A new program at Brigham Young University may help solve a puzzle that has perplexed administrators for years - having too many students during fall and winter terms and not enough in spring and summer.
For the first time, BYU allowed non-matriculated students to enroll in regular classes during spring term, which began in late April.School officials hope the visiting student program not only will boost enrollment during spring and summer terms but also will reduce the number of students who are disappointed because they aren't admitted to the LDS Church-owned school.
"We're targeting out-of-state students because those are the students who have fewer opportunities to interact with LDS youth in their own areas," Associate Academic Vice President John S. Tanner said. "I think it's sent a really good message that we care about the students we're not able to admit into our regular programs."
In addition to the new summer program, BYU raised its enrollment cap from 27,000 to 29,000 students in an effort to meet demand. Five hundred of the new students were admitted last fall, and 500 additional students will be admitted each fall until 2000.
Students who participate in the summer program aren't granted admission for fall and winter semesters, but they are treated the same as other BYU students during their time there. Students can transfer the credits they earn at BYU to another school.
"I'm loving it," said Elizabeth Whittlesey, a senior at Rice University in Houston who is spending the summer in Provo. "My classes are incredible and it's a really fun place."
BYU President Merrill J. Bateman told the Deseret News editorial board recently that in spring and summer terms, the school's enrollment drops from 27,000 students to about 11,000. At the same time, there are increasing numbers of young members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who would like to attend BYU but can't because of space limitations.
However, it has proven difficult to entice students - even with tuition rebates - to attend school during the summer. Bateman said he hopes the summer visiting student program will help resolve two problems at once.
"It appears that we will have between 1,000 and 1,500 additional students this year," he said.
The program alleviates some of disappointment felt by not only students but also their parents and local LDS Church leaders when a rejection letter comes from BYU, Bateman said, because those students can find slots in the summer.
"We want to try to extend the reach of BYU without overtaxing our base," said Tanner, who was responsible for implementing the program this year. "We have empty seats on the airplane in spring and summer, and a lot of people want to come to BYU."
Whittlesey, who is from Salt Lake City, said she didn't want to attend BYU after graduating from high school. But after nearly completing her college career at Rice, she was curious about BYU's social and religious atmosphere as well as its academics.
"It was perfect timing for me," said Whittlesey, who will graduate from Rice after completing courses at BYU this summer.
Another student participating in the program, Kendall J. Simpson, did attend BYU for several years. In fact, he nearly completed a degree with a double major in psychology and Russian at BYU, but was one mathematics class short of graduation when he left last August.
Now, Simpson wants to attend graduate school in Texas, so he decided to complete the mathematics class this summer. It would have been more difficult to gain regular admission or complete the course at another school, like Utah Valley State College, than it was to get into the summer visiting student program, he said.
"This was just much easier," Simpson said. "It's helping people like me who just need to finish a class or two."
While many universities conduct summer programs simply to make money, BYU's aim is to expand its reach to more students, Tanner said. He said one of the concerns that comes with the program is ensuring quality instruction during spring and summer without impeding the ability of professors to conduct research, much of which is done during the summer.
But, Tanner believes that concern will be addressed by bringing visiting scholars from other universities to teach classes at BYU during the summer rather than relying exclusively on graduate students.