How BYU makes general education affordable, fulfilling

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Students at BYU experience a unique education that offers both general education requirements and religion requirements. BYU aims “to assist individuals in their quest for perfection and eternal life.” (Jaren Wilkey)

Most colleges across the U.S. require some form of general education and BYU is no exception.

There are 5,999 colleges in the U.S., according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Less than 100 of those colleges have open curriculums where students can follow their own educational path without meeting any general education requirements.

Nathan Wilford, a BYU freshman, expressed his dissatisfaction with the number of classes unrelated to his major in biology, especially since he aims for a future profession in the medical field.

“I understand the reasoning behind these requirements but it feels like too much,” he said. “There are too many classes taking away from focusing on my major.”

Students are required to take one class for each of BYU’s 13 learning areas, each of which has a two to three credit rating. This is in line with BYU’s aim to equip its students with the essential academic skills to think soundly, communicate effectively and to reason proficiently in quantitative terms. 

BYU stands out, particularly in its religious education requirements. Undergraduates must complete a minimum of 14 religious credits to graduate. Surprisingly though, the religious requirements were not part of Wilford’s complaints. 

While there are universities throughout the country that offer more flexible models, Wilford said he wouldn’t trade his experience at BYU in order to fast-track his education goals. 

“I think going to a different college would be better for my education in terms of streamlining it. But I don’t think I would take that trade-off because it would be a very different environment somewhere else. I think the social aspect of being a member of the Church is the best here,” he said. 

Even with general education requirements, BYU strives to keep education affordable for its students.

According to a 2022 Education Data Initiative report, the average private 4-year university charges $1,365 per credit hour. That is $4,095 per course. 

Comparing costs, at BYU, the average full-time student only pays around $262 for each credit hour or $786 per 3-credit course. 

This helps students take a variety of courses throughout their undergraduate experience without a high financial burden. 

Another unique thing about BYU is its FlexGE program, a general education program that students can enroll in even without being officially enrolled at BYU. It is an in-person experience where young adults can take general classes and participate in campus life and activities.

Kynlee Walker came to BYU through the FlexGE program after she was not initially admitted to BYU, her dream school. 

Now an admitted sophomore, she says her opportunity to take so many general classes before being admitted was a positive experience. One of her first classes at BYU was an introduction to ethics class, which she said was surprisingly interesting and helpful even though she probably would have never taken it on her own.

“But I think it taught me a lot and it helped me create good study habits and writing habits that ended up benefitting me in the rest of my classes at BYU,” she said. 

Clint Payne, the FlexGE program manager, agreed that the time students take to learn about other subject groups is time well spent and not wasted.

“It is the thing for students to say that there are too many general education classes or that it is a waste of time. The big thing is that these classes help students with their futures,” he said. “In our lives, we have to work with many different kinds of people, so branching out of your field of study and group is very valuable.” 

He explained that if students want a way to fast-track their experience, BYU advisement counselors can help students complete their bachelor’s degree in three years.

BYU-Idaho and Ensign College also offer more than forty online certificates and degrees through BYU-Pathway.

For help fulfilling the general education requirements, BYU students can access Schedule Builder.

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