BYU's Independent Study Program is the second largest in the nation - but that's just part of a day's work.

Duane Hiatt, director of editorial and media productions for the program, said he does not believe anyone intended the operation to grow this much."We are interested in growth to a certain extent, but we are mainly interested in trying to fill needs," Hiatt said.

Last year, people from across the United States registered for 20,400 courses through BYU's program. About 11,000 of those were on the college level and the other 9,400 were high school courses.

Only Penn State has a larger total program, and enrollment in courses for college credit is second only to Indiana State.

This growth has allowed them to fill many needs.

Ralph Rowley, director of BYU's Independent Study, said the program began as a means to help students who had scheduling problems at the university.

The program has grown from its beginnings in 1921, when it was referred to as "Correspondence," to Home Study and finally the Independent Study program of today.

The program offers more than 400 courses that lead to various degrees.

The degrees come through the sponsoring university, except for an associate's degree in English and a certification for genealogy that is offered by Independent Study, Rowley said. The idea is only to support what the university offers.

People use BYU Independent Study because it is so accessible, Rowley said. "Also people may have a personal interest in BYU and its reputation spreads by word of mouth."

People also use Independent Study for self-improvement courses, to update themselves in a professional sense and to finish degrees that are near completion.

Hiatt said the program works in about 25 countries around the world and that is why the program is so popular.

"You can take it anywhere and do it anytime," he said.

Ralph Larson, coordinator of the High School Section of Independent Study, said young athletes who must travel a lot, as well as people who live in rural areas, really benefit from the program.

One girl lived 75 miles from the nearest high school and she was able to graduate through the Independent Study program.

As the program grows, Hiatt said the feedback is positive. "People are generally satisfied and we have a higher completion rate than most," he said.

According to Larson, people will have a good experience with the Independent Study program and realize that it is not just for people who couldn't make it in school.

"People will refer our services to others," he said. "And they tell us that we offer a high quality service."