What of the BYU?

August 31, 2008 | 126 comments
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Several years ago a returned missionary acquaintance was told, on applying to BYU, that he needed ‘academic repenting’ before he could be admitted.

Aside from the annoying (and, IMO, often inaccurate) equation of poor academic performance with sin, the comment made me wonder what BYU is supposed to be for. I understand that there is a need for academic admittance standards, and I suppose that my acquaintance might not fit the bill.

A few years ago a friend of mine suggested that BYU should change its policies to emphasize its strengths. He suggested that the highest applicants, those that should be going to the Ivy League, should be turned away and encouraged to go to better schools. He also suggested that BYU should raise its tuition to encourage many students to go elsewhere. His point was that BYU isn’t providing the reputation and possibly not the education that the level of their qualifications deserves, and shouldn’t pretend to be something its not.

Now I think this idea was mentioned 15 years ago, and I’m not sure its as valid today as it was then. But there are elements of it that I find very persuasive. Wouldn’t many of the best students at BYU, who are sometimes there because its inexpensive or because their parents went there, or because their friends are going there, be better off in the long run at a higher-ranked school?

In terms of the tuition, why should so many wealthy parents be able to send their children to BYU at the expense of Church members in general. Yes, not everyone can afford more expensive tuition, that is what scholarships and tuition assistance is for. And if the additional tuition doesn’t go to tuition assistance, then maybe it could go to building additional capacity at the various BYU campuses.

The problem with the status quo is that the Church can’t hope to provide enough places at Church-owned institutions to match the number of students that want to go there. Between the various BYU campuses, there are about 45,000 undergraduate students enrolled. But I believe there are probably 100,000 or more students who would like to attend a school with an LDS environment.

The BYU community hears regularly about the school’s purpose, and I have no quibble with that purpose. What I’m not sure is whether or not BYU’s policies are actually filling that purpose.

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126 Responses to What of the BYU?

  1. Geoff J on September 1, 2008 at 2:25 am

    Wouldn’t many of the best students at BYU… be better off in the long run at a higher-ranked school?

    What do you mean better off? People can choose to go to whatever school they want can’t they? Are you suggesting BYU should say to some applicants: “Sorry, you’re too smart to attend here. We prefer less intelligent students…”?

  2. Ivan Andrus on September 1, 2008 at 3:16 am

    I was accepted to MIT as an undergraduate. Instead, I chose to go to Rick\’s College, mainly because of my parents\’ desires, and because I felt like a good Mormon boy would never go to a non-church school. I loved my time at Rick\’s and don\’t regret having gone (I probably wasn\’t cut out for MIT anyway), but I still wonder about that decision all these years later.

  3. Sterling on September 1, 2008 at 5:01 am

    I think BYU was traditionally a place for the best and brightest to get married and be trained as the future leaders of the church. In recent years, academic standards have gone up while the marriage rate seems to be declining. At BYU’s April 2008 graduation, only 53 percent of the graduating class was married.

    During the last 35 years, the average ACT score of newly admitted students at BYU has risen from 22 to 28. The average score for the top third of the freshman class at BYU was probably about 32 this fall. Here are the corresponding scores for the Ivy League:

    Brown: 30.5
    Columbia: 30.5
    Cornell: 30
    Dartmouth: 31.5
    Harvard: 33
    Princeton: 32
    Penn: 31
    Yale: 32

    I would estimate that between 35 and 40 percent of the students admitted to BYU have the same scores as Ivy League students. I don’t expect BYU will turn away these bright students, since they comprise such a large proportion of the freshman class.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if BYU increased its tuition in the future. According to 2008 national SAT data from fairtest.org, freshmen from families whose annual average household income is more than $200,000 have a median reading score of 554 and a median math score of 570. If you convert the median ACT scores for BYU students into their SAT equivalents, you will find that their median reading score is about 610 and their median math score is about 625. This suggests that the average BYU student comes from a family whose annual income is between $200,000 and $300,000.

