At a seminar in Washington this week, the Church commissioner of education and two BYU presidents said Church colleges are discovering methods to give affordable higher education to more people worldwide while having a positive social impact. Elder Clark G. Gilbert, a General Authority Seventy and Church Educational System commissioner, said BYU-Idaho and BYU-Pathway Worldwide have been scaled to grow without increasing operational expenditures for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
At a time when inflation is destroying higher education, the Church must grow to provide affordable higher education to hundreds of thousands of members worldwide. Elder Gilbert, former president of BYU-Idaho and BYU-Pathway, said enrollment increased between 2000 and 2020, but innovations to make the school more affordable for students and the Church have kept operating costs below inflation.
He claims larger universities are cheaper to run. “Variable tuition at BYU-Idaho exceeds variable costs,” he stated. Elder Gilbert noted that Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated last year that the Church contributes roughly $1 billion to higher education. Elder Gilbert, BYU President Kevin J. Worthen, and BYU-Hawaii President John S.K. Kauwe III spoke at a religious university conference on January 12 with Notre Dame, Yeshiva University, the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, and others.
“You all represent a super substantial part of American higher education,” remarked American Council on Education president Ted Mitchell. “We need to figure out ways to take the work that you do and make it as important in the national discussion as [your numbers show].” Dupont Circle, a mile from the White House, hosted the American Council on Education meeting. Mormons and academia
Elder Gilbert, President Worthen, and President Kauwe agreed that Latter-day Saint doctrine encourages higher education for all Church members.
All people are spiritual children of heavenly parents with a divine purpose. President Worthen claims that’s Latter-day Saint doctrine. “We believe everyone on earth deserves a chance to magnify their gifts,” stated President Kauwe. “The Church can’t afford to create another BYU in Manila,” notwithstanding (Philippines). Elder Gilbert believes the Church cannot build a BYU in Accra. This inspired creativity and new methods to higher education, which has benefited students at BYU-Idaho and BYU-Hawaii and led to the formation and international development of BYU-Pathway Worldwide, which serves 60,000 students in 180 nations.
President Kauwe explained how BYU-Labor Hawaii’s programs help Oceania and Asia Rim first-generation college students. BYU-Hawaii provides IWORK. Students work 19 hours during school and 40 hours on breaks. President Kauwe claims the program serves half the university’s 3,000 students. Two-thirds of pupils need IWORK. President Kauwe said 800 students work in Hawaii’s most authentic tourist attraction, the Church’s Polynesian Cultural Center.
Brad Johnson, College of the Ozarks president, followed President Kauwe on the panel. His institution’s labor program compels students to work 15 hours per week while providing tuition for all 1,500 students, most of whom cannot attend college. Johnson said Presbyterian-affiliated College of the Ozarks offers affordable, high-quality education. Notre Dame President John Jenkins said the gathering also examined religious institutions’ graduation rates and other issues facing American higher education.
The Rev. Jenkins noted that several speakers underlined the need for a mission that sees each child as having dignity and calls them to be something significant. “That’s a type of religious framework, but that’s a really effective educational mindset to have,” as evidenced by graduation rates and low-income student success. That includes us and, I suppose, these other institutions.
Undergrad study President Worthen, Rev. Jenkins, and Yeshiva University Rabbi Ari Berman were panelists. Latter-day Saints’ trust in God’s children influenced BYU’s Provo, Utah, education, he said. “Now, this fundamental conviction that each of our students has the capacity to grow like God and that part of our process is to aid them in advancement transforms how we think about our entire educational enterprise, including academic study,” said President Worthen.
He stated BYU valued students and prioritized faculty-student research. President Worthen says 28.5 cents of every dollar in outside research funds undergraduate research. He added “it is four, five, or six times what high research institutions do.” Students can gain immensely. BYU has the ninth-highest bachelor’s degree PhD rate. Professors and graduate students research at R1 schools. BYU is R2 research.
President Worthen remarked “our research does require some types of sacrifices.” Graduates research better than undergraduates. BYU does less research than an R1 college would. President Worthen observed that inexperienced pupils reduce research. To serve students, teachers must maintain research quality. President Worthen added, “That demands a new drive and a different kind of faculty.”
American society. Summit participants thought their results would apply beyond religious organizations. They praised each other’s faith-based schools’ contributions to American culture and religious identities. Interfaith America’s president, Eboo Patel, told university presidents that identity communities were growing more committed to organizations that supported solely their identities and needed to be independent. Patel argues diversity demands particularity. “Without your particularity, there is no diversity.”
He supported interfaith harmony. Patel said the American perspective is “for me to be me, I need to extinguish you.” “But you show there’s another way everyday,” she replied. Schools are undervalued, he added. Patel stated that American democracy’s trait whereby organizations created by specific religious communities help members of all faith communities is taken for granted. Civic organizations that express identity and encourage goodwill across communities are essential to a varied democracy.
Faith-based schools graduate more and charge less. President Shirley Hoogstra said the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities’ 185 schools have 25% reduced tuition. Rabbi Berman claims significance. He stated our generation has meaning issues. “Our children are seeking purpose, which is uncommon in a (broader) world where many people have rejected these generations of tradition,” said one educator.
The Catholic University of America’s president, Peter Kilpatrick, thought religious service could offer students meaning. His university’s non-campus ministry participation students graduate 7–8 points below average. “Students who participate in five or more of our campus activities graduate or persist at a rate 15 points higher, and 92% of our students persevere if they get involved (in ministries).”