The LDS Church and Higher Education: The Case for Divestment

If you were a  Mormon child any time before the mid-1970s, you probably remember the Pennies-by-the-Inch” campaigns in primary. They worked like this: from time to time, they would bring out the Pennies-by-the-Inch materials, and we were all supposed to collect one penny for inch of every of our height. We would measure ourselves to discover how much we owed, and then we would spend the next week or two gathering pennies to donate to the Church-owned Primary Children’s Hospital. For many of us, it was our first brush with philanthropy.

It has been some time since I have seen a “Pennies by the Inch” or any other fundraising campaign for a Church hospital. Largely, this is because there are no Church hospitals any more. In 1974, the First Presidency announced that the Church was getting out of the hospital business. “The growing worldwide responsibility of the Church,” they wrote, “makes it difficult to justify provision of curative services in a single, affluent, geographical locality.”

This does not mean that the Primary Children’s Hospital, LDS Hospital, and the Church’s thirteen other hospitals were kicked to the curb and left to fend for themselves. The Church created a new non-profit organization to run these enterprises. It recruited a Board of Directors, set up endowments, and gave them everything they needed to survive and thrive as independent entities. And thrive they have. The Primary Children’s Hospital, which was once supported by the pennies of Mormon children, is now one of the top-ranked pediatric hospitals in the country—despite not having any official Church support for more than forty years.[1]

Now, let’s talk about BYU. You may have heard that the Lord’s University is currently embroiled in a dispute over the way it investigates reports of rape and sexual abuse. As all universities must, BYU has a Title IX office to handle such investigations; however, unlike nearly every other university in the country, BYU uses information gained in Title IX investigations to investigate rape victims for other Honor Code violations. Whatever one thinks of this policy from a religious or moral perspective (and, to be clear, I think it is reprehensible), it is simply not an acceptable position for an institution of higher education in 2016. The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is going to win this one. They have all the cards because they control access to federal student aid money. There is no endgame scenario that does not involve BYU backing down.

But there’s more on the horizon. The Brigham Young Universities are on a collision course with federal regulators and accrediting bodies on a number of issues, including same-sex marriage, gender-specific hiring practices, diversity training (including sexual-orientation diversity), housing policies, and the recognition of transgendered students. If the LDS Church continues to operate BYU essentially as a Church, they will continue to run into conflicts over these kinds of issues—some of which will place what they perceive as the mission of the Church in direct conflict with the expectations that our society has for institutions of higher education.

There are lots of ways to deal with these tensions, and there are a lot of models to use. Thousands of colleges and universities in the United States have religious missions, but very few of them are operated entirely as extensions of their sponsoring denominations. And none that I know of have the level of operational oversight, or the level of institutional investment, that BYU has with the LDS Church.

This is decidedly not true in my world of Catholic higher education. Of the  247 Catholic colleges and universities in the United States, for example, only one university (The Catholic University of America) and a handful of seminaries and small colleges are owned by the Catholic Church. The rest are ministries of individual dioceses, religious orders, or just Catholic investors who want to create a religious experience for Catholic students. Among Protestant universities, there is an even wider range of models, ranging from schools like Southern Methodist University, where the religious affiliation is little more than a faint cultural memory, to Bob Jones University, whose religious positions have made it difficult to secure accreditation for its programs.

These current and pending conflicts between the Church and the World™ provide us with a good opportuntiy to reflect on the extent to which running institutions of higher education really is part of the Church’s three-fold mission. I do not mean to say that the Church should run and hide because the big bad civil rights agencies are being mean to them. I would suggest, though, that the current regulatory conflicts expose some of the difficulties inherent in being a school that is also a church. It is just possible that such a reflection about education in 2016 might suggest to Church leaders the same thing that reflection about hospitals suggested in 1974: the wisdom of partial or complete divestment.

I’m not saying that the BYUs (-P, -H, and-I) should become a secular universities. That is not going to happen under any plausible scenario. They will always be LDS schools with Mormon traditions, values, student bodies, and faculty members. And they will always be able to provide exceptional educations and social environments to LDS students. None of this requires the Church to maintain its current level of investment and control. There are a lot of positions in between total separation and and complete existential sameness–and the country is full of religious organizations that have found such positions with regard to the schools that they sponsor.

What would change significantly would be the price. Currently, about 2/3 of a BYU students’ education is subsidized by the Church, making BYU’s tuition far less than that of comparable private schools and about equal to that of a large state university. If BYU became an independent entity, tuition would probably double or go even higher. But I have no doubt that the market would bear these increases easily. BYU is a great value, and it would still be a great value even if it charged the same tuition as most other private schools. LDS students would just have to pay the market value of their education–just like, you know, everybody else.

And this is perhaps the most important reason that the Church should consider divestment. When I started at BYU in 1984, the acceptance rate was 96%. Almost everybody who wanted to go got in. The rate is now 47% and falling fast, while the academic profile is going through the roof.[2] This means that some of the wealthiest, brightest, and most academically prepared LDS students in the country—the same students who already have a wealth of educational opportunities—have their tuition subsidized by the tithes of the Church members—a majority of whom do not live in the United States and do not have even theoretical access to Church-sponsored education.

In the end, this is just as much about justice as it is about separating the functions of churches and universities. I believe that it is important that BYU be free be a university. But it just as important that the LDS Church be free to be a Church, and that it spend the bulk of its resources doing Church-y things. Remember what the First Presidency said in 1974:  “The growing worldwide responsibility of the Church makes it difficult to justify provision of curative services in a single, affluent, geographical locality.”

Might not the same sentiment apply to the provision of educational services to the small fraction of Church members who are now able to attend Brigham Young University.

 

[1] It is important to note here that the Church’s decision to divest itself of hospital holdings eliminated one of the most high-profile positions for women in the LDS Church, as, before divestment, the Primary President served as the Chair of the Primary Children’s Hospital Board.

[2] The acceptance rate at BYU-Hawaii is even lower. But, giving credit where credit is due, we must note that BYU-Idaho currently accepts 100% of its applicants.

Comments

  1. Daniel T says:

    I’ve always wondered why the church continued to fund higher education when it started to close off church owned high schools in favour of use of the Perpetual Education Fund, for the sake of equity of access. Could not the argument be applied equally to higher education?

  2. Clark Goble says:

    It is interesting how all the dire warnings people made about issues like colleges and religious freedom were denounced as conspiracy theories and slippery slope fallacies. Now people take it for granted colleges will have to become secular.

  3. Clark Goble says:

    By secular I mean your “current regulatory conflicts expose some of the difficulties inherent in being a school that is also a church.” you later say they shouldn’t be s Clark but it’s hard to see what mean by that.

  4. Not a Cougar says:

    Michael, I have to disagree with you as to what the enrollment will look like post-divestment. I didn’t attend BYU as you might guess, but I think the price tag you mention, if accurate, is going to scare off a lot of Mormon kids who otherwise would have come, worked their way through undergrad and graduate with relatively little debt. Ditto for married grad students. You’re left with people willing to take on $100k in loans to get an undergraduate education and rich kids. I simply don’t think BYU will be able to quickly rebrand itself as the new Wake Forest (formerly a Baptist school) to attract a significant number of non-LDS applicants to make up for the drop-off. Will there be enough of them to maintain the current enrollment?