    BYU will continue to climb the college rankings. The test scores and family income of BYU students will keep rising. I think BYU is changing and these are its strengths. Most BYU graduates will become wealthy and leaders in the church and the world. The weakness of this model may be that fewer BYU students will get married.

  4. The Right Trousers on September 1, 2008 at 5:08 am

    The Saints tend to be well-educated, which probably skews your inferred income distribution.

  5. Gilgamesh on September 1, 2008 at 6:26 am

    \”BYU will continue to climb the college rankings.\”

    While this may be true is some instances, it won\’t be in others. I doesn\’t matter much if the students are intelligent, bright, witty, etc… if BYU cannot recruit top professors to teach them. While there are some outstanding faculty at BYU, there are many great professors that cannot teach there due to the constraints of the honor code. While I gree with the honor code, it does limit the pool of potential faculty. That will always keep BYU lower in the rankings, and less prestigious than it could be.

  6. Tony on September 1, 2008 at 8:02 am

    Is having BYU become an Ivy for Mormons a good thing? Why should the church, if it’s going to be in the education business, be educating elites instead of the masses?

  7. Steve M on September 1, 2008 at 8:13 am

    BYU will continue to climb the college rankings.

    Actually, it just plummeted out of the Top 100 in U.S. News‘ recently released rankings.

    Mormon parents and students care about rankings–don’t let them try to tell you otherwise. Sure, they may be willing to sacrifice some prestige in exchange for the other benefits BYU has to offer, but unless BYU turns its downward rankings trend around, I expect that we’ll see more and more LDS students deciding to go to Ivies rather than the Y.

    I don’t think BYU should be rejecting gifted students. Rather, I think that, with more encouragement from general and local leaders, more LDS kids and parents will become comfortable with the idea of attending non-church schools. The key is making that an acceptable social norm among Mormondom’s best and brightest.

    I certainly wasn’t one of the “best and brightest” by any stretch of the phrase, but I was accepted to a couple colleges that outranked BYU. When I decided to attend one of them, neither my parents nor my LDS peers (virtually all of whom were headed to BYU) were very supportive of the idea. Immediately after my mission, I ended up transferring to BYU (this seems to happen to a lot of missionaries). I don’t have any regrets, but I could have lived without the negative reactions to attending a non-church school and the constant pressure to “choose the right” by attending the Y.

  8. carmen on September 1, 2008 at 8:16 am

    What is this idea of “educating the elites instead of the masses”? Seriously, this is a SCHOOL. If there are many more applicants than student slots, of course the standards by which they decide who will get in will be academic. Why in the world would it be appropriate to take the socialist view of “you go here” and “we want to spread out the Mormon intelligence across the country, so you go here”. Sounds dangerously like taking away agency, something we fought (and hopefully still fight) hard to keep, lest people forget. I could have gotten in at the Stanford’s and Yale’s, why would I want to…I was looking for the best education for my money and in the right environment. Would you take that away from me to give it to someone who didn’t work as hard or care as much in high school? I think not.

  9. Kent Larsen on September 1, 2008 at 8:24 am

    GeoffJ (1):

    Yes, that is what I’m saying.

    But, think of this more like A Modest Proposal or a thought experiment than any kind of well-thought out proposal.

  10. Kent Larsen on September 1, 2008 at 8:29 am

    Sterling (3):

    BYU’s ACT scores (Why ACT instead of SAT I’m not sure I understand) increase because the demand to go to BYU increases, NOT because the quality of the education at BYU has increased or the ability of the school to give a good education.

    Yes BYU is getting good, smart students. Would they learn more elsewhere? Does BYU have the capacity to give them a better education than the Ivy League?

    I don’t know. Its reputation (as in the rankings it gets) imply that many students would be better off at higher ranked schools.

    But, OTOH, reputation and rankings aren’t the same as quality either.

  11. Kristine on September 1, 2008 at 8:36 am

    Sterling–largely irrelevant question, but most of the Ivies you mention require only SAT scores–are you sure that the ACT scores you use are averages of all students? Or is it just the ones who took the ACT (which might skew Southern and Western)?

