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Editor’s note: This story pairs with another titled “New LDS Pathway program will affect the church’s Perpetual Education Fund”
Gossip started in the small town of Ploiesti, Romania, among members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Pathway, the LDS Church’s online educational system, was about to be made available in the country.
The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Feb. 7 the expansion of the Pathway program to become BYU—Pathway Worldwide.
Pathway Worldwide officially started May 1. The original Pathway program has already spread to more than 400 locations across the globe because of demand. There are currently 219 Pathway locations in the U.S. and Canada, with 218 international locations — including the Bucharest, Romania location that opened in 2015.
Andrei Popa, a Romanian native who had always dreamed of going to a church school, talked about the excitement he remembered feeling upon hearing the Pathway program was about to be made available in his country.
“There was a lot of gossip and people talking and excited about Pathway coming to Romania,” Popa said. “I had always wanted to go to BYU, but since Pathway was coming, I didn’t have to leave to go to BYU.”
Being able to stay in his own country while learning enabled Popa to not only continue serving in his small branch in Ploiesti, but also to find an excellent job opportunity in the Romania that he loves.
Pathway Worldwide is the integration of the existing Pathway program — or pre-college preparatory program — with the LDS Church’s different online university degree programs.
This expansion means BYU Provo, BYU–Hawaii and LDS Business College will all now play a large part in the Pathway program. The original program funneled all degrees through BYU–Idaho, whereas now unique degrees and certificates will be available from each university.
Clark Gilbert, who had been serving as president of BYU-Idaho, was appointed to become the president of the new BYU Pathway Worldwide program on Feb. 7.
Gilbert’s replacement is President Henry J. Eyring, who had been serving as the academic vice president of BYU–Idaho. He is also the son of President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the church’s First Presidency.
Gilbert said it was very humbling to receive this new assignment and he’s excited about the growth of the program.
“There is so much excitement (about Pathway) right now. On the one hand, it draws new students to the program,” Gilbert said. “I would hope … any BYU student who knows someone who would benefit from a church education but can’t come to Provo or Rexburg or Laie because of life circumstances would say, ‘Hey, go to pathway.lds.org and find out about it. Sign up for it,’ and that might be a family member or a friend back home or someone from your mission.”
Current plans include organizing Pathway so it can work wherever the church is organized. Gilbert said he will follow the LDS Institute program in establishing Pathway around the world.
Gilbert also said there would be new degrees or programs opening up with the new expansion, but not because of the announcement.
“This was a course that was already set and that will continue to see new degrees come along. There’s not a big flurry of activity because of the announcement,” Gilbert said. “The operations of the program will just continue in a very deliberate, steady expansion.”
Pathway is a much more affordable schooling option for many members of the church. With discounted rates that differ based on region, the U.S. pricing is currently only $60 per credit hour. In Ghana, the cost it is about $10 per credit hour. Compare that to the average U.S. undergraduate credit hour cost of $465.75, based on a University of Nebraska-Lincoln study.
As a result, some have speculated Pathway could take away from the on-campus population. Gilbert said the organization isn’t worried about this.
“We don’t see that at the present time. One thing that you’ve got to remember is that we’ve been doing this for seven years now,” Gilbert said, “It’s not really taking students away from the campuses. It’s growing students who could have never had an opportunity to come here in the first place. In some ways, because we’re opening the door to education to so many more students, we actually believe that you’ll see more students come to (the church schools) because of BYU—Pathway.”
Some international students worry about whether their degrees from the U.S. will be accepted in their native countries, Popa said. Two of his fellow members in Romania expressed concern about this.
Popa ended up taking a break from his Pathway experience, in part because of this fear.
Others see new horizons opening because of the program. Draper resident Linda Miller has five children and decided to go back to school through Pathway at age 60.
“I’m a walking billboard for Pathway,” Miller said. “I talk to everybody about it and encourage people to pursue it if they have any interest.”
One thing that drew her to the program was that her previous credits from Utah State University could transfer over.
“If you’ve had schooling before, they consider every credit you’ve taken before,” Miller said.
With all the new excitement about the program’s expansion, Gilbert said church members should keep an eye on where the program goes.