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Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Church and Higher Education: Part 5: BYU-Idaho vs. BYU in Provo, Utah

When I lived in Kansas I noticed a BYU-Idaho college student from our small local congregation attending church in late January. Thinking this was unusual given that she should be in school, I approached her afterwards and asked her why she was home. She gave me an interesting answer.

She told me that all the students in her program attended school for three semesters and then had a semester break. This instantly struck me as a good idea. With college costs skyrocketing and student debt piling up it makes no sense to delay schooling. You need a break from it occasionally though. Three semesters and then a semester break makes more sense to me than two semesters and one semester break. Most school schedules are an historical relic of the agricultural age and make no sense.

I keep seeing innovation come out of BYU-Idaho, but not from BYU. It isn't hard to guess why. BYU-Idaho was formally a two-year junior college named Ricks College. BYU is an established school firmly entrenched in the Harvard model.

When Kim Clark was named President of BYU-Idaho and it started to expand, change could happen. One of the obvious changes is that it eliminated competitive intercollegiate sports. Obviously, this is close to my heart because I loath competitive sports. I found BYU's devotion to it offensive, no pun intended.(I was attending BYU in 1984.)

The latest development at BYU-Idaho to impress me is the Pathway Program. It combines the goals of lifelong learning and online education. It makes sense.

BYU is stuck in the Harvard model. Perhaps there is no hope for it. However, BYU-Idaho has little entrenched faculty, bureaucracy and buildings. It seems well-positioned to take advantage of online learning opportunities.

Hats off to BYU-Idaho and Henry Eyring (the son, not the apostle). As a Vice President under Kim Clark, he and BYU-Idaho are positioned for great things.

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