    But hey, maybe BYU will finally get into the Pac 12!

  5. I reluctantly attended BYU starting in 99 and am so glad I did. It was a great blessing in my life and I regularly communicate with friends I made there. I think it was mostly due to the collection of faithful guys strengthening each other. I only attended devotionals if an apostle was there (and not all of those), regularly broke curfew, my major (econ) didn’t pray before class, etc. I hope the Church can find a way to keep attracting high quality students without its overbearing presence.

    I also understand the investment the church makes. BYU puts out highly educated people who are surrounded by generally faithful members and I’m sure the Church has stats on the activity levels of its attendees and it’s a good ROI. Hopefully they can find a way to make it work.

  6. Not a Cougar, you may be right. But BYU’s tuition for LDS students is currently $5,300 a year. If this doubled to $10,600 a year, it would still be less than half the price of even the least expensive private schools in the country. And it would be 1/4 the price of schools with a comparable academic reputation. So I am guessing that kids would still come.

  7. My divestment proposal: The church should endow BYU relatively generously. One billion dollars is a round number. It should see that the revised charter allows the church to appoint a few board seats in perpetuity, but no more than say, one fifth of the board. And then cut it loose.

    Note that I actually doubt that this proposal would have the effect of making BYU less conservative in most respects. SVU is instructive. I get the sense that is more culturally conservative than BYU. But apparently with less administrative madness, if the Title IX issue is any indicator.

    For what it’s worth, I’m a former Mormon BYU grad that counts himself as generally supportive of the university. Go Cougars.

  8. Hear! Hear! I’ve made most of these arguments myself, and I’ve heard them all. But this is probably the best and most comprehensive argument I have seen.
    In my memory and experience, there was some of this kind of discussion in the ’70s when (among other protests) Stanford and San Jose State refused to play BYU in football. The discussion heated up again in the ’80s when tuition across the country took a sharp move upward, and again in the late ’80s and ’90s as limits on enrollment at BYU (Provo) became obvious and constraining.
    I am surprised that Church ownership and operations has lasted so long. In trying to make sense of that persistence, I have come to think that BYU (all of them, but especially Provo) might best be thought of as The Church, not just owned- and -operated but as the Presence of the idealized LDS society (in some important people’s minds). Of course this exacerbates the church/state conflict.

  9. I’ve long been in favor of eliminating the BYU subsidy (or even just being more upfront about it – it seems to be an open secret).

    What really started to bother me with the BYU rape problem is that the Church is taking the widow’s mite, and not just subsidizing the tuition of (in a lot of cases) rich kids who could easily afford to go somewhere else… They are literally, in some cases, subsidizing the tuition of rapists. That makes me physically ill.

    And yet, if you decline to participate in this system, your bishop will tell you that you’re not worthy to enter the temple and symbolically stand in the presence of the Lord. It seems like something has gone really wrong here.

  10. Clark Goble says:

    Whoops autocorrect on my phone screwed up that last comment. Apologies. That last sentence should read, “you later say they shouldn’t be secular but it’s not clear what you mean by that.”

    It’s worth noting that the schools that the Church divested themselves of became state schools. So divesting doesn’t necessarily mean typical private school prices. That said states have cut higher education budgets across the country the past 15 years (and accounts for much of the increases in tuition). Utah, while not as bad as some states, is no exception.

    mkng1, I admit I attended in the early 90’s, but only my religion classes started with prayer. I’m surprised any other classes do.

    I’d be the first to admit BYU has never come close to reaching its potential, and administration nonsense has always been there. In particular while I love the idea of the honor code, in practice the office has been embarrassing. That said, for those who don’t like BYU there’s an other college in town with even more students. UVU is in no way as prestigious as BYU but it is an alternative for people who want BYU lite.

    The existence of UVU is one of many reasons why I’m not terribly persuaded by most arguments for getting rid of BYU.

  11. not a chance says:

    how about 15% tithing rate if your kids to a Church-sponsored school?

  12. Outstanding post, Michael. I think your point about the tuition subsidy now going to some of the students who need it the least is particularly important. I hope that people who have the opportunity to make this type of change are listening.

  13. I have long thought the church should mean test the subsidy of the tuition. Rich affluent Mormons should pay more while letting the children of the working class pay and developed countries pay less. Another option would be to create BYU Mexico and/or BYU Brazil.

    I am not so sure the church should divest, as you pointed out it is going to be a mock divesting anyway. It might decide instead to comply with reasonable rules like….Title IX. Most of these regulations are actually a pretty good idea. Treat LBGT individuals with dignity and fairness, provide birth control etc. The levers of federal student loan aid will still be there regardless of who owns the school officially.

    It’s sad really that we as a church people require so little transparency and accountability of our different church institutions. By common consent and all that. Such accountability would make the church and her institutions stronger in the long run. Opacity, money and time are a toxic mix for a university or anything else.

  14. The biggest problem I see with this premise is the fact that the church recognizes that the college years are, second to the mission years, the most formative for the rising generation. Double tuition and divest control, and you’re going to start losing millennialist at an even greater rate than you are now.

    That’s not to mention the fact that de-coupling BYU from the CES program disincentives a good chunk of seminary students.

    I understand the comparison to LDS hospitals Michael is trying to make, but I think the differences are too vast and too crucial.

  15. Porter says:

    My personal belief is that one of the main reasons the church won’t release its finances is that it doesn’t want members to see how much money goes to subsidize BYU.

    As far as the cost goes, I’m a fan of BYU because (1) I don’t pay tithing any more, and (2) my daughter goes there and it’s far cheaper than any other comparable school in the country, so thanks to all you tithe payers!! Incidentally I am an attorney and could easily afford to pay far more for my daughter to attend there — but nobody asked me for more, so I’m not complaining.

    Overall I think that the church justifies the expense of subsidizing BYU education because it sees BYU graduates as the future of the church. It’s a long term investment.

  16. Mortimer says:

    Wait, but if the church divested itself of BYU, where would children of GAs get automatic admission and free full tuition (as they do now and have for generations at the Y)?

    The church tried encouraging kids to go local and consider trade schools. That didn’t work. So they expanded, creating BYU-I and culturally supporting UVU and other shooters. They have no intention of divesting, they want to grow!!! But, of course they are growing in a snobbish academic way, pampering the elite. (Has anyone actually listened to the GAs gush over each graduating class at BYU and how these gifted students are the few, the brave, the chosen church leaders of tomorrow?)

    So here’s a question. What has happened over the past 25 ish years to those rejected each year from The Lord’s University? (The rejection rate of high profile students is 53%, but many more do not even qualify. BYU truly is the talented tenth. )

    How active are those who received rejection letters? How much do they pay to tithing comparatively? I am willing to bet the stats are sobering.

    Those members hide deep and lingering scars. They KNOW that any tithing they may pay now as struggling parents will fund educational opportunities to others that were denied to them and will statistically be denied to their children. So, they can pay for other people’s education, or save for their own children’s college funds (which will not be subsidized and cost much more). Bitter choices.

    And the church wonders why millennials and gen Ys are dropping out in record numbers. Mmmmmmm.

    I’d throw all my money at the devil himself to not let a wedge come between me and the church, but this whole corrupt system creates disparities and portrays God himself as an elitist intellectual SoB, only interested in the brighter choice intelligences predetermined as the called and chosen elect. All others never stood a chance.

