Off-campus students now the majority at BYU-Idaho

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For the first time, there are more off-campus students for BYU-Idaho than on on-campus students.

Enrollment at Brigham Young University–Idaho reached two important milestones this year, according to new data from the Fall Semester 2014 BYU-Idaho enrollment statistics. For the first time in history, the university now serves more students off campus than on. Enrollment numbers have also finally reached pre-2012 levels, when the lowered minimum age for missionary service took many potential students into the mission field.

“When the announcement was made, we anticipated a drop in enrollment,” said Marc Stevens, media relations and campus communication manager at BYU–Idaho. “The good thing is that at BYU–Idaho we have a unique approach to scheduling in our three-track system. Because of that, we were able to offer enrollment to students at times when they might not otherwise be on campus. We felt the effects, but we were able to manage it.”

The statistics revealed a total enrollment of 16,193 students in the Rexburg, Idaho-based university, which represents a 3.9 percent increase over the previous year.

The increased number of off-campus students is due largely to the BYU–Idaho’s Pathway program, a low-cost educational opportunity that combines online courses with local gatherings and is administered within the Church’s structure. Last year, 11,987 BYU-Idaho students were off campus. This year, that number increased 57.4 percent to 18,874 — 2,681 more students than are attending classes on campus.

“This has absolutely been a goal of the university,” Stevens said. “Our president has laid out imperatives for the university. One of those is to serve more students and to do so in a cost-effective manner. We have found that online education is a great way to do that.”

The milestone comes just after Pathway’s five-year anniversary. Though the program is still relatively new, Stevens says it’s been in long-term plans for decades.

“The seeds have been planted for a long time,” Stevens said. “President [Henry B.] Eyring in his inaugural address talked about the need for Ricks College to expand its reach beyond the Rexburg campus. That was long before we had the Internet. Even then there was this sense that the college needed to expand its reach. President [David A.] Bednar said a similar thing in his inaugural address in the early ’90s, as did President (Kim B.) Clark in his in 2005. The program is new, but it’s a goal that’s been with us for a long time — to bless as many people as possible.”

The enrollment statistics revealed other interesting trends, including a student body with more women than men — 46.4 percent male and 53.6 percent female. Married students make up approximately 24 percent of the student population. That rate is exceptionally high for undergraduate universities, with the average marriage age in the United States currently sitting at 27 for women and 29 for men.

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Breanna Olaveson worked in the magazine industry before taking her writing from full-time to nap time with the birth of her first daughter. Her work has appeared in the Ensign, Liahona and New Era magazines, as well as Utah Valley Magazine, Utah Valley BusinessQ, Utah Valley Bride and the Provo Daily Herald. She lives in Utah county with her husband and three children. She blogs at www.breannaolaveson.com.

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