- Associated Press - Friday, May 23, 2014

REXBURG, Idaho (AP) - Brigham Young University-Idaho enrollment dropped 7.7 percent this spring compared to last spring, and school officials say the decline is due to a lower minimum age for Mormon missionaries as prospective students choose that route.

About 12,900 students enrolled at BYU-Idaho this spring compared to about 14,000 last spring.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 2012 lowered the minimum age to depart on missions from 21 to 19 for women and from 19 to 18 for men. Since then, the number of applications have shot up, most coming from women.

University spokesman Marc Stevens said enrollment numbers will continue to be down at least through the end of this year.

“Students have the option to defer enrollment until a certain time period,” Stevens told the Post Register (https://www.postregister.com/node/55439). “So we’re able to make estimates based on a number of factors - how many are currently on campus and how many are coming back. Based on what we see, it looks like through the end of this year is when we’ll see the greatest impact.”

BYU-Idaho has a three-track semester system. Students enroll for two of the three semesters and take a three-month break during their off semester.

The school is compensating for the drop by selectively offering enrollment to students who would otherwise be on the three-month break, called “off-track” students. But Stevens also noted enrollment tends to fluctuate for various reasons.

“There’s just a lot of change from semester-to-semester,” he said. “As students make their plans and leave on their missions, it just really changes things from one time to the next. But there’s always that flexibility for students to do off-track (enrollment).”

The school also offers online courses and a one-year, international distance-learning college preparation program. Called Pathway, it’s also conducted online, but students living in the same area meet weekly to work on assignments.

The school said that combined online and Pathway enrollment surged to 12,141 students this spring, compared to 6,852 last spring.

“The university’s reach is really growing. It’s just amazing how it’s happening through technology and off-site offerings,” Stevens said. “There’s growth on campus of course, but now, there’s just as much growth happening away from the university as well.”

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Information from: Post Register, https://www.postregister.com


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