    I don’t think that is who God is, I think the church needs to realign. Great post. Amen.

  17. The assumption made by many here is that the church is subsidizing BYU at the same rate it has in the past. BYU endowment recently past 1 billion.

    With BYU’s increased selectivity currrnt amd future graduates will earn more and donate more. I wouldn’t be surprised if BYU Provo fully subsidized itself in our lifetime.

    This is where your hospital analogy falls apart.

  18. Mike W. says:

    1) The prospect of cheap tuition is part of what allows middle class Mormon families to justify having more kids than average. If that goes away, the trend towards smaller families (which has been happening for a quite a while) will accelerate.
    2) It goes without saying that part of the value of BYU is Mormons finding marriage partners. BYU decreases the number of mixed-religion marriages that would otherwise occur. BYU-I is evidence of doubling down on this premise.
    3) I expect that over time, particular universities will become known as the preferred university of Mormons in that area. Before BYU-I came on the scene, for example, Texas A&M had a robust Mormon student population. More so than other universities such as Univ. of Texas. I live in a large city, and it seems that there are two main groups of Mormon kids–those that go to BYU-P or BYU-I, and those that go to local community colleges. I can’t think of a single person in my sphere here that has gone a different route. Which is kind of sad. Because I think the future of Mormonism is not a BYU-centric universe. It’s Mormon communities spread across the nation (and the world). I expect the church will reinvent things well after it is too late.

  19. I’m with you all the way until you throw in that comment about the majority of the church living outside the US when you talk about acceptance rates and tithing subsidized tuition. Perhaps I misinterpreted your comments but I don’t feel comfortable with the suggestion that just because the majority of the church lives outside of the US that they are paying a majority of the tithings or that their tithings (or a majority of their tithings) are subsidizing BYU. In fact, I would venture to guess that the tithings they pay plus the tithings of the rest of the church are subsidizing the local education programs (such as those stemming from the PEP). Moreover, the overwhelming majority of tithing does come from American and Canadian families. http://investigations.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/08/13/13262285-mormon-church-earns-7-billion-a-year-from-tithing-analysis-indicates. That’s not to imply that these families somehow deserve a subsidized Church education anymore than anyone else who meets BYU’s seemingly arbitrary admissions standards but I feel your comment is misleading and doesn’t add to the overall point of the article. Lastly, as long as I’m on my soap box, the cost of higher education in the US is extraordinarily more than anywhere in the world. It’s much less expensive for foreigners to go to college in their own country than it is for an American to go to college here. For example one of the more expensive private universities oversees, Oxford, an undergraduate tuition is about 9000 GBP or around $14,000 USD for the entire year (9 months). Comparable schools in the US like Duke, Harvard and even Notre Dame are $45-50,000 for the year. Public schools overseas are even less. Public schools in the US are even more than overseas. The UofU is $9,300. Where I live in Boston, the Univ of Mass is $14,000 or the same as attending Oxford. I get your point that we could be doing more to help educate overseas but let’s be practical when bringing up the obstaclesandvgoala faced their with those faced in the States.

  20. Mike W. says:

    One more point about change. Any change really ought to be occur in a graduated slow fashion. That is because families must plan for a university education for many years, and it’s not fair (in my opinion) to suddenly overturn the cart and leave families high and dry (if I may mix metaphors). Slow change allows families to adjust their planning. “Oh, so now I’m not going to plan to send my kid(s) to BYU. And the state university costs twice as much as BYU, so I’ll need to adjust my savings for that.”

  21. Legally, the author is clueless. There is no Title IX problem. There’s no issue with a school holding someone accountable for their honor code violations and no gender discrimination. Religious and private institutions are exempt from many of the suppose legal issues.

    Also the Church started many businesses such as hospitals, stores, banks, etc in the beginning because there was desperate need for them and they wanted it to be affordable with people struggling. As other businesses developed and monopolies disappeared, the need for the Church to maintain these business disappeared and it was better that as the Church and its business entities to separate to avoid any liabilities and other issues.

    BYU is a different story. BYU’s purpose is to provide a basic affordable education, spiritual/ safe environment for young men and women to develop socially, and provide opportunities for people to marry. They want to do the basic and do not want to expand its graduate programs into dental, medical, and other doctoral program. It maintains basic graduate programs to maintain a good academic reputation but does not invest in expensive graduate degrees except law school.

    There’s a reason BYU Hawaii and BYU Idaho almost have very few graduate programs.

    The Church’s singular biggest expense is BYU and other Church schools. It’s mission is different than simply providing an education. The Church wants to support all development. Saying BYU should separate demonstrates they fail to understand BYU’s purpose.

  22. These are interesting ideas, but they are wishful thinking. The changes BYU will have to make to comply with the law will be minimal. The church has more than enough money. It is spending hundreds of $millions on temples, many of which are partially used. It spends $billions on commercial enterprises. The ROI on the faithful members BYU produces is worth the current cost. The church is much more concerned about shrinkage than the price tag of its BYUs.

  23. Mike W. says:

    Ken, one of the points that is made is we don’t know exactly what the church thinks about BYU, nor what kind of investment it makes, because we are never directly told of such things.

  24. Jack Hughes says:

    Yes, Jaay Bee, that is its mission, but there is still the issue of equitable access. As it stands, BYU turns away thousands of deserving, faithful, tithe-paying applicants every year. It’s moving towards a separation of socioeconomic classes, where access is limited to a growing number of qualified church members. Total divestment would make this problem worse; if they start charging the going rate for private universities, then BYU will become even more exclusive, where the wealthy Mormon elite send their privileged children to meet and marry–with further-reaching consequences for the social stratification of future generations of church members. Or else would exacerbate the student debt crisis among Mormons.

    Some possible solutions include:
    -Setting a nominal base rate of tuition, roughly equivalent to what similar secular private universities are charging. Then apply generous amounts of need-based aid on an individual basis. That way, the children of the Romneys and Huntsmans will pay full freight, while costs will remain affordable for the majority.
    -Make the student body more representative of the Church. If BYU is the Church’s flagship educational institution and largest single tithe expense, it needs to look more like the global church that supports it. Over 50% should come from outside the US. More South Americans, more Africans.
    -Develop a system of smaller, regional BYU satellite campuses/extension centers/community colleges. They can provide community education programs, as well as associates degrees and trade certificates, and also serve as transfer point/feeder institutions for the larger BYUs. As I recall, something like this was being brainstormed in the 1960s or 70s, but BKP shot it down. Now that he’s out of the way, they can try to implement this again.
    -More aggressively recruit non-LDS students who are willing to pay the un-subsidized tuition, and hire more non-member faculty. Allowing a higher rate of non-members will help improve the diversity of thought, and reduce the dependence on tithes for support.
    -Invest more in institutes and LDS student communities at secular universities, making them an attractive alternative to BYU. Maybe provide LDS housing options and scholarships at state universities.

  25. Mike W. says:

    Jack,
    -Higher tuition would apply to whom? Of course you cite two wealthy families for whom the cost of college is not a consideration. But what about the family that has 5 kids and an income of 150k/year? If BYU costs three times what it would cost a state university, that will really change things.
    -BYU with 50% international students sounds like a disaster. Btw, what is preventing international students from attending BYU-I, with its more generous admission rates?
    -BYU already practices affirmative action, giving preferential admission to underrepresented minorities. Which goes against your notion of “separation of socioeconomic classes.”
    -Satellite campuses? What antiquated notion. BYU has already tackled this with the BYU-I online programs. We don’t need to take campuses to every locale. Computers bring the students to the classroom.
    -I agree with the notion of supporting institutes, although I have no idea what that practically means. A more useful and robust social hub?