  12. Kent Larsen on September 1, 2008 at 8:43 am

    carmen (8):

    No one is suggesting that anyone’s agency be taken away. Just like colleges reject those whose scores are too low, they could also, theoretically, reject those whose scores are too high. No one’s agency would be taken away by such a policy.

    You say you could have gotten into Stanford or Yale, but chose (I presume) BYU because it was “the best education for my money and in the right environment.”

    Part of the argument above is that BYU is too inexpensive, that they should raise tuition, because too many LDS students are choosing it instead of schools that are ranked higher.

    If BYU’s tuition had been nearly as expensive as Stanford and Yale, would you have gone to those schools instead? Would you have received a better education as a result?

  13. Steve M on September 1, 2008 at 8:53 am

    As far as tuition goes, BYU could offer tithing-subsidized tuition only to those students who qualify for it upon a showing of financial need. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect families with 6-figure incomes to pay something closer to the cost that you might expect of a school of BYU’s caliber.

  14. Tony on September 1, 2008 at 9:00 am

    Socialism? Where in the world did that come from? Someone who went to BYU, no doubt. My point in suggesting the church focus broadly instead of narrowly is that the church is an international church supported by tithes from around the world. Why should our tithing go to support a few thousand Mormon elites who could easily go elsewhere, including the best public universities and Ivy League schools? I would rather see the church make education available to those who cannot get into either BYU or Ivy League schools, or who live in third world countries where there is no education worthy of the name available to them. The church got rid of its intermountain area hospitals years ago because, at least in part, it felt it was not right to do this only in the intermountain area and not everywhere the church was. As for the leadership thing, my stake president didn’t go to BYU, neither did my bishop, nor most of my ward leadership. Maybe, just maybe, if instead of spending all this money and effort on leaders and spread it around a bit, we might have a few more followers.

  15. Matt W. on September 1, 2008 at 9:42 am

    Before we freak out too much on this, BYU’s admittance rate is around 70%.

    Considering State Schools like UofU and my alma mater (Indiana University) are 85% admittance, that is not that big of a gap.

    So Kent, I say your assumptions are false.

  16. Tom Rod on September 1, 2008 at 9:47 am

    A note for the earlier comments–

    Faculty are not bound to the honor code. They have an employment agreement which pretty much keeps off beards, keeps out cleavage, keeps then from smoking or being hungover at work, and keeps them academically honest.

    Really not that much for an employer to ask, given BYU’s reputation and image.

  17. Steve M on September 1, 2008 at 9:52 am

    Faculty are not bound to the honor code. They have an employment agreement which pretty much keeps off beards, keeps out cleavage, keeps then from smoking or being hungover at work, and keeps them academically honest.

    You sure about that? My understanding was that, at least for LDS faculty, temple worthiness was essentially required for employment.

  18. Sterling on September 1, 2008 at 9:59 am

    #4: You are right about Utahns having higher educational levels. So maybe that does skew the data some. But have you seen the cars these days in the student parking lot?

    #5: You make an excellent point about the professors. In the old days, the top students at BYU (who would receive presidential scholarships) would return to the Y after graduate school and become professors. These days, though, BYU is hard pressed to retain its best students. They want to become faculty at other universities.

    #6: I agree with you that BYU is serving the elite families of the Church. We should be asking ourselves if this is the best model possible.

    #7: Thanks for the reality check. I think the number of LDS students attending Ivy League institutions is already increasing.

    #8: Maybe the idea of class-based affirmative action would be more palatable to you. Did you know that 25 percent of the freshmen at Harvard are receiving federal financial aid? In 2004, only 11 percent of the freshmen at BYU received Pell Grants. The Ivy League schools are making an effort to waive tuition for students from low-income families. BYU has not followed this pattern.

    #10: Good point. I wonder how we would measure the quality of the education, as opposed to the quality of the students. BYU wants to be as good as the top research universities in this country but it focuses mainly on undergraduate education. Maybe this tension is finally catching up with BYU, as seen in the most recent rankings.

