REXBURG — Enrollment at BYU-Idaho has increased every year since the school became a four-year institution in 1997. Last year was no exception, as the school served a record 22,997 students between January and December, close to the nearly 30,000 who attend BYU in Provo every year.
However, because of a unique scheduling calendar at BYU-Idaho, there are only ever about 12,000 students on campus at one time.
The university's three-track system offers three distinct 14-week semesters throughout the year: fall, winter and spring. Students are admitted to a specific track consisting of two semesters. By having three full semesters, the university is able to accommodate more students.
"Without this system, we would be forced to turn away thousands of students," said BYU-Idaho admissions director Rob Garrett.
The school still does not accept everyone who applies, as it is "under no shortage of applicants," according to spokesman Andy Cargal. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which owns and operates the institution, has made an effort to provide the religious-based education it offers to more students.
"It is not our goal to benefit the school," Cargal said. "The goal is to benefit individual lives."
In order to meet its mission of "serving more students," the university implemented in 2009 an enrollment expansion plan, which projects growth on a very steady basis, to ensure additional students don't change the academic experience in any way for anyone. Ten years ago, as a two-year school, enrollment was about 8,500. Cargal said by 2015 the school will be enrolling 15,000 students per semester rather than the 11,600 it admits now because of enrollment caps, but by then, space on campus will be adjusted to appropriately accommodate the growth.
Beginning this fall, BYU-Idaho will be adding 900 students to its rosters each semester, enrolling 12,500 on each track.
"People want the education, and we want to make it available," Cargal said, adding that BYU-Idaho is not intending to encroach upon its counterpart in Provo. "BYU, BYU-Idaho and BYU-Hawaii are all separate universities and they offer different experiences. We're still a small, intimate campus; we're just trying to reach as many students as we can each year."