  26. It’s probably true that BYU graduates are, on average, more likely to remain active, tithe-paying members throughout their entire lives. That’s often mentioned when this discussion comes up as a point in favor of using tithing to subsidize tuition. (I don’t care either way – I was never interested in BYU, and instead attended a university where the students are allowed to stay out all night and grow beards.)

    But – how true can the Church really be, if we have to *purchase* the loyalty of a small, privileged group of its members?

  27. Clark’s comment stands out as deserving a reply. The simple answer is Clark is 100% correct, and religious liberty gets the short end of the rights stick. Secularism demands conformity. Is the current policy a bad idea? Sure seems that way. But the Church will follow the Hillsdale model before divesting. Doubling down is more likely, although hopefully the honor code office would leave these issues to the individuals Bishop so that they get the pastoral care they need after a horrible experience but not. The administrative crap.

  28. John Mansfield says:

    I miss the farms and the canneries, and I regret the recent closing of LDS schools in Mexico City and New Zealand. “Their dominions upon the face of the earth were small.”

    List of Church Schools.—Following is a list of the Church schools now (1904) organized, and the names of the presiding officers, and location: .
    B. Y. University, Provo, Utah, Dr. George H. Brimhall, president; L. D. S. University, Salt Lake City, Utah, Prof. J. H. Paul, president; B. Y. College, Logan, Utah, Prof. J. H. Linford, president; Weber Academy, Ogden, Utah, Prof. D.O. McKay, principal; Snow Academy, Ephraim, Utah, Prof. N. E. Noyes, principal; Beaver Branch of the B. Y. University, Beaver, Utah, Prof. A. B. Anderson, princip.il; Emery Academy, Castle Dale, Utah, Prof. S. A. Harris, principal; Uintah Stake Academy, Vernal, Utah, Prof. J. W. Robinson, principal; Oneida Academy, Preston, Idaho, Prof. John Johnson, principal; Fielding Academy, Paris, Idaho, Prof. Richard Haag, principal; Ricks Academy, Rexburg, Idaho, Prof. Ezra Christianson, principal; Cassia Academy, Oakley, Idaho, Prof. Joseph Peterson, principal; St. Johns Academy, St. Johns, Arizona, Prof. F. A. Hinckley, principal; Thatcher Academy, Thatcher, Arizona, Prof. John Nash, principal; Snowflake
    Academy, Snowflake, Arizona, Prof. J. F. Hoyt, principal; Juarez Academy, Colonia Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, Prof. Guy C. Wilson, principal; Diaz Academy, Colonia Diaz, Chihuahua, Mexico, Prof. C. R. Fillerup, principal; Dublan Academy, Colonia Dublan, Chihuahua, Mexico, Prof. L. Paul Gordon, principal.

    Looking at that list, it appears that divested LDS schools do not continue an explicit LDS mission or governance, but some may continue to serve many LDS students. Anyone know what became of the Beaver Branch of the B. Y. University?

  29. Not a Cougar says:

    Michael, thanks for the info on the cost of tuition. If that’s the case, then I wonder if the jump in tuition will really only be 2-3 times current rates. Wouldn’t there be enormous pressure to push up tuition rates to those of other peer private schools?

    Jack, I’m from outside the Mormon Belt. What does Institute look like there? I attended an enormous state school (enrollment of 50k+) and our Institute had somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 regular students (and I may be over estimating due to many students taking multiple classes). Many signed up for classes just to get the convenient parking. Amenities included a pay-as-you-go snack bar, and ping pong, foosball and pool tables. We had good instructors to be sure, but it was nothing fancy. I can’t imagine the Church being willing to drop $1-2M into purchasing additional acreage close to the campus and tricking out the building with so as to compete with campus amenities just to get Mormon kids to hang out there more.

    Joni, I don’t necessarily think it’s about purchasing loyalty so much as normalizing Church activity during early adulthood and doing so by providing an affordable environment accessible to students with a wide range of household incomes. With the acceptance rates at BYU plunging (and poor applicants less able to afford college and SAT prep to be competitive), maybe that’s quite not the reality it once was, but, as I understand it, that’s still the goal.

  30. The fact that BYU students become fully committed LDS adults *who pay tithing* is actually a great argument in favor of divestment. Give it a decade or two for a gradual rollback of the tithing subsidy, but also (yes I know this would NEVER happen) allow contributions to BYU to count as tithing. Because we *already* support BYU with our tithing, but instead of pretending we don’t know about it, be open. Heck. make it a separate box on the tithing slip. That way, people who care about BYU and want to support it are able to financially do so, but the rest of us don’t. I mean, somehow the US Government has figured this out – if I make a financial contribution to my alma mater (Go Bulldogs!) I get to write it off on my taxes. If investing tithing dollars into BYU, to produce more tithing payers, is a solid ROI then the university should have no problem becoming financially self-sufficient.

    (And while I’m fantasizing, I’d also do away with guaranteed admission and free tuition for GA descendants. That just smacks of priestcraft.)

    But *don’t* insist on maintaining financial opacity. *Don’t* take money from the pockets of the poorest members to subsidize tuition of a privileged few. And *don’t* make it a condition of so-called ‘temple worthiness.’

  31. I guess what I’m saying is that if the BYU tithing subsidy is good and right and morally defensible and financially sound, then drop the secrecy and the coercion.

    Ugh. I guess I have a lot of strong feelings about this issue but I’ll try to shut up now :D

  32. Nate S. says:

    I will start by saying that I did not attend BYU, so I probably do not have any first-hand grounds for condemning any of the school’s campus policies. I have plenty of opinions, but I won’t share them here.

    However, the one aspect of BYU I have every right to complain about is the tithing subsidy. I used to feel like tithing was “the Lord’s money” and I didn’t care where it was used. But now my feelings are swinging the other way.

    I have serious reservations about the widow’s mite subsidizing a bunch of overachieving rich kids’ education.

    Couldn’t and shouldn’t that money be used throughout the world to enrich the lives of less fortunate people throughout the world?

    And lest someone trot out the analogy to where my taxes are spent, I would say that I have free access to publicly funded roads and buildings. We are all direct beneficiaries of defense spending. We all have equal access to publicly funded civic projects.
    However, the same cannot be said about BYU.

  33. John Mansfield says:

    “BYU is a non-profit corporation affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and significant portions of university operating costs are paid with the tithes of Church members.”

    There you go, Joni. Secrecy dropped, as it has been in every BYU catalog explanation of tuition. Still stuck with the coercion.

  34. How many dollars is “a significant portion”?

  35. it's a series of tubes says:

    As it stands, BYU turns away thousands of deserving, faithful, tithe-paying applicants every year.

    Each of whom could, if they were willing, attend BYU-I in Rexburg. This access crap is a red herring.

    But, of course they are growing in a snobbish academic way, pampering the elite.

