My son was recently admitted to BYU for the upcoming fall semester. Here are some things about BYU we discovered in the application process:
- BYU is mind-blowingly cheap. It is about a tenth the cost of other universities he applied for and twice what we would have to pay for an in-state tuition assuming we could somehow qualify as residents having lived abroad for two and a half years. When room & board and other incidental costs are included, that gap is narrowed a little so that other schools were only 4 times the cost of BYU.
- BYU students are smart and good looking. However, given the number of religious schools on this list I suspect the author is particularly hot for Christians.
- BYU is very selective. It is not easy to get in like it was when I attended. In fact, my ACT score (26) was considered “honors” level when I was accepted in 1986. According to the distribution chart we saw in 2011 in our son’s guidance counselor office, applicants with a 26 ACT no longer get in unless they have a much higher GPA than I had.
- The return on investment for BYU is far better than other schools. According to data pulled from a CNN study, NYU costs $193K with a 30 year ROI of $729K. The annualized net ROI is 9.9. Boston U has a total cost of $191K to graduate with a 30 year ROI of 797K and an annualized net ROI of 9.8. BYU absolutely kills that with a total cost of $58K, a 30 year net ROI of 797K, and an annualized net ROI of 14.1!
My son was admitted with worse grades than I had (and mine were no great shakes) but a significantly better ACT score (33) and as a graduate of a very prestigious international private school. Even with those pluses, the mission age change may have tipped him over the line. Based on rankings and prior admission rates shown to us by his guidance counselor, he was on the cusp.
Compared to other universities, BYU is an extremely good investment. Tuition is so low that only 31% of students carry debt, and even with this incredibly low tuition 66% of students receive financial aid.
Which brings me to my titular question: Is the church over-subsidizing BYU tuition?
- Tuition is not just low; it is ridiculously low compared to other schools. BYU tuition has remained fairly consistent while other schools have increased 400% nationwide in the US. Most in-state tuitions are still twice as high as BYU – or more! – with the exception of University of Utah (which is perhaps driven down by BYU’s low tuition).
- Tuition is this low thanks to tithing contributions, paid for by all members. Whether their kids attend or not. And while the number of students admitted remains constant, the number of members subsidizing with no personal benefit has grown.
- Only 26,000 students are admitted each year, and the bar is higher and higher. You may in all reality subsidize the education of the kid who took your kid’s spot.
- Some of those funds could be diverted to help defray mission costs. The church has recently made a plea for more members to donate to the missionary fund in the wake of the huge influx of new missionaries. Clearly there is a need.
My suggestion is to reduce the subsidy to put BYU on par with out of state tuition at the University of Utah. This would free up more spots as a higher number of Utah residents would choose the already cheap alternatives they have available that non-Utah residents cannot access. Additionally, we could then use those funds for other aims: subsidy of the missionary program, to spruce up our buildings a bit in anticipation of their increased use, or humanitarian objectives.
Of course, given that I’m presently benefiting, maybe they should take a few years to think it over.
**Originally posted at Wheat & Tares; revised and updated for BCC.