by Michael Zigarelli, PhD

As the dean of a business school, I tend to think in terms of return on investment., or ROI in my world. So when my wife, Tara, and I considered shifting our four elementary-age kids from public school to Christian school, one of my first thoughts was, "What's the return on investing in a Christian school?

Perhaps you think that way as well. What's the value of a Christian education? Should we spend money today that we could earmark for college? Is a Christian school really worth its price tag?
In our case, the price tag before us was daunting. When we did the math, we were deep into a six-figure expense through the twelfth grade --about the same cost as that of a couple of college educations or the principle on our mortgage.

Most business professors don't get paid like the executives we teach, so I admit, it was tempting at that point to default back to the status quo, especially since the public schools in our district are pretty decent. Compared to our local Christen school, there's not a huge gap in SAT scores or college entrance rates. So why not just save the money and rely on home and church for values education?

Frankly, we concluded, values education through home and church is simply not enough for us. Kids, like adults, often adopt the values of their peers and their teachers, and we saw signs that this was already starting to happen. We were diligently pouring ourselves into our kids' lives at home, training them up in faith and virtue. But seven hours a day, five days a week, they were being reeducated, marinated in a secular worldview that was competing for their precious, malleable minds.

Like so many parents, Tara and I wanted our kids in a safe, nurturing, academically challenging environment. That's certainly a big part of the return on investment for Christian schooling. But the other bottom line in Christian schools is education for virtue: character development, renewing children's minds so that children are God-centered rather than self-centered when making decisions.

Someday--someday too soon--our four kids will be making those decisions without consulting us. Tara and I want to help them do so by shaping their hearts to love God. It's the most important responsibility that God has entrusted to us, so we can use all the help we can get, seven hours a day, five days a week.

Christian schools educate for virtue. And now we've chosen a Christian school for our kids because, although money's tight, we simply can't put a price tag on that kind of education.