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Subscription and the Community of Learning

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Summary

The College of Saint Anthony of Padua will be a subscription driven community of learning.

“Subscription driven” means that the College will seek cash support for its educational undertakings from subscribers, persons who agree to make monthly contributions according to a formula.

“Community of learning” means that subscribers will enjoy representation in the College’s financial governance, will be consultants to the development of its educational program, and will have access to any educational offering from which, according to their interests and academic preparation, they can benefit.

Among its Catholic characteristics, the College will embrace the spirit of poverty, which is the necessary compliment to both the subscription system and the concept of a community of learning.

“Spirit of poverty” means that the College will dedicate its resources to educational works, that is, to the direct support of the teaching enterprise.

The formula for subscription will be geared to the household of husband, wife and children . . .

The formula will not assume two earners, will account for more than three children, and will take into account the present “family-unfriendly” economic and social atmosphere.

. . . but will also make provision for single, retired and the like subscribers, as well as for those who wish their subscription to be a pure benefaction to the College.

The formula will be easily adaptable to circumstances other than those of the household.

The College’s 501c status will enable subscribers who do not avail themselves of its educational offerings in any given year to realize the advantages of tax deductible contributions to an educational charity.

Subscription and Its Application to the Community of Learning

Introduction

As conceived, the College of Saint Anthony of Padua is to be “subscription driven” rather than “tuition driven,” and is to be a “community of learning” rather than an “educational services provider.” The College proposes “subscription” in the literal sense of “underwriting” or “supporting,” so that to subscribe is more akin to taking a membership than to taking, say, a newspaper. In fact, “subscription driven” implies “community of learning,” and vice versa.

I. The Principle of Subscription

The analogy of a stipend, as opposed to a wage or fee for service, offers one way to understand the College’s commitment to subscription. A wage or fee is an exchange of value for equivalent value. The earner’s service commands a price (paid as a wage or fee) because its value can be measured in a market. Because it can command a market price, it is (as the conventional term has it) compensation. A stipend (or honorarium) cannot be understood as compensation. Priests are not compensated for the “service work” of administering the Sacraments and proclaiming the Gospel. Rather, they receive a stipend, which is a sufficiency enabling them to carry on their literally priceless works, works which are intrinsically valuable, valuable apart from any extrinsic measure, market or otherwise. The purpose of a stipend is to support a work, not to compensate it. Now, the subscription is to the work of a community of learning what the stipend is to the ministry of a priest.

There is a complementary difference between receiving a wage and receiving a stipend. The wage (or fee for service) is compensation because it enables its earner to turn from his work to his own purposes. By contrast, the stipend frees its receiver to dedicate himself to the purposes embodied in his work. A stipend, therefore, supposes deliberate frugality on the part of its receiver: to accept a stipend is to accept the spirit of poverty, for it is to agree that abundance means “sufficient to support the work.” Here again, the subscription is to the necessities of the community of learning what the stipend is to the livelihood of the priest.

Finally, there is yet another complementary difference, this one between paying a wage or fee and paying a stipend. To pay a wage or fee is to purchase a service of equivalent value. Contemporary educational service providers, like health care providers, rely on the buyer’s intuition that their services are, in the end, beyond price. What is the “opportunity value” to the “consumer” of the surgery that means the difference between continued life and an early death? Similarly, what is the “opportunity value” to parents and students of the university degree that promises to open all doors? The answer in the latter case is that parents will literally mortgage the house, while students mortgage their future livelihood--and the schools stand ready to help them do so. Again by contrast, to pay a stipend is not to make a purchase on a value-for-value (or value-for-perceived value) basis. It is to contribute to the support of a work, and so far to participate in that work. Thus, to offer a stipend is to contribute to--and so to join in achieving--a common good. Here again, subscription is to participation in the community of learning what the contribution of one’s share of the stipend is to participation in the community of worship.

