of their health insurance premium, and that is a difference of almost $5,000 in additional benefits.  In Chicago, public school teachers make slightly more than the state average.

In order to pay MCA teachers at the "average" rate of those in the public school system, we would have to add $2,500 to each student's tuition cost.  Some of our families could pay that, but if we had a $2,500 increase in tuition in one year, we wouldn't have very many students return. 

Our teachers and staff do this because they are called by God and because they see how being in a Christian school can be a life changing, life-sustaining experience for children.  I've been in this business for more than 30 years.  Those who work in Christian schools are at least equally qualified as their peers in the public school system, many of them have received additional training at their own expense to be able to continue what they do.  Oh, by the way, the teaching staff at MCA exceeds the average public school when it comes to the percentage of its teachers with advanced degrees.

Subsidized and "In-Kind" Expenses
Last year, Midwest Bible Church provided $130,000 in direct support to MCA.  That does not include the $285,000 cost of the building renovation.  While the amount of church support varies each year with the cost of operation, among conservative Evangelical Christian schools and churches, it is rare to find a congregation that supports the school it operates with financial assistance, much less to find one that does it at the same level of support as Midwest Bible Church does for this school.  In order to cover the costs that the church now provides, parents would have to come up with an additional $750 per student. 

Over the years, the number of individuals who have graduated from MCA is pretty large.  We actually have grandchildren of former students enrolled.  Grateful to the school for the education and spiritual guidance they received, some of those alumni occasionally give financial gifts to the school.  So do some church members and some friends of the school in the community who just feel led by the Lord to give.  It is difficult to measure the value of these gifts to the school in terms of how it reduces the cost to families, but I would venture to guess that the amount is significant.

We just finished a candy sale that will provide over $6,000 to the school.  The things that the proceeds from this kind of fund-raising activity will buy helps reduce the cost to parents, because the cost of those items does not have to be included in tuition and fees.  The efforts of students and their families makes a direct contribution to the school. 

Work to "Make it Work"
There is a lot of work done by school staff and by parents which doesn't always get noticed, but which helps keep the cost of the education offered here as low as possible.  From those who give hours for free and do work behind the scenes to those who look for bargains, seek donations of equipment and materials, or work to find the best costs, or ask vendors and businesses to cut us a break, this is also an amount that can't be measured either in dollars or in the value received by parents and students when it comes to paying their bill.  But it lowers the cost in terms of tuition and fees required to pay the bills. 

Our school is also not frivolous when it comes to spending its resources.  Our budget is always carefully and prayerfully considered.  Expenses are only considered if we believe them to be necessary in providing the kind and quality of education we expect of ourselves. 

Depending on God
We don't start Christian schools and then ask God to bless what we've done.  This ministry was started from a vision, and it has a mission and purpose that has been connected to that vision for over 65 years.  It is a mission and purpose rooted in the scriptural function of Christian discipleship, which is one of the five Biblical functions of a church.  Education is part of Christian discipleship and can't be separated from it and still fulfill its purpose. 

"And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness."  

Recognizing that our resources come from God, we know he will supply the needs of those ministries which he has used us to establish and operate.  We follow his will in obedience and we pray for his presence.  All of the resources we have are provided by him, whether it is tuition and fees, contributions or a successful candy sale.  Sometimes, he's also in for a surprise.  Parents sacrifice in making tuition payments compliments teachers making sacrifices in salaries, and that's a spiritual foundation.  That's why this works.

May God continue to bless Midwestern Christian Academy.