    #11: Good question. The data I found listed both median SAT and ACT scores for the Ivy League schools. I checked the conversion table and the two scores are comparable. So the same level of students seem to be taking each test.

    #12: Would a higher tuition at BYU create the appearance of higher educational quality or would it really improve the education? Perhaps the extra money could be used in part to attract better faculty with higher salaries.

    #13: This is an interesting proposal. Would this simply make things more equitable or would it actually increase the number of smart LDS students from low-income families at BYU?

  19. Megan on September 1, 2008 at 9:59 am

    If they raised BYU’s tuition just a bit, for the vast majority of LDS youth, going to an Ivy might actually become less expensive than going to BYU. For many LDS students, that might actually already be true. The very best schools have fantastic financial aid, and will subsidize the cost of their education even if your family has a pretty high income. At Harvard, for example, families with incomes between $120-180K won’t pay more than ten percent of their annual income for their child’s education, and families that make less than that pay an even smaller percentage. Plus, financial aid at these schools is adjusted when a family has more than one child is in college, and the payments will usually go down much further.

    I know that what my parents are currently paying per year for my Ivy-education (with me as an RA and my brother in college as well), is right around the average cost of tuition and housing at BYU. So its higher than it would have b.een, since I wouldn’t have had to pay tuition at BYU, but it is definitely worth it. What irritates me though, is that my tithing dollars subsidize the education of students who come from families that could easily afford to pay more. I’d have no problem with subsidizing people who were actually in need, but I hate that LDS cultural in general has this skewed notion about what college should cost because BYU’s tuition is so ridiculously low

    And Sterling, I don’t think your numbers are that accurate – I just checked out Princeton’s SAT score range for this year. The 25/75 percentile range was 2050-2360. You can look at a conversion chart to ACT scores and see that this means that only 25 percent of Princeton’s incoming class scored below the equivalent of a 31, and 25 percent of them scored the equivalent of a 35 or better. The average of the 25/75 percent range is 2205, which is between a 33 and 34 on the ACT, not a 32.

    Plus, I think estimating that about a third of BYU students score a 32 on the ACT seems a gross overestimation. If their average ACT score is 28, then I would bet the great majority score between a 26 and a 30. The ACT is standardized into a more or less normal distribution, meaning that there are only a few people getting top scores, with a lot of clustering around the middle scores. There are certainly a fair number of students at BYU who score well on the ACT, but nowhere near the number that you are predicting – I would guess that maybe around a quarter of BYU students score over a 30, and that only about ten to fifteen percent are at a 32 or above.

  20. Sterling on September 1, 2008 at 10:03 am

    #15: I think BYU’s admittance rate is artificially low. BYU does a very good of publicizing its admission standards. The result is that almost none of the under-qualified students bother to apply.

  21. Jonathan Green on September 1, 2008 at 10:06 am

    Kent, one basic problem with your assumptions is that university rankings reflect many things that have little or nothing to do with the quality of undergraduate education. Schools that see their mission as largely or primarily concerned with undergraduate education are in fact at a disadvantage in some categories. Top-level students can be found at any of the large universities of BYU’s size.

    Sterling, your conclusion that “the average BYU student comes from a family whose annual income is between $200,000 and $300,000″ is utterly mistaken, and your method of arriving at that conclusion is completely wrong. Just thought I’d mention that.

    BYU’s huge drop in ranking this year is a bit curious. I assume that nothing fundamental about the school changed in the last 12 months, although I could be mistaken on that. Does anyone know if USN&WR fiddled with their methodology or weightings for this year’s list?

  22. ganzo on September 1, 2008 at 10:12 am

    Isn’t the admittance rate much lower for Utah kids? I believe they have some kind of geographic quota system that makes it much easier for kids from areas less populated by mormons to get in. I heard this a long time ago and can’t remember if it came from a reliable source. Can anyone confirm this?