    Hmm, during my time at the BYU (mid 90s through early 2000s), BYU raised its enrollment cap, reduced the number of hours required to graduate from 128 to 120, and raised the amount of “C” and “D” credit that could count toward graduation. These are all anti-academic, anti-elite decisions. I thought they were crap decisions at the time, but I understand and support them now. BYU has a mission beyond academics.

    *Don’t* take money from the pockets of the poorest members to subsidize tuition of a privileged few.

    Joni, this trope is often repeated but is factually incorrect. As one who has seen some of the relevant numbers, let me give you an example: Let’s pick a ward in central Africa. Over the course of an average year, the $$ expended by the Church for that ward (building, utilities, insurance, budget, proportional share of temple operational expenses, etc) exceeds the tithing receipts of that ward by somewhere between 3x and an order of magnitude. Far from the “widows mite” of any ward member being sent to Utah to cover BYU expenses, the Church is investing heavily in that African ward. Similar results obtain for most central and south American units.

    In contrast, in 2015 my local unit (upper middle class suburban USA, but not Utah) took in tithing receipts of more than 200x our annual ward budget; these tithing receipts represented approx. 25x the total Church expenses for our unit. As you can see, my unit is subsidizing the operation of numerous other units – as it should, because we can. This is how Church finances work. The bulk of the funds collected come from middle class and upper class Americans and Canadians, and are redistributed worldwide.

  36. (or to approach it differently) When I pay a dollar of tithing, how many cents of that dollar go to subsidize BYU tuition?

    Looks like there is still plenty of secrecy to me, but YMMV.

  37. sirdidymus24 says:

    I’m one of those that got a rejection letter from BYU-P back in 2000. My mom sobbed. I had to comfort her. I simply said, “Screw BYU” and that sentiment hasn’t changed. My dad attended BYU law school and my older sister and brother attended. I had the grades. I never took drugs, had sex or even kissed a boy. I had the ecclesiastical endorsement. I had planned my whole life to attend that school. I was fed the fairy tale that if I was good, I’d get in. I didn’t. But my friends who were sexually active and had experimented in all kinds of drugs made it. One of those friends got pregnant there. So yeah, I’m pretty bitter about paying for other people’s educations (especially rapists and sexual predators!)–and if I don’t, I get my temple recommend taken away (which already happened once). I thankfully went to a “secular” university as did my husband. We’ve lived with my parents for 10 years because of our crippling student debt after graduating into a recession (lack of funds being the reason we stopped paying for awhile and had our temple recommends taken. Heaven forbid the GA’s kids don’t have those Child and Family Development classes paid for!). As I’ve talked to friends about their BYU experiences, I’ve become convinced that if I had made it in, I would’ve left the church. I’m too “liberal.” I think the Honor Code is ridiculous and now it’s been proven it’s harmful. I’m really struggling about paying my tithing to support a school that treats sexual assault victims with such contempt. I think BYU supports and supplies the toxic parts of LDS culture like exclusivity, hypocrisy and bigotry. I will rejoice the day when my tithing funds stop supporting such ugliness.

  38. When I attended BYU, I worked in the International Office. The school goes to great extent to make sure that people outside the “rich, white” demographic get the blessings of attending BYU. The amount of money spent on BYU is a fraction of the money spent on investing in third-world local unit development, education, and humanitarian effort which the Church does (but does not trumpet for a reason.)

    I was one of those relatively wealthy (on a global, though not American scale) students who was lucky enough to be able to attend BYU. I worked part time, and paid for half of my education (while my parents subsidized the rest.) I burned myself out getting through BYU in three years for a degree that took most people five because I needed to be as economical as possible. I grew up outside of the Mormon corridor, and the scientific education I received in BYU was exactly what I needed. Nowhere else is it so easy to understand things both spiritual and physical. I have never sat well as a member in the Church, but there I was able to come to terms with my discipleship.

    I know this is going to sound harsh, but I don’t know how else to say it. If one don’t know what one is talking about because one has never been to BYU, or never been involved in executing the service or humanitarian efforts of the Church, it might be a good time to apply a dose of humility to one’s opinions.

    As far as where the tithing that goes to BYU comes from, listen to tubes, he knows what he’s talking about.

  39. John Mansfield says:

    How much is a significant portion? It’s significant. Meaningful. Things wouldn’t be the same without it.

    In dollars? Well, revealing numbers about anything—the number of temple endowments received last year, percent home teaching for the whole church last month, number of flowers on Temple Square—giving detailed numerical information about the operations of the Lord’s church would be like letting us eat from the tree of life. That would frustrate the plan of redemption, which would be far more frustrating than not being able to get a straight answer to a simple question. It’s all for the best to keep everything vague.

  40. While we’re at it, seat the presidents of the General Auxiliaries in the Board of Trustees.

  41. Tired and broke saint says:

    Yes!

    Let wage-earning Mormons finance an institution that the church can turn into another for-profit cash-cow. No doubt this will allow the church to announce an end to tithing or, at least, a number of the other solicitations. And, no doubt, it will allow the church to divert more to actual charitable work that will bring the ratio of funds collected to fund distributed closer to 2%.

  42. Clark Goble says:

    Tubes (7:04) I confess that when there was pressure to start dropping academic requirements and difficulty of classes in the 90’s I was rather upset. I still think that was and is a bad idea. There’s nothing at odds with a college focused on academics and is also Mormon. (IMO)

    Responding to a general theme in many of the comments I don’t think there should be an expectation for BYU. For those simply looking to date Mormons who come (as I did) from areas without many Mormons there’s UVU, BYU-I, and then the satellite programs like independent study or the campus up in Salt Lake City. Likewise if you don’t get accepted out of high school (and no one should ever pin hopes for acceptance at any one college) you can go to an other college, get your grades up and transfer in.

    Nate S (6:48) I confess I don’t get the “subsidizing a bunch of overachieving rich kids’ education.” While I think the Church could easily and perhaps should increase tuition to match the U of U (which itself is already reasonably cheap) I don’t quite see the problem. As others have noted there are big benefits to the Church from BYU.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think there are lots of valid reasons to criticize BYU. I think some of the benefits BYU offers to the Church could be much better with some changes. (In particular I find the fact most BYU religion classes are still largely the same as seminary/institute to be disappointing)

    The idea we’d all be better off if the Church stopped subsidizing BYU just confuses me as does the surface idea that the Church should only be making egalitarian or communitarian transfers that benefit all the same. The basic premise people are giving seems just plain weird to me. As do some of the economic assumptions about tithing itself. (There’s a case to be made that tithing should be paid for in a more progressive fashion – but the current program is by revelation and in any case that’s an orthogonal question to funding of BYU I think.)

    Cougar (5:52) Realize that published tuition rates at most schools are meaningless. Often few actually pay this rates. I was reading a story this week about several colleges where literally no one paid the published rates. That’s as true at Harvard/Yale as anywhere. The rich are expected to make big donations (often millions). The poor and sometimes even middle class are heavily subsidized. I’ll be the first to admit that funding of higher education in the US makes little sense. Further I think the biggest issue is the drop in state funding of public schools leading to higher tuition rates. Private schools then adjust their own rates in response.

