Since The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced the missionary age change in the 2012 October general conference, the LDS Church has reported their mission force growing from 58,500 in Sept. 2012 to 75,000 in Aug. 2013 causing a drop in enrollment at Utah universities.
According to University Spokesperson Todd Hollingshead, BYU is expecting about a 10 percent drop in enrollment for the fall semester. Whitney Wilkinson, UVU’s spokesperson, UVU is seeing about a 7-8 percent decrease in enrolled students. Both BYU and UVU won’t know the exact loss of students until add/drop deadlines are over in the next few weeks.
“We followed the exact same process admittance wise as in past years,” Hollingshead said. “We did have more students than ever apply, but we admitted the same amount. Then we had to wait and see which students would defer their enrollment.”
Freshman males and females between the ages of 19 and 21 were the two demographics that took the biggest hit at BYU.
Despite the approximately 10 percent decrease in enrollment, BYU doesn’t plan on accepting more students than usual for the next semester.
“The students that have been accepted for enrollment — they are guaranteed a spot,” Hollingshead said. “If you were to accept students in their place, there won’t be a spot for them when they get back.”
BYU doesn’t expect to make any major changes to accommodate the loss of students, but is planning on seeing how things work out when the first set of younger missionaries return from their missions.
“This is kind of a new territory for us,” Hollingshead said. “Though we may have a few less students than we have in the past, we are not making any major changes to campus. In a couple of years, students will return and we’ll be back to normal.”
UVU immediately started making plans to help lessen the blow of the missionary age change and successfully predicted the percentage of students it would lose from the adjustment.
“We looked closely at the resources we had and we did make a few changes early on in the process,” Wilkinson said. “It was mainly internal factors that we were able to adjust.”
Also, UVU put more effort into letting people know what UVU had to offer students.
“Ever since the announcement was made, we’ve been actively getting the word out about our top programs and recruiting students,” Wilkinson said. “UVU is actively recruiting students who are a good fit for the engaged-learning education that UVU offers.”
Wilkinson said the enrollment decrease cannot solely be attributed to the missionary age change — the improving economy also plays a role in the drop in enrollment.
“Sometimes when jobs are not as readily available, people decide to better their economic situation by returning to school and then coming out of the economic slump with a degree,” Wilkinson said.
For UVU at least, it helps that it has plans to grow in size over the next seven years, which helps leave room for both its deferred students and potential future students.
“We see it as a short term situation,” Wilkinson said. “We expect to be at an enrollment of more than 40,000 by 2020.”