The subscription system, then, is not a scheme for lowering the price of educational services so as to make them more accessible; still less is it a marketing scheme targeted on the home schooling “niche.” It is an alternative to the “fee (tuition) for services” system that dominates private (including Catholic) education, fuels unending price increases (increases that run far--indeed, orders of magnitude--ahead of the rate of inflation), and fails to serve well Catholic families of modest means.

II. Subscription and Community in the Community of Learning

The difference between subscription and tuition comes down to this: tuition is a fee for services, set by the mechanisms of the educational marketplace, and contracted from an educational service provider; subscription is participation in the achievement of the common good embodied in a community of learning. It is of the essence of a common good that it return whole to each and every participant, and that participation extend to the administration of common resources. It is of the essence of a service that it is a strictly limited benefit, and that it is designed and administrated solely by the provider.

Tuition, for example, buys a precise number of “units,” which translate (literally) into a precise number of “contact hours, minutes, seconds” per term. Again, line service providers (aka faculty) are obligated to be available to students in office for a specific number of hours per week—all else is a gratuity which may be extended or withdrawn at will. Tuition-generating students evaluate faculty performance by survey instruments exactly analogous to those found in restaurants, to those distributed periodically by HMOs, or to those in general use by service organizations for follow-up quality control after service.

By contrast, subscription buys nothing; it is participation in the community of learning whose characteristic feature is unstinting sharing from first to last. Its common life of prayer and worship is open to all participants absolutely. It offers regular lectures and symposia designed to communicate the fruits of Christian learning to all its participants. Its courses are open to all participants according to their preparation and ability. It actively seeks to address all phases of the life of Christian learning for all its participants: those preparing for higher study and their teachers; those engaged in higher study; those living the Christian life in, but not of, the world. The community of learning exists, in sum, to communicate its whole good to each partaker in the common work, for the whole course of his participation.

Again by contrast, because subscription entails membership in the community of learning, it also entails participation in the administration of subscription resources. As a community of learning, the College of Saint Anthony of Padua will, by charter, involve subscribers in the administration of its funds and in deliberation over the direction of the College’s development.

III. The Spirit of Poverty

The necessary complement to the principle of subscription instead of tuition is an institutional commitment to the spirit of poverty, which is to say, to the Gospel logic of abundance: abundance is the present sufficiency of means for the purpose at hand. The community of learning will thus seek the use, not the ownership, of adequate facilities (it is to be hoped that the local Church, through its Ordinaries, will see the wisdom of making unused facilities available). It will limit its perceived needs by its declared purposes: it will, for example, not seek to replicate the great libraries of the Bay Area, but will use those that are public, as it will use the “electronic commons” of the internet. Its faculty will be paid a stipend, not a market wage. It will not erect an elaborate administrative (that is, managerial) establishment, but will strictly limit administrative expenses by recourse to genuine self-government. It will not offer psychological or career counseling, but will employ resident priests and religious and call on the generosity of friends and subscribers from the various worlds of work. It will, in short, not compete in the private educational marketplace; rather, it will offer a Catholic alternative to market driven education.

IV. The Proposed System of Subscription

Sound, magisterial Catholic education should be a common and life-long good realized in and through every local Church. Every common good is realized by the participation of many in achieving a single, shared end or goal. Some common goods are also distributed--returned to those who help achieve them--by participation. If “we” collaborate in cooking a meal, we achieve a common good, but we can distribute it only by allocation: we have to divide the whole and distribute its parts. On the other hand, if “we” solve a problem, the good that is its solution can be shared as an undivided whole by everyone. The good in this latter case is shared by participation. A sort of middle case exists in a common good--say, a picnic ground or common green “we” have all landscaped and furnished--which can be managed so that any one of us who wishes to use it can do so at the time, and for the duration, of his choosing. Time and space cannot be shared as wholes, so the green’s use must be allocated. Still, if its use can be managed so that each one’s need of it can be met without qualification, the green is virtually available as an undivided whole to each user.