    In a way BYU does similar things. There are lots of scholarships along various criteria (not just academics). But also BYU ensures there are lots of jobs available for those who don’t qualify for such things which helps as well. The job market in Provo overall isn’t as good as it once was, simply due to the rise of UVU and then other types of educational programs plus the large number of singles who come just for dating purposes. Still the unemployment rate is low as is the cost of living. (Provo/Orem is seriously overbuilt for housing driving down apartment costs)

    Regarding institute purchases, it often is more complex. The land is often inherently valuable and constitutes an investment. This is certainly true of the church/institute building in Berkeley where the Priesthood room has a fireplace (working) and there are lots of nice couches. (I believe the building was originally the home a billionaire purchased for his mistress back in the 30’s although I don’t recall the details) Institute buildings on other campuses I’ve been to likely have value as well. So the cost breakdown ends up being more complex than it first appears. Also typically the buildings were purchased decades ago when land was much cheaper.

    Lyle (5:38) I should note that my comment was less about the reality of being forced to secularism so much as the shift in less than ten years from people ridiculing the idea to promoting the idea. To title IX I think at best it’s a highly flawed law with lots of unintended consequences. So not everyone agrees it’s the unquestionable good that some do.

    Jack (1:25) As others note there are satellite campuses including I believe at the Mill Creek development the Church did up in SLC. The internet has also opened up opportunities here that BYU, as with other colleges, have taken advantage of. I’m not sure internet classes really match going to a real class. I think they’re better seen as an adjunct to actually attending. (I used the pre-internet version to ensure I got my GEs taken care of and graduated on time – although my majors all had many more required credits than what BYU lists for graduation)

    The point about divestiture making the egalitarian aims of some worse not better is a really good point though.

    Jaay (11:16) I agree with most of what you say. That said, I’m not sure I agree with BYU’s choice to devalue graduate programs for a variety of reasons. For one this often limits the type of research that can be done at BYU. Second I think having graduate programs would help students who attended other universities. Get a degree at LSU and then come to BYU for a graduate program and perhaps get married. I also think that in some ways the lack of graduate programs undermines BYU’s academics in general. I say that recognizing a problem at other universities is a lack of focus on teaching with colleges often abusing graduate students to teach classes. However one could have graduate programs while maintaining a focus on mentoring and teaching. The fact that BYU chooses to have solid graduate programs in law, accounting, and business shows how easily it could have better graduate programs in the sciences and engineering.

  43. Nate S. says:

    If it walks like a duck & talks like a duck. . .
    By their fruits ye shall know them. . .

    ** tl;dr:
    None of the BYU graduates in my ward know how to relate to me, my wife, or anyone else who hasn’t lived the “nominal” Mormon experience. This amplifies a negative feedback cycle of pain and abandonment within those looking for friendship & connection.

    ** The long-ish rant:
    I’m coming from the point of view of one who did not attend BYU, not through any moral failings or “bad” life choices. I didn’t attend because it was never anything that called to me. I was never brought up with the BYU mythos. College was important to me, but the BYU experience was not.
    Church membership was important to me, but the BYU experience was not.

    Fast forward 20 years, and now I find that in my corner of the world church membership & the BYU experience are very much conflated & convolved.

    The majority of active members in our ward are BYU graduates, and none of them know how to relate to anyone who has gone through my particular set of life experiences. Not a drop of empathy or sympathy for what I’ve gone through, much less leaving the ninety & nine to rescue the one. Any attempts I’ve made to voice my own sets of concerns and points of view are immediately washed over by some happy & melodic recitation of trite aphorisms.
    e.g. “Just choose to be happy”, “choose to not be angry”, “remember who you are”. . . blah blah blah.

    It is hard to separate what it TRULY means to belong to the church from all of the boilerplate “BYU-experience” points of view. But then again, maybe BYU isn’t to blame, but the Church itself. After all, BYU is just a cog in the machine. People go there with a lifetime of hopes & dreams shaped/influenced by participation in certain church groups/functions/ways-of-life. So it should come as no surprise that BYU merely amplifies those inputs. . . much like a laser amplifies the initial small pulse of light that seeds the amplification chain. The wavelength & phase are all coherent & uniform. Everything else gets filtered out.

    My grumpy disposition towards all of this BYU hoopla stems from the fact that church policies driving response to victims of abuse, response to people who are hurting, response to people who are confused, response to people who are looking for meaning & understanding, etc., inevitably drive those people away. Those people are looking for a soft & safe place to land, and are treated instead to harsh & rocky ground.

    Bottom Line: If BYU got shut down or ceased to exist it wouldn’t bother me in the least. I see it primarily as a feedback mechanism to reinforce hurtful and alienating ideas within the Church.

    But I never went there, so I guess that my opinion doesn’t count.

  44. I’m not saying your opinion doesn’t count, Nate. What I’m saying is that, having not been there, you don’t know.

    There are a host of people who graduate BYU who are exactly as you say. One of my best friends lives in an area where BYU grads come to finish their med/law graduate work. She has that exact issue. But I did NOT have that experience when I attended BYU. I submit that it’s more about the nature of the people who go to her area, than reflective of BYU grads as a whole.

    Granted, things may have changed in the years since, but my experience was that BYU was an amazing place to experience the diversity of what it means to be Mormon. Here are a ton of kids all crammed in together from diverse walks of life, all ostensibly trying to follow the commandments of God.

    It kept me from thinking Mormons were vanilla, and helped me realize that with all the diversity in the Church, there just might be room for me.

    I’m not saying it’s perfect. Preferential admission to out of state applicants would probably be a good idea. (Or maybe a percentage-based goal, I don’t know.) The way they handle Honor Code violations across the board could be improved.

    But your impression of what BYU is like did not at all match my experience. Maybe some people’s experience. Maybe I just attracted the “outcasts,” which wouldn’t surprise me.

  45. Clark Goble says:

    Nate, I’d second what Silver Rain says. I think most of can and should be more understanding of others. Not knowing the details of your situation I can’t comment much. But I know there are tons of situations that I just don’t understand. (One reason among many I hope they never put me in a major leadership role)

    While I think it’s fair to say there’s not as much diversity at BYU as we’d like there’s simultaneously far, far more than I think most people realized. I had a several friends who were *extremely* liberal there. I remember while at BYU some friends were going to Nevada to protest nuclear testing while I was working at LANL with the group testing the nukes. I tend to think the main problem BYU faces in diversity is one the Church itself faces. Active American/Canadian members are overwhelmingly white middle class. The next substantial group are latino – either American or from Latin America. That’s not a lot of diversity. You do find people from more diverse backgrounds but there aren’t as many of them. While Provo is thankfully more black than when I first moved here after my mission, it’s still milquetoast overall. (Provo was recently listed as among the 010 most “1950’s America” like cities in the country) While I’d love to see that change, I think that’s a broader question than BYU’s makeup.

  46. Rebecca says:

    I grew up in a small town in the midwest where my family were the only mormons. We were far from wealthy. Myself and 2 of my 3 siblings are proud BYU graduates. The one sibling who did not go there is not bitter about not going there – and he has a great wife and a great life! My husband is also a proud BYU graduate who’s father was not a member of the church and never graduated high school. My husband is the only person in his family to go to college. I have a daughter attending there now. Most BYU students that we know do not come from wealthy families and we are not wealthy. My husband and I relate very well to “non-traditional” mormons and our best friends as well as most of our family members are not members of the church. And we know many friends from our BYU days who are just like us! It seems like a lot of these comments are promoting stereotypes that are not true.