  23. Mark B. on September 1, 2008 at 10:16 am

    The problem, Carmen, is not that you’re getting the best education for “your” money. Rather, you’re getting the best education for “my” money, and Kent’s money, and Sister Martinez’s money (she’s the faithful tithe-paying widow who’s scraping by on social security).

    There’s a lovely young lady from New York who’s starting at BYU this week. She’s an immigrant from South America, second generation LDS (only because her mother joined the church at the same time), a good student, from a family whose income is probably about 1/4 or 1/5 the numbers Sterling invented (by the way, we can add to Twain’s “lies, damned lies and statistics” another category: “damned statistics”). And she’s waiting for her Pell Grant to arrive to help pay the costs of attending.

    I’d gladly subsidize her education. I feel less generous when I think of the children of the Goldman Sachs executives whose children pay the same tuition.

  24. Sterling on September 1, 2008 at 10:17 am

    #19: You may be conflating the old and new SAT scores. Previously, there were two components to the SAT score–reading and math–with 1600 points possible. These days there are three components–writing was added–and there are 2400 points possible. Just about any time you google a conversion chart, it will compare the ACT scores with the old range of SAT scores. I used collegesearch.collegeboard.com to obtain median ACT and SAT scores. That web site said the ACT scores for the middle 50% of Princton students was between 30 and 34. It is possible that the scores at Princeton have shot up recently. The same thing has happened at other Ivy League schools and BYU. They offer a finite number of seats and the population of the country keeps growing.

    In 1998, according to President Bateman, the median ACT score for BYU students was 27 and the for the top third of students it was 31. This year the median ACT score has become 28 at BYU. I estimated that that the median for the top third has reached 32. I don’t think the ACT scores for the top students at BYU follow a normal distribution.

  25. Sterling on September 1, 2008 at 10:22 am

    #21: Previous studies have demonstrated a high correlation between SAT scores and family income. Check out the most recent data on this phenomenon. Are you arguing that Mormons are exempt from this pattern?

  26. Sarah on September 1, 2008 at 10:30 am

    I’d guess that BYU is less interested in gaming the rankings than other schools — and perhaps that it has fewer resources to do so. The “fundamentals” don’t seem to affect school rankings at all anymore (at least, not the US News ones.)

    I wish I had gone to BYU, even if it would have made my dad furious; going to the third-least-expensive (and highest-ranked) university in my state left me with $34k in student debt (despite co-op/scholarship housing and need- and merit-based scholarships) and has seriously limited my options. The problem isn’t that BYU is too inexpensive — it’s that nearly every other option is ridiculously overpriced. If used Yugos cost $20k and every other car on the market cost $35k, in 2008 dollars, the solution would not be to raise the price of the Yugo (this assumes that you’re looking for large-scale solutions that help many people get good-quality cars, and not just solutions that solve the inevitable shortage at the used-Yugo dealership.)

    Does anyone have good numbers on the long-term benefits of going to a highly-ranked/highly-expensive school like Harvard or Georgetown or Chicago or USC versus state schools or lower-priced privates? I know that for law schools, even just looking at income (without adjusting for living in New York vs. Cleveland) the benefits drop off dramatically as soon as you ignore the 2500-billable-hour BigLaw types; I’d be surprised if the results were different when looking at undergrads. And if you define “better off in the long run” to include temple marriages, activity/engagement at church, having as many children as you’d like to have, taking time out to serve others, etc., I’d be even less likely to believe that BYU grads are disadvantaged when compared to Yalies or any other Ivy-grads.

  27. Sterling on September 1, 2008 at 10:33 am

    #22 & 23: Let’s assume there 2 million Mormon households in the U.S. (The census says the average household size in Utah is 3.08 and there are between 5 and 6 million Mormons in the U.S.) According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, 16 percent of Mormons in the U.S. live in households whose annual income exceeds $100,000. That means there are 320,000 Mormon households in the U.S. making this kind of money each year. If only 1/10th of these households sent a student to BYU, they would fill the campus and the average family income of the students would be at least $100,000. Of course, these wealthy Mormon families are overrepresented at BYU, so the average family income is even higher for BYU students. If BYU uses a quota system to bring in non-Utah students, why can’t it do the same thing for students from working-class families.

