Your Friday Firestorm

BYU should be free.



  1. Scott B. says:

    byu should be deleted

  2. Well, yeah

  3. … for children whose families make less than [$X]/year.

    I’m not sure what X =. Harvard sets that number at $65,000. Stanford puts it at about $125,000.

    It’s already deeply, deeply subsidized. Only 1.8% of BYU students come from families in the bottom quintile of income, while 60% come from the top quintile. So already, the deeply discounted tuition functions as a disproportionate subsidy for the rich. If it were free (rather than virtually free), I’d be afraid that rich students would crowd out the (already very few) poor students at BYU.

  4. Sam, sure if you want. Or just admit them all and scale up. We can do that, too.

  5. Steve, absolutely. As long as BYU has the capacity to increase capacity without harming students’ prospects, scaling up and becoming free also works.

  6. However. When people get something for free, do they value it as much? Doesn’t the fact that they’re paying for their educations galvanize many students to work harder and make the most of it? (And finish in four years?)

    Just wondering….

  7. Here’s the point for all the selfish voices I read in other contexts to jump in and protest that this is socialism, and “I was responsible and paid my tuition! Do I get a refund now?!”

  8. “When people get something for free, do they value it as much?”

    Yes, when it’s a college education. The value here is saving people tens of thousands of dollars.

  9. Last Lemming says:

    BYU should charge market tuition and redirect the existing subsidies to provide generous educational stipends to needy and worthy students of every nationality that could be applied at any post-high school institution that has reasonable access to an Institute of Religion (or church schools, if Scott B’s suggestion does not carry the day).

    I’ll leave the definition of “worthy” for another debate.

  10. Andrew T says:

    Alright, Bernie.

  11. Cate, I mean, there is an alternative. Perhaps that how you work? Perhaps that you projecting your motives and responses onto others? It just might be that some people might value it more, because they recognize that someone provided it for them and thus feel a sense of gratitude and obligation to do well. That’s what happened to me when, while living in Ireland, we paid nothing for our son to be born. My sense of gratitude and love for that country and the people there grew enormously. Here in the US, however . . . Well, let’s just say that my experience with the system is something altogether different.

  12. Good come back, Andrew. Way to through those slurs!

  13. Huh. Not the firestorm topic I expected today.

    BYU is already functionally free for many students. If anything, what Sam said: Free for children whose families make less than [$X]/year.

  14. Increase sticker price for tuition to market rate and then make it paid on a sliding scale/means-tested.

  15. BYU should be free to pursue the policies that its leaders deem best, in their faithful and considered wisdom. BYU should be free from the burden of acting as a projection of people’s fantasies about perfect Mormon boys and girls. BYU should be free to make the world its campus.

    But the discussion of finances is also interesting.

  16. Free BYU with the purchase of a BYU of equal or lesser value

  17. BYU should be free for very low income, marginalized kids for whom the free tuition can make a life-changing difference. Why a bunch of upper-middle class kids should get free tuition when they come from families that can afford to educate them is beyond me (especially the upper-middle class children of church leadership).

  18. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    I know I’d feel better knowing my tithing dollars were subsidizing the education of those who truly need it, rather than allowing members of the Church who can clearly afford more for tuition to hoard it away for other reasons. For every one of those who are accepted to, and can afford tuition to, a quality non-BYU school but choose the cheaper alternative, there is someone who could really use that slot at BYU, and can’t afford somewhere else, regardless of merit. Meanwhile, that less-fortunate student’s family continues to pay tithing to subsidize the education of the kid who took their child’s slot. On it’s face, the cheap education at BYU seems like a benevolent act. However, in practice, it facilitates inequity to the benefit of well-connected members.

  19. nobody, really says:

    The Church has already taught us the principle that what has no cost has no value (member’s time). I’d argue that the BYU education has little to no value, and therefore should have little to no cost.

    My first entry-level professional position after college was in Provo. I was told later I was specifically hired because I hadn’t gone to BYU.

    In twenty-five years of career experience, I’ve seen exactly one applicant resume with BYU in the Education section. That person was applying at a major international bank, but had a felony conviction for embezzlement on their record. We ended up hiring a University of Phoenix grad instead.

  20. BYU tuition should be halved for married students and free for married students with children. Let’s reinforce that pro-family cultural pressure with something tangible.

