The president of Brigham Young University says the LDS Church-owned school must focus its efforts on remaining a first-class undergraduate school, not on becoming a major research institution.
"I do not believe that Brigham Young University, at least with current policies on both funding and mission, will or should ever aspire to be a great research university as the nation defines research universities," Jeffrey R. Holland told faculty, administrators and staff at an annual conference Monday."I do believe, however, with all my heart, that we should aspire to become the finest undergraduate university on the face of the planet," he said.
Holland's remarks were made in response to concerns over continued funding through church tithing in light of limited resources and an increasing number of students who are unable to attend the nation's largest privately owned university.
The $860 semester tuition for LDS students is among the lowest in the nation for a private institution because it is heavily subsidized by tithes. Students who do not belong to the faith pay 1.5 times more.
Enrollment in the past decade has averaged about 27,000 full-time students annually.
Holland said his concerns come from the realization that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has "disengaged from a number of operations, which included not only hospitals and hotels, but of far more interest to us, schools."
However, Holland said, BYU can continue to serve an important role in the church and society.
"Now the misunderstanding I don't want is a knee-jerk, unwarranted assumption that we will therefore have no serious scholarship required of us nor have a significant, albeit careful, selection of graduate and professional programs," he said.
"I did not say we would be a four-year college. I said we would be a university," Holland said. "But we will never, I think, be an MIT or Cal Tech, nor should we.
"We have to have teachers who are growing in precisely the same manner we expect students to grow - and that means significant scholarship," Holland said.
Holland praised universitywide efforts for a distinctly Mormon approach to education in religious, honors and general education curricula.
"As for the honors and general education programs themselves," he said, "I consider them among the crown jewels in the BYU crown and at the very heart of the most important contributions we can make to the world of higher education.
"I think it is very important for us not to create an unnecessary cleavage between the world of the academy and the world of work, especially not in the minds of tuition-paying parents and higher education's increasing number of critics," he said.