  47. Nate S. says:

    I will be the first to admit that I could be wrong & to throw myself on my sword.
    I will concede that the situation is complicated & the cause-&-effect of disenchantment within the church is a tangled web of influences.

    Perhaps that is what God had in mind all along when he set the stage for the human condition – For us to face the harsh reality of unfairness & irony of circumstantial opportunities.

    Thanks again to all of the BCC regulars who listen to fringe opinions & take an open-minded approach to life’s problems. I mean no offense to anyone here, and hope that through polarizing viewpoints we can compassionately feel our way towards the middle where the truth is usually found.

  48. I did attend BYU (early 80’s) and agree with Nate’s assessment of the inability of most BYU graduates to relate to others with different life experiences. I appreciated the opportunity to get a cheap education, but after attending and teaching at other universities, found it to be mediocre at best. Trying to compare BYU to elite private universities is apples and oranges.

  49. Geez, I must have met only the small minority at BYU that were poor. Everyone on here is saying BYU is filled with a bunch of rich elite LDS kids. I must have managed to meet all the poor ones because when I was there almost everyone I knew was struggling and their parents weren’t well off.

    I mean it seemed really weird that so many kids shared bedrooms off campus because it was cheaper than paying for a full room. I transferred in after my mission and then went to graduate school. I went to two graduate universities and two under graduates and nowhere else did I see housing except in dorms where they share bedrooms except at BYU.

    I have never seen so many students working janitorial jobs. After BYU, I was always shocked to see my other Universities have almost every landscaping, cafeteria, security, and other entry level jobs done by full time staff members not students like at BYU.

    Many if not most students I knew at BYU didn’t have a car and many that did, it wasn’t anything special. When I was there in early 2000s, if you had anything that was from 2000s or a luxury brand car everyone thought your parents must be making bank.

    Most students at BYU I knew were using student loans or had partial scholarships. Their parents weren’t capable contributing much so they had to work. All the kids there worked hard to get there.

    BYU has a limit on resources so whether you agree or not, they give the opportunities to the ones that are most deserving based upon merit based system (except athletes etc). The system is not perfect but it’s the best they can do.

    My parents received a scholarships from Tonga. They worked while at school and sent money home to help their families. They worked hard to get good jobs compared to many in our lower/ middle class area who grew up in the US. They ended up paying more in tithing, fast offering than they received. They also raised 7 children which most attended BYU. They didn’t expect anything because they paid tithing for their children to attend there. They believed whoever earned should get the opportunity.

    I believe BYU has provided so much to those fortunate to attend and those that didn’t get in, I feel sorry you did not get an opportunity. I’m glad my tithing goes there. I pay to help support the Church and the schools regardless of if my child gets in or not.

    There are many students there that parents could not afford to pay for college and I’m glad others more fortunate could help them. Many of them are now graduated and earning much more and paying tithing to help others have the opportunity.

    Many like me just pay our tithing because of the commandment and blessings.If you don’t like BYU, then please don’t send your children there. Problem solved. I love BYU for all that it is and hope to send at least my daughters there one day.

    After all the partying and sex I have seen everywhere else on colleges I only want my daughters to go a BYU or University of Phoenix. Competition is fierce to get in which I’m glad because it means the standards are high and good education. The less kids that apply the better for my kids. So please keep your kids from applying and going to the school because there are so many that love and want to send our kids there.

  50. I am with Clark Goble. I have made the slippery slope argument for a decade here at BCC. Always to be piled on as wrong. Now we have a post that essentially confirms my ridiculed arguments by a BCC blogger no less.

    BYU PROVO will seek and obtain a religious waiver on title IX and most of this will go away. See recent news from BYU I.

  51. emilyhgeddes says:

    Mogs @7:37 – While I would be thrilled to have more female representatives on the Church’s Board of Education/Trustees (which acts as the Board of Trustees for BYU), both the current Relief Society General President and the current Young Women General President are on the board (along with the First Presidency, two Apostles, one of the Presidents of the Seventy).

  52. emilyhgeddes says:

    BYU-Provo has previously applied for Title IX waivers (in 1988 and 1997), as have BYU-Hawaii and BYU-Idaho, that allow it to ask otherwise prohibited questions (such as regarding marital and family status) during the hiring process, to require sex-segregated housing off campus, to “allow room for differences between counseling for men and counseling for women”, to put limitations on health care coverage (i.e., to refuse to pay for abortions, birth control, or pregnancies due to out-of-wedlock or extramarital sexual activity).

    You can look up both the request letters from BYU and the responses from the US Department of Education on the US DoE website.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if additional waivers were requested, but even if that covers the school and church legally, I don’t think it will do much to quell the public outcry.

  53. I’m deeply skeptical that, at this stage, BYU will ask for or receive a waiver granting it the opportunity to continue to conflate Title IX and Honor Code investigations. There’s no doctrinal justification for that.

    For those of you arguing that this is the end of a slippery slope making BYU a “secular” university, what do you mean by that? Michael isn’t asking it to be made irreligious or to disaffiliate with the church. Is Notre Dame a secular university? I’m not clear on what you see BYU becoming if it disaffiliates. Have you, for instance, taken a look at Snow College, an institution that disaffiliated and became a state school? It is a fine school and hardly a hotbed of radical liberals. Of course, neither is UVU, which never was a church school. I’m really unclear on what you see being the result of divestiture.

  54. Clark Goble says:

    Jaay (10:39) I’m distinguishing between how much money students have and their class. I considered myself middle class but I was living on very little in college. (Primarily what I earned during the summer plus part time work grading and at the tutorial lab during school) I remember in particular my final semester living on ramen and vitamin pills. (Not the healthiest to say the least) I knew very few people who ever had a private room. I think that’s typical of BYU students. I knew a few who had money due to parents, but not many. Even students with rich parents often weren’t given that much money. Something the “sock it to the rich” crowd should acknowledge. I should add that were I rich I wouldn’t give my kids a ton either. I think learning to live within your means and not having a lot is a good experience.

    Bbell (10:42), Emily (10:55) and John (11:14) I think how Title IX has been interpreted has changed quite a bit under Obama. I think there were problems with the policy before but it wasn’t that bad. I think how it is being used is very much tied to rapid social change the last decade along with activism by liberals. So I don’t in the least think the past tells us much about the future of Title IX beyond expecting the slippery slope fallacy to not be a fallacy. I think thanks to Trump that Clinton has the election sewn up and she’ll expand action via Title IX interpretations much farther than Obama did. Likewise the court is about to go quite far to the left over the next 5 years which will impact how these things will be decided.

    Further, as Emily notes, the legal/executive questions are independent from the larger political questions and public anger.