  21. nobody, BYU students have spectacular access to various prestigious graduate programs and high-end jobs. Clearly not every employer gets applications from, or hires, BYU grads. But as a top-tier research university, a degree from BYU has a lot of value (and even more value for the cost).

    The problem is, that value goes principally to individuals who could have afforded other, similarly-prestigious (but more-expensive) education. And, because there are a finite number of spots, those students are presumably taking spots that could have gone to others who would benefit more from the church’s education subsidy.

  22. I could get there on this. How big is the endowment?

  23. Frank Pellett says:

    Ok, the entire study is a firestarter. I mean, Median individual income at age 34, for men is 71 thousand a year. For women, eight hundred. And if that’s not bad enough, it’s marked as typical for Utah. I mean holy crap.

    Absolutely it should be free and limited to those those coming from families making <$100k a year. Education should not be primarily for those who can afford it.

  24. The Dude says:

    Maybe the point isn’t that there should be no tuition. What if it’s a different kind of free? Maybe it needs to be a place where people are free. Free to love who they love. Feel what they feel. Believe what they believe. Where they belong (and really feel like they do). Free of judgment and free of fear.

  25. Frank,
    There is nothing “bad” about women choosing to forgo a career to focus on raising children, which is what creates the large earnings discrepancy in Utah. Not sure how that relates to the topic at hand, however.

  26. While we’re considering other denotations of “free” I suggest that BYU might resent captivity, and should be let go to roam in its natural habitat. We could even tag it, just to collect scientific data.

  27. The Dude,
    That’s what I thought the prompt was referring to. I was initially confused to see people discussing tuition.
    It seems like you’re suggesting that BYU become de facto secular. Is that really necessary given that every other major University in Utah is secular? A little diversity is nice.

  28. If the Church were to eliminate BYU tuition, I could be viewed as a move to retain more young adults. It would give young adults an even stronger financial incentive to attend a school where they’re required to stay active in church, live the honor code standards, and take CES courses during their formative years.

  29. I like the other possible meaning of “free”: Let’s uncouple BYU from the church. Maybe the church can give the school a few billion dollar endowment to help keep tuition costs low.

  30. CE,
    What incentive does the Church have to relinquish control of one of it’s most important institutions AND give it billions of dollars to do so?

  31. Bryan, one incentive the church might have to relinquish control of BYU would be to step back from secular ventures and focus more on core religious functions. I find that idea appealing, but I’m not claiming that anyone in church leadership shares (or should share) my view. My endowment idea was just a tongue-in-cheek reference to the church’s large financial reserves . . .

  32. Without any knowledge of the actual dollar amounts involved: BYU should not be a ‘church’ university. With the available funds (and maybe some more) the church should fund Maxwell Institutes and/or Mormon Studies Chairs at various universities across the world. And then step back and let those institutions do their work without interference. The church should then fiancially assist church members from lower socio-economic groups (through the PEF or another more generous scheme) to attend those universities so that if they are so inclined they have access to academic study of Mormonism and perhaps Mormon scripture.
    And yes – in the meantime BYU should be free to function as a university where human rights are upheld.

  33. nobody, really says:

    The church isn’t about to relinquish control of BYU. They’ve ceded major youth conferences to BYU control through FSY/EFY. If anything, it’s a doubling-down, as if having the BYU experience for a couple of weeks at some point during high school will ensure that a CES education will forever be the ideal.

  34. Larry the Cable-Guy says:

    Caffeine-free, maybe. J/k
    I’ve always considered it a bold act of academic freedom that the first lab experiment in Organic Chem 353 (’01) was to synthesize caffeine.

    In much of the academic world, cost seems to run concurrent with exclusivity and prestige. BYU has turned that on it’s head to an admirable degree as it combines a very competitive undergrad education with a remarkably low comparative cost. I don’t expect that we are likely to completely remove the cost barriers at the main campus, as it is filling a different role than the PEF or Pathway program which should also be included in a discussion of church-supported educational spending.

    But this passage from 3Nephi 3:12 is haunting:
    And the people began to be distinguished by ranks, according to their riches and their chances for learning; yea, some were ignorant because of their poverty, and others did receive great learning because of their riches.

  35. “Only 1.8% of BYU students come from families in the bottom quintile of income, while 60% come from the top quintile.”

