Universities with LDS populations weigh in on the effect of the LDS mission age on enrollment

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When Heejin Yi heard the news of the lowered mission ages for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, her mind turned not only to the prospect of serving a mission but also to the effect it would have on the college she would attend next year.

In the October 2012 General Conference, President Thomas S. Monson announced that young women could serve at age 19 instead of 21 and young men could serve at age 18 after graduating high school.

Yi, a high school senior in Colorado Springs, Colo., said she knows the age change will affect the college she attends next year. She is looking at attending an LDS school.

“There are going to be no freshman boys,” Yi said. “All the freshman classes are going to be all girls now. It is going to be so different not to see all of these guys because the missionary age has changed.”

While many of the effects of the LDS mission age change are still undecided, colleges with LDS populations have considered the effect of the change on their schools.

BYU-Idaho

Marc Stevens, the university spokesman at BYU–Idaho, said in an email the student population at BYU–Idaho will likely decrease over the next two years.

“The change in enrollment will begin Winter semester 2013,” Stevens said in an email. “Decreased enrollments will likely extend through the middle of 2014. Enrollment numbers are expected to increase in the Fall of 2014.”

BYU–Idaho currently has an enrollment cap set at 15,000 full-time equivalent (FTE). In Fall 2012, the FTE was 14,300. The enrollment cap is set by the Board of Trustees.

“The Board recently approved a new enrollment cap of 18,000 FTE students, which takes effect in 2014,” Stevens said in an email.

No changes in the admission process have occurred because of the age change.

“We encourage potential students to apply and be admitted prior to their missions,” Stevens said in an email. “Once they receive their calls, we encourage them to submit a missionary deferment to secure their place at the university and hold any scholarships they have received.”

BYU-Hawaii

BYU–Hawaii also has not made any changes to the admission process because of the age change according to Michael Johansen, director of communications at BYU–Hawaii.

“We’re doing a lot of analysis just like all of the schools, and we’re looking at it from a bunch of different angles,” Johansen said. “We actually anticipate there will be more female students who are choosing to go on missions early.”

Johansen said there will not be long-lasting changes in enrollment but there will be a slight decrease as the initial group, especially females, leaves to go on missions.

“After one cycle, there shouldn’t be any change,” Johansen said.

Johansen said the next application cycle may have more female applicants than male applicants, but this change may not happen because of the large majority of international students at BYU–Hawaii.

“The overwhelming majority of our students who are international are already returned missionaries,” Johansen said. “We are the only CES school that has a specific target area for international students. That roughly 50 percent ratio actually categorizes us as the most international university in the United States.”

LDS Business College

LDS Business College also expects some changes in enrollment. According to Renae Richards, director of enrollment management at LDS Business College, the school is seeing more students defer enrollment for missions.

“In past semesters, few students deferred enrollment for missions,” Richards said in an email. “Most did so because they received a scholarship. Space was available and it was an easy process to reapply and be readmitted. Deferrals were not required. With the new announcement we are seeing an increase in deferrals including from students who do not have scholarship awards.”

Southern Virginia University

Though not operated or owned by the LDS Church, Southern Virginia University, with a 92 percent LDS population, is making changes due to the LDS mission-age change.

On Nov. 20, 2012, SVU announced the creation of a block program beginning in January 2013 in hopes of accommodating future missionaries who do not have time to attend a full semester before entering the field. The eight-week block allows future missionaries to attend more schooling before a mission. In addition, the second block at the end of the semester allows returning missionaries to enroll in classes during the middle of a semester.

Burke Olsen, vice president of communications and marketing at SVU, said there will be an initial drop in enrollment because of the mission age change.

“We anticipate a small shift initially, but once missionaries start coming back from the field, we expect to be where we are right now or higher,” Olsen said.

Currently, SVU can accommodate between 850–900 students but has plans of growing to 1,200. In August, the university launched a capital campaign to raise funds for the university to increase its maximum enrollment capacity.

SVU does not anticipate any changes to the admission process and plans to admit the same number of students admitted in previous years.

“We will encourage students to apply to the university for a specific semester and then announce their deferment afterwards,” Olsen said.

Olsen said SVU will continue to have a focus on recruiting returned missionaries. The university currently offers a $2,000 annual grant to returned missionaries.

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