  28. Chris Grant on September 1, 2008 at 10:46 am

    (1) See here for the 2004 distribution of ACT scores for those admitted to BYU. The mean score of the top third was 31.

    (2) “Material violation of the Church Educational System Honor Code” is grounds for faculty termination at BYU.

    (3) My department (mathematics) would be very interested in learning about concrete ways that undergraduates at some other institution (Ivy League or otherwise) are receiving an education superior to that provided by BYU.

  29. Steve M on September 1, 2008 at 11:02 am

    Re: #18,

    : This is an interesting proposal. Would this simply make things more equitable or would it actually increase the number of smart LDS students from low-income families at BYU?

    Hopefully both.

    A tiered tuition system would change the economics for affluent students. There would be less financial incentive for wealthier students to attend the Y. If the cost of a BYU education approached that of other schools (at least for affluent students), applicants would likely give more thought to attending those other schools.

    Assuming that more affluent students chose to attend other institutions over the Y, more spots would be left open for qualified students from low-income homes. Upon a showing of financial need, these students could be awarded a lower, tithing-subsidized tuition rate. BYU could thus provide a quality education for more needy students, while affluent Mormon kids are educated at other comparable institutions.

    This system would also avoid the ethical objection raised in #23: using members’ tithing to subsidize the education of students who really don’t need that kind of help.

  30. Steve M on September 1, 2008 at 11:10 am

    I’m also going to add that I think BYU should stop funding its merit-based scholarships with tithing. Often, those scholarships go to students who don’t have to work their way through school, have more resources at their fingertips, etc. Merit-based scholarships are great, but I’m not convinced that they should come from tithing funds.

  31. Juliann on September 1, 2008 at 11:21 am

    Rich people who benefit from low tuition also pay more tithing.

  32. carmen on September 1, 2008 at 11:22 am

    #12

    True, no one’s agency would be taken away if BYU had a score upper threshold, beyond which you were disqualified. It just seems counter intuitive to be disqualified for doing well, I can’t say that I would feel good about that.
    Now, raising the tuition for BYU is an idea I’m not entirely opposed to. I don’t have false expectations of paying nothing for a good education…I’m just saying that, given my choices, BYU was the best choice for me at the time. Had BYU’s tuition been much higher I have to say I would have more seriously considered the other schools. My conclusion: this discussion has been thought provoking.

    #23

    Well, I will tell you that I did feel the added responsibility of having a subsidized education. I did not take it for granted and I did work hard to learn all I could. I felt the same vibe from many of my fellow students (not all, but many). But, and maybe I’m a very small minority here, I paid for my education and my housing by myself. So the fact that my Dad makes a lot of money is not relevant. So, family issues aside, I was very grateful that I could make it through school with a good education and no student loans on my own. My brother is doing the same thing, and I knew many others who did the same. Higher priced education makes it so that you almost have to rely on your parents or dig yourself deeply into debt. Just a thought.

    #14

    Yes, socialism. I don’t use that as a catch all, fear inflicting, blanket word. I just believe that socialism has the big brother attitude of “I’m going to ‘fix’ the problems of the poor people”, and I felt an edge of that in the suggestion that rich or bright people should back off so the “masses” could have better access…who’s to decide where that line is where you are defined as rich or bright?

  33. Steve M on September 1, 2008 at 11:30 am

    Re: #30,

    Does paying more tithing entitle one to financial handouts from the Church (e.g., BYU tuition subsidies)? Should it?

  34. hoss on September 1, 2008 at 11:41 am

    @ #32…

    Does paying any amount of tithing (high or low) entitle one to financial handouts from the Church? Where does this sense of entitlement come from by those in both classes?