    Sam, to the extent you know, how do these numbers compare with other well-ranked universities with sizable endowments?

  36. Shy Saint says:

    Did you mean tuition free or free of constraints on ideas and free of judgment about non-normative students?

    I’d choose the latter myself.

  37. Sidebottom says:

    If by “free” you mean “diverting even more tithing money to subsidize tuition for upper middle class white kids” then heavens no.

  38. jimbob, I’d gone through a number of universities (looking at schools near BYU in the US News rankings and at some top schools) (all of which had a larger percentage of students from the bottom quintile than BYU), then my cat stepped on my keyboard, closed the tab, and lost the work. (Sorry.) But the Times site I linked to above lets you search schools. FWIW, while you can’t search by that criterion, the Times says BYU is among the lowest in terms of percentage of students from the lowest quintile among WCC schools, among Utah schools, and among selective private universities.

  39. Yeah, in general I agree with the free for lower income families approach. But I also resent subsidizing BYU with tithing dollars. So I don’t know.

    Whatever happened to the perpetual education fund anyway? Is that still active?

  40. Deborah Christensen says:

    I attended BYUI with all the tuition paid from a Pell Grant. I can’t express how much my education means to me. When I attended BYUI my standard of living improved. I then transferred to a Washington State school were I received more education from a Stafford subsidized. When I entered the work force I made more money than each of my parents individually. By 5 years into my career I was making more than double my parents. Every time I see my parents and hear them talk about money it reminds me of how far I’ve come.
    A free education both in public school and at the university is as valuable and influential to my life and success as my relationship with God. So Cate….stick it!^$@&^!
    I have no problem paying taxes and supporting the next generation with their education. And I don’t have any children so I’m supporting all of your kids.

  41. Geoff-Aus says:

    Half the members of the church are outside US. Their young people should also be subsidized. For a while university was free in Australia. Not now. 3 of my 4 daughters have Uni degrees, at least 6 of my 12 grandchildren are at or just finished university, or trade school.
    It is better to do this in your own country. I spent 2 years at Ricks and got a junior college degree, visa ran out, University in Australia said that was equivalent to high school graduation, so back to year 1.
    Please include us in your thinking on how to subsidise university education equitably.

  42. Dr Cocoa says:

    It’s probably not the cost that is prohibiting low-income individuals from the Y. The tuition is low enough and Pell grants are high enough that BYU is free for many students. I was one of them. Between Pell grants and a job, it’s very easy to cover tuition and housing.

    I suspect the dearth of low-income individuals comes from other disadvantages.

    So while making BYU free may help a few, perhaps a more diversified admissions policy would help even more.

  43. rickpowers says:

    BYU should be free for Lori Loughton’s girls. Everyone else pays.

  44. Perma Banned says:

    A very large percent of BYU students get a scholarship. Hence for them it is “free” or half price. Raising the cost of BYU would further decrease incentive to have large families in the Mormon population. Also one needs to consider the cost of tithing. Imagine if instead of paying tithing, that money went into college saving funds. Many families would be able to pay a lot more for college. I would thus argue that the average Mormon family is more hamstrung in terms of saving money for college compared to those that aren’t paying 10% of their income. Another reason for the church to keep tuition low. Also imagine a future where the kids of upper middle class Mormon families are much less likely to to go BYU because of the expense. From a sociological standpoint, is that good for the future of the faith?

  45. Megan Munguia says:

    I disagree. Then even more kids will feel like they have to go there when they are desperate to go elsewhere. That’s already a problem. So many families refuse to pay for anything that isn’t BYU (or only pay for something the same cost as BYU, which is almost nothing in comparison to the cost of college elsewhere). This would exacerbate the BYU or bust attitude. I say raise tuition, and apply a sliding scale cost, like the best universities already do with their financial aid.

  46. Kevin Barney says:

    I assume by “free” we’re just talking tuition and fees. Which means some students would still require needs-based scholarships and grants.

    My concern is that, as high as the demand is for BYU now, free tuition and fees would send the demand soaring even higher, and I’m skeptical the Church could effectively scale up to that extent. Which means there would still be some sort of gate keeping mechanism—probably bishop’s interviews and recommendations. If we make Bishops the gatekeepers, we’re just perpetuating a massive bishop roulette problem.