The College of Saint Anthony of Padua aims to support and manage its educational offerings as virtual participated goods, available with minimal qualification to all the subscribers who assist in making them available. The minimal qualifications: interest and, where appropriate, antecedent skills or learning. Subscription is the means of achieving this goal.

Access to conventional private education--expressed as places in an incoming freshman class, or seats in an “open” classroom--is rationed as access to luxury cars is rationed: by (increasing) market price. The College aims to embody a genuinely common good, common both in that it will be achieved, and in that access to it will be “rationed,” by participation, that is, by commitment to a subscription membership adjusted both according to the subscriber’s ability to pay and the subscriber’s needs.

i. Categories of Subscription

The Household Subscription: Husband and wife, or single head of household, and dependent children, with earned household income.

Base Formula: the greater of [0.02 (2%) x annual gross household income]  12 or $25 = base monthly household subscription.

Automatic adjustments:

The Institute will negotiate adjustments for householders with unusual financial circumstances.

Example: Godfrey Goodroman grosses $85,000/year, supports his wife, Ultramontana, and four children, and has employer-sponsored health and pension plans.

{[(85,000 x 0.02)  12] - [(4 - 3) x 10]} - 0 - 0 = 131.6667 or $132/month subscription.

Example: Abundanza Foresight, widow of Frank Foresight, draws income of $125,000/year from Frank’s wise investments, supports seven children, and has no employer-sponsored health or pension benefits.

{[(125,000 x 0.20)  12] - [(7 - 3) x 10]} - 10 - 10 = 188.3333 or $188/month subscription.

Example: Sam Hardscrabble and wife, Sarah, support two children on his $40,000/year and her part-time earnings of $15,000/year. Neither Sam nor Sarah receives sponsored heath or pension benefits.

{[(55,000 x 0.200  12] - [(0 x 10)]} - 10 - 10 = 71.6667 or $72/month subscription.

The Adult Learners’ Subscription: Fixed income adult learners (households/singles), single adult learners with earned income and no dependents

Basic Formula: the greater of [(0.01 x annual income)  12] or $20

Automatic Adjustments:

As above, the Institute will negotiate adjustments for subscribers with unusual financial circumstances.

Example: Sam’s parents, Les and Minnie Hardscrabble, are retired on Les’s pension and social security income, amounting to $46,000/year, are vigorous late sexagenarians, and have paid off the mortgage on their residence.

[(46,000 x 0.01)  12] = 38.3333 or $38/month subscription.

Example: Romulo Unpincomin is a self-employed programming consultant whose income fluctuates wildly from year to year. Last year it was high and healthy. Just now, as he contemplates subscribing, it is running low and listless. After consultation, he and the Institute agree to base his subscription on his (self-reported) three-year average income of $58,000.

[(58,000 x 0.01)  12] -10 -10 = 28.3333 or $28/month subscription.

Benefactor’s Subscription: Anyone who wishes to support the College without taking advantage of its educational offerings, while participating, like all subscribers, in its fiscal governance and curricular development.

Basic Formula: Tax deductible monthly payment in any amount of $20 or more, reviewed annually.

Officers of the Institute and (future) employees of the College who earn income apart from the Institute or College will subscribe from those earnings in the category and at the rate prescribed by their circumstances.

ii. Administration

Subscriptions will renew annually in the month they were first entered.

The Institute will e-mail (or, as necessary, mail) a yearly renewal worksheet to each subscriber. Income, adjustments and change of subscription category will be self-reported. Payment will be accepted on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis.

The Institute will provide benefactor-subscribers with an annual statement for IRS use.

The Institute will issue a membership card, bearing a subscription code, to each subscriber. Personal identification and the code will be necessary for registration in non-public Institute and College offerings. The subscription code will validate ballots on measures, including elections, pertaining to the fiscal governance of the Institute and, ultimately, of the College.

The Institute and the College will reserve the right to refuse participation in educational or governance activities to subscribers in unexcused arrears.