  55. Clark Goble says:

    John (11:14) I think that was basically my question to the OP. What do we mean by secular here? For the record while Notre Dame isn’t as secular as Harvard (which ironically used to be a religious school) it is by and large a secular school. Certainly far more secular than BYU is. It’s interesting you bring up Notre Dame since debate about its secularity has been raging the last 5 or 10 years. In some ways the debate going back to when I was a college student. And I think the fears of secularization from the early 90’s have largely proven right. By and large what were more religious schools in the 70’s are a pale shadow or worse these days. (Think the large number of the Methodist colleges for instance – although perhaps that’s aided by a general breakdown of mainline protestantism)

  56. sirdidymus24 says:

    I find all the “you didn’t go to BYU, so you don’t get it” comments hilarious. Exactly, guys. That’s the point. Only the world outside is bigger than BYU and the world is saying to BYU, “You don’t get it.” The privilege exuded by many BYU alumni–including commentators on this thread–is staggering. Elder Bednar recently warned students at BYU-I about privilege. (http://idahostatejournal.com/members/lds-apostle-delivers-warning-promise-at-byu-idaho-campus/article_2db6c1d8-6216-5718-b69e-7cc95491495b.html) He mentioned a quote from President Eyring as they stood in a new building on campus. Eyring responded, “I am thinking about how much we do for so few and how little we do for so many. The tithing of the people I just visited in South America and from good people all over the world paid for this facility. And most of the people who have made this beautiful facility possible will never see or step foot in a building like this. That is what I am thinking about,” Eyring said. Bednar goes on to warn students, “In the authority of the holy Apostleship, I now raise a voice of warning, and I make a solemn promise. If the day ever were to come that intellectual arrogance, a lack of appreciation, and a spirit of demanding entitlement take root on this campus — among the students, the faculty, the employees, the administration or within the community of Rexburg — then in that day the Spirit of Ricks will be well on the way to being extinguished. And the heavenly influence and blessings that have prospered this institution and the people associated with it will be withdrawn,” Bednar warned. Not a big Elder Bednar fan but he was on target with this IMHO. But I didn’t go to BYU so …

  57. I think the privilege, intellectual arrogance, and entitlement by Bednar refers more to those that go to BYU and then demand changes because they feel intellectually they have better ideas. The ones that seem so sure of themselves and label themselves as “intellectuals” and then believe there should be change to fit their logical changes.

    Anyone that labels themselves as an intellectual I think is far from it because they would have realized how arrogant and unimpressive that sounds as well as lack of insight.

    I believe intelligent people understand how little they really know and realize much they need to learn. While ignorant people believe they know enough that they don’t need to learn or listen to anyone else.

  58. Just an anecdote on the “diversity” scholarships. I grew up in a very affluent area of Utah. Two of the girls in my ward got full ride scholarships to BYU (both of their parents could have easily afforded to pay full private school tuition), one because she was 1/4 Hawaiian, and one because she was 1/2 Taiwanese. They both grew up in affluent families in Utah as did their parents (aside from the 1/2 Taiwanese girl who’s mother moved to Utah from Taiwan as a teenager, but she had a higher education). However, both of them looked diverse (and yes, they were required to send in pictures with their applications). A boy in my ward (the same age as the girls) did not receive any scholarships for being 1/4 Mexican, although he applied. He was white with blonde hair and blue eyes. I’m not sure what conclusions to draw from this, but I always thought it was odd.

    Out of everyone my age in the ward, I was one of two that did not go to BYU (I didn’t apply, my dad always told me I could go anywhere in the world as long as the logo was not a big, blue Y). I was often mocked as someone who had chosen “Satan’s College” (the University of Utah) over the “Lord’s University.” The first time in my life I ever encountered alcohol or drugs was when I went down to Provo to visit my best friend who was a student at BYU and we attended a BYU school sponsored event. It was more than a year later before I encountered that at the University of Utah.

  59. Clark Goble says:

    EBK, diversity scholarships are hard to police. A lot of it is I assume based upon some benefit of doubt, but there’s also a lot of fraud. (I’ve known people to fraudulently apply even at BYU and brag about it – which is sad)

    Sir (12:19) Who is saying you have to go to BYU to get it? I’ve no idea there are sheltered people at BYU, but most people I knew at BYU came from outside the Mormon corridor. I think the perception that BYU people are so ignorant of “the real world” is an unfortunate and rarely supported stereotype. I tried to find a breakdown of where students come from. I know I’ve seen such things but my Google-fu failed me. In any case after graduation they go all over the place.

  60. What of the international students attending church schools? I think you are being a little myopic here.

  61. Larry the Cable Guy says:

    It’s going to get a little prickly when admission is sought, but less than half of the applicants are accepted. I remember putting the first ten rejection letters from graduate schools on the back of my front door as part of a “didn’t really like you anyway” collage. It’s unfortunate, but understandable, that folks would perceive distance from the church in that situation, rather than the logistical limits of higher education.

    The silver spoon theme is dramatically overblown however. In each semester I was at BYU, I worked 15-20 hrs/wk, roughly half of which was early-morning janitorial employment. That mostly covered expenses, and I tried to catch up with higher earning in the summers. No car. Limited 2x a day meal plan, so I got to decide which meal to skip. I needed a few thousand in loans by the time I was done, but I felt very much that I lived and studied among peers. My living and working conditions were in line with most others on campus (with the exception of those Calis who were always struggling to break a $100 bill).

    Between 14K and 15K students (that’s half the student body) are employed on campus, and that’s before you account for all of the students employed in local businesses and restaurants. The fact that costs are reasonably low is not the Church’s attempt to subsidize a privileged few, but that the Church is not inclined to accelerate costs and pass them on to students at the same inflated rate that most of the country does. When I was in school (late 90’s early 2000’s) it was very reasonable to get a degree with 10K or less in loans. There is a psychological drive to live and graduate debt free (or nearly so) when it is indeed achievable. If that same $10K were simply the difference between financing $70K and $80K over the next thirty years . . . pffft, whatever.

    Note: Eventually I would be able to replace my rejection collage with a pair of acceptance letters. In my case, 100% of the credit for my acceptance is attributable to having my undergrad experience at BYU.

  62. Delina says:

    Jaay Bee I went to Penn State and it was very common for bedrooms to be shared rooms in off campus housing. I’d posit you just weren’t looking for them after you left BYU and so didn’t notice them.

  63. The biggest issue is that divestment goes against the purpose of BYU which is to generate future tithe payers. Getting kids married at BYU keeps them in the Church at a higher rate and the subsidised tuition makes going there a smart financial decision. What the Church loses in tuition they more than make up with a professional lifetime of tithing.

  64. Why does “wealthiest” automatically go along with “brightest” when describing incoming BYU students? So if you are smart and LDS, you therefore also must be rich? I was a very bright, very NOT wealthy young woman who worked multiple jobs to pay my way through college (BYU). I would have had to take out multiple student loans at any other university. There are a lot of grating overgeneralizations in this article.

  65. Obviously there are poor kids at BYU.

    But there are also rich kids there, and subsidizing their tuition with sacred tithing dollars doesn’t really make sense.

    (Parenthetically, even if my kids could get into BYU, I couldn’t afford to send them there. The cost of traveling to Utah multiple times per year would be prohibitive. I suspect that the farther away you are from UT geographically, the harder it is for poor kids to go there.)

  66. BYU’s grading policies are stricter now than they were in the 90s. You can’t get rid of a D or E grade anymore by retaking the class… now it counts as two classes.

  67. “Parenthetically, even if my kids could get into BYU, I couldn’t afford to send them there. The cost of traveling to Utah multiple times per year would be prohibitive. I suspect that the farther away you are from UT geographically, the harder it is for poor kids to go there.”

    How far away are you and what’s your price tag? Just curious. We’re 1200 miles away and it cost 1 round-trip Southwest ticket and two road trips, but in the future, we’re probably looking at just two round-trip SWA tickets.