  47. like others have said. Strong sliding scale to means test and focus on bringing in more lower socioeconomic status students. And…

    Build BYU Mexico and BYU Brazil with healthy endowments to provide the same affordable education and social mobility for our non-rich non-white.britjers and sisters. Go crazy and plan BYU Africa while they are at it.

  48. Dr Cocoa says:

    I’d go teach at BYU-Africa for free, if the church would just cover my health insurance.

  49. Who would want to send their kids to BYU after this week? Even if it is free?

  50. Mortimer says:

    Great idea! It would be like pouring lemon juice on the wounds of the rejected faithful kids. Our efforts to alienate the millennials hasn’t been 100% effective, this would help!


  51. Mortimer says:

    Seriously though, I’d be ok with free tuition at all church-owned schools on the condition that no one is turned away. It’s the PEF -on steroids! There’s a school for you- no matter what, whether it’s BYU-I, BYU-Online, BYU-Provo, BYU-H, LDS Business College, etc.

    We would need to buy a couple junior colleges, some trade and art schools across the world as well or invest in a new model of world-wide apprenticeships. The idea of bringing back Mormon craftsmanship <3 would could be a type of renaissance for us!

    Our online programs could emulate WGU (competency-based ed). And what if we developed trade schools, art institutes or music conservatories across the globe? Without tuition and with a web of institutions, students could apprentice with a Maori -shipbuilding or carpentry center, to India music apprenticeship or Ayvedic school, etc. Oh the places we could go!

    And it need not be limited to traditional (18-29 yr old) students. We could explode the world of continuing education and involve all adults. We could become a beacon of light and knowledge illuminating all.

  52. never forget says:

    Wow, that’s quite the imagination you have.

  53. Mortimer says:

    Go big or go home. ; )

  54. Free to hold hands with anyone you want?

  55. Open up more Ensign College campuses (Mexico, South America, Africa). Make those free. Provide scholarships and preferential admission to the BYUs for Ensign College students.

  56. When did the BYUs become the end all, be all? I’m old enough to remember a F.P. letter that in essence said, if you go to a school with an Institute you are good to go.

  57. $124,000,000,000

  58. It wasn’t until very recently (within the year) that I realized just how inexpensive BYU was because, for my kids, BYU was never going to be a consideration. They had no interest in attending a church school so it wasn’t even an option when my oldest started looking at schools. Now that I know how much tuition is (and, by extrapolation, how much must be being subsidized) I understand why so many of my friends/acquaintances were sending their otherwise just about any school they wanted to go to qualified kids to BYU.

    I have no interest in subsidizing it any more for a free education, but then, we’ve decided to divert our previously earmarked tithing dollars to the affordable state school and are thereby subsidizing our own child’s college education with “tithing dollars”

  59. Frank Pellett says:

    13 years of mandatory schooling – “can’t wait til I’m outta here” “I’m never going to use this in real life”
    4 additional years for those who want it – “socialism!”

    Educated -everyone- (not just those who “deserve” it) is good for everyone.

  60. Nate GT says:

    Agreed. The church has over $100 billion. They don’t need tuition money. Besides if BYU serves to create a large percentage of lifelong tithe-payers, making it free is still a worthwhile investment for it.

  61. I’m super late to the conversation, but I’d have to agree with many who have commented already: BYU should be free to those eligible kids in lower income brackets for whom tuition is a hardship. For those families who can afford it, it’s already the best bargain in town. They don’t need it to be free. Sliding scale, perhaps?

  62. The cost of attending BYU for 2 semesters is $19,296 including room and board and all other expenses(for members). This is easily covered by Pell grants, scholarships, part time on campus job and other programs available for financially disadvantaged individuals. I know this because I am a single mom with a son attending a state school for about that same cost. The real cost of admission is something a little more difficult, the standards for admission consideration include seminary attendance and mission service, advanced placement courses in high school and extra-curricular participation. Hence many low income people do make the cut. The self discipline and emotional support required for these types of activities is not generally exhibited in low income situations, especially in the U.S. Many low income families are single parents with addiction issues, lack of education, and poor support systems. Many are dependent on government programs. Children from these families hold part time jobs after school, they are concerned with survival, not necessarily academic excellence. BYU wants the best of the best, high achievers- not slackers from the lower echelons. That’s what community college is for! (Sarcasm intended).
    Even if it were free you would not see a dramatically different demographic than what you have now.

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