PROVO The campus would be a ghost town every year at this time, this empty little August week between summer graduation and the buildup that accompanies the week before classes start.
Brigham Young University students have indeed left for the break, but an educational invasionary force big enough to fill most of the Marriott Center will take their places for the next five days.
Last year, Campus Education Week drew 21,208 people to classes diverse enough to appeal to more than 2,000 teens, their parents and their parents' parents.
Attendance this year might be depressed by the sluggish economy and high gas prices. Advance registration dipped 6 percent, Education Week director Neil Carlile said.
The drop could be deceiving if Utahns embrace the "staycation" trend. More than half of Education Week participants typically sign up at the door, and most of those live in Utah.
"We know it's a busy week locally with school starting for a lot of families," Carlile said, "but with people not taking long-distance vacations as much, here's a gem in the backyard Utahns can take advantage of."
BYU even offers a "School Days Special" tuition package aimed at Utah parents with school-age children. For $29, they can attend classes Tuesday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 2:45 p.m.
Registration for the entire week costs $66. Traditionally, about 6,000 people attend Monday classes. The number jumps to about 20,000 for the rest of the week. Tuition for the Tuesday-Friday program is $52. Many other ticket packages are available.
A major change this year is the lack of oncampus couples housing. BYU has demolished Deseret Towers, where 600 beds were available for couples during Education Week, Carlile said. Those couples have been referred to local hotels.
For several years, Education Week planners have tried to lure more men by advertising to couples, something they didn't do this year because of the lack of campus housing. Men accounted for 29 percent of participants last year, up 5 percent from five years ago.
The opposite is true among those who present the nearly 1,000 classes. More than 75 percent are men.
"That's the result of the available pool of presenters," Carlile said. "We're aware of it, and we're always seeking more women presenters."
Attendees don't seem to mind. More than 90 percent rate their overall experience as good or excellent in online evaluations. The same number rate presenters as good or excellent, Carlile said.
Good news will greet late registrants. The usually popular evening shows on campus have not sold out, Carlile said. In fact, about 40 percent of tickets remain for "Pride & Prejudice: A Musical," a Jenny Oaks Baker concert and "With Mine Own Hand," a musical account of Nephi.
Tickets to evening performances can be purchased at www.byuarts.com or by phone at (801) 422-4322.
Even if attendance is down, Education Week will remain unique in American higher education."I'm not aware of any other university that has nearly this large an attendance at a continuing education program or a school that would open the whole campus to such a program," Carlile said. "I'm not aware of anything like it at any other campus in the United States."
BYU Education Week
Last year 21,208 people attended Campus Education Week at Brigham Young University. The demographics included a gender breakdown of 29 percent male, 71 percent female. By age:
• 14-18 11 percent
• 19-25 10 percent
• 26-34 9 percent
• 35-45 14 percent
• 46-54 20 percent
• 55-62 15 percent
• 63 and above 21 percent
Last year, 205 presenters provided about 1,000 classes. Of the faculty, 77 percent were male, 23 percent female. By background:
• BYU faculty 30 percent
• Church Education System faculty 14 percent
• Outside expert/professional faculty 56 percent
If you go:
What: BYU Campus Education Week
Where: All over campus
When: Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 9:25 p.m.
Cost: $12 to $66
Registration: Marriott Center and Wilkinson Student Center