  35. mike on September 1, 2008 at 11:51 am

    Last spring the BYU recruiters came down to Georgia for the annual fireside to tell us all how to get our darling children into BYU. They showed us these pie charts and explained what all was taken in consideration in this selection process. Since my kids do NOT want to go to BYU, I was there mostly to keep them from getting too rowdy and to prevent them from taking the recruiters out into the woods for some “southern hospitality” afterwords; I did not write anything down.

    But I recall that BYU looks at far more than academic qualifications. It seems like only about a third of the pie chart was grades and ACT scores. Other large chunks included extra-curriculars, community service, early morning seminary graduation, scouting rank and duty to God (DTG)award, personal progress completion in YW, tithing faithfulness of parents and student, Bishop’s worthiness interview and recommendations.

    We were told that the acceptance rate to BYU was variable in different geographic regions. For us doltish Southerners it was a whopping 70% at BYU and 99% at BYU-Idaho (What son or daughter of the South would go to that frigid climate?) For places closer to Utah it was somewhat lower and we were supposed to be grateful and appreciative of this less-than-level playing field.

    Although more than 75% of the kids in our rather diverse wards do not want to go to BYU, we have had several apply to BYU during the last few years and a few got in. Here are some examples:

    AT: Eagle scout, great leader, high achievement in all areas and smart. Wants to be an engineer and turned down a full scholarship at Georgia Tech. ACCEPTED

    NG: Illegal Mexican convert, no money, bad schools & low SAT, incredible testimony, hard worker, brought rest of her family into the church, very active, YW President. ACCEPTED

    TD: High SAT, good athlete and lots of sports achievements, almost Eagle but no DTG, sort of laid back apathetic cool attitude. Only 3 of 4 years seminary attendance. DENIED

    TW: Above average SAT. Football scholarship. Poster child in Ensign for Mormon AA family. Not much scouting. Seminary grad. Great personality and charming. ACCEPTED. (But later kicked out of BYU for selling cocaine and completed a short course of “study” at the Utah County Jail.)

    AL: High SAT and high achievement in all areas. Very smart and a nice girl. Accepted but went to Ivy league after much agony.

    CL: High SAT and exceptionally smart, but kicked out of 2 expensive private high schools. Prominent church family. Little scouting. Troublemaker. Glad when he didn’t come to seminary. No permanent criminal record (barely). DENIED (Recently left on a mission).

    NB: Military daughter. Hard worker but only average SAT (moved around so much). Beautiful and talented. Dated and straightened out CL. Strong testimony. Seminary grad. BYU denied but accepted at Ricks and married by Christmas.

    LS: High SAT. Exceptional music ability. Non-LDS father (?tithing). High achievement in all other areas. Seminary grad. DENIED but accepted to Julliard.

    AA: Moderate SAT and good grades and lots of activities. Star scout and DTG. Seminary grad. Italian background. Good guy with a funny positive over-the-wall personality. ACCEPTED

    TH: High SAT but average grades (Lazy). Near genius and skipped grades. Active family but very little money. Not many school activities but seminary graduate and DTG. Little scouting. Lots of community service after HS grad at age 16. Grew out a long beard and sort of a free-thinker. DENIED. (On a mission)

    I admit these are brief incomplete generalizations, so don’t over-analize them. What I am trying to say is that, already, the decision as to who goes and who doesn’t go to BYU is complex. I believe that the local Bishop has quite a bit to say based on what the student had done or not done while growing up, although BYU makes the final selections in the end. Some who wanted to go to BYU and were denied found much better things to do. (Mullberry bush type of inspiration is not ruled out.) Mistakes were obviously made in a few cases.

  36. Sara R on September 1, 2008 at 11:51 am

    #25: Yes, I think there are reasons why Mormon families might not have income and ACT scores correlate to the same extent as families in general.

    More stay-at-home moms means less family income. For high income families, the ACT scores might be “caused” by high expectations and tutors. Less wealthy families with educated stay-at-home moms can get the same effect in their kids for cheaper.

    Also, aren’t incomes lower in Utah than elsewhere? I know that was the perception 10-15 years ago; don’t know about today. If so, that may mean that Mormons have lower incomes in general (because of more