Almost a year after President Thomas S. Monson’s missionary age change announcement from last October, Brigham Young University is still experiencing the after-effects.
According to Todd Hollingshead, BYU information manager, a preliminary look at BYU enrollment shows that there will be about 10 percent less students on campus this Fall. The majority of the drop can be seen among freshman male students and female students between the ages of 19 and 21.
Even though the semester starts on Sept. 3, Hollingshead reiterated that the final numbers won’t be known until the second week of school, after the Add/Drop deadline.
The announcement made another impact on BYU registration in December, according to Hollingshead. Each transition from Fall to Winter semester tends to see a 2 percent drop in enrollment, he explained. During the transition immediately following President Monson’s announcement, however, the school saw a 4 percent drop.
“This is new territory for us,” he said. “We’re definitely keeping an eye on it.”
Perhaps the two departments that will see most of the effects of this drop are the Office of First-Year Experience and the Department of Ancient Scripture, which is in charge of the first Book of Mormon class, REL A 121.
According to Heather Hammond, assistant dean of the Office of First-Year Experience, they are expecting enrollment in New Student Orientation (NSO), which will kick-off Thursday, Aug. 29, to drop by a third. Despite the large drop, Hammond said that the office is prepared for NSO.
“We are working closely with Events Management and Freshman Mentoring to put on a great orientation,” she said.
Enrollment for REL A 121, is also seeing a large dip in student registration. According to Jeanine Ehat, secretary for the Department of Ancient Scripture, they offered 500 fewer seats than normal in anticipation of the enrollment drop. Even so, they still have about 500 seats available, despite the fast-approaching beginning of the semester.
“Overall,” she said, “we have about 1,500 fewer students enrolled in ancient scripture classes this fall than we had in fall of 2012.”
The department is working to make sure they don’t schedule too many, or too few of these classes.
“Scheduling is an imprecise art at best, and trying to anticipate what would happen this fall was really difficult,” Ehat said. “The biggest change we made as we considered that we probably wouldn’t have as many freshman men as in the past was to combine returned missionaries and those who have not served missions into the same Book of Mormon classes.”
She said they began doing this in April and will continue at least into Winter 2014.
The months following President Monson’s historic announcement were filled with updates from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints about the change, including a new MTC in Mexico and 58 new missions opened throughout the world, and speculation concerning enrollment drops in colleges state-wide.
According to Deseret News, Utah state colleges were anticipating enrollment drops as high as 10 percent, but overall their reported numbers are not as drastic, and many colleges credit a bill passed during Utah’s legislative session, SB51, which allows the presidents of state colleges to offer in-state tuition to out-of-state students based on merit.
While this law does not apply to BYU, a private institution, the dip in enrollment will not spur any major school-wide changes.
“We’re not making any major changes to any programs right now,” Hollingshead said.
Hollingshead added that he expects enrollment will go back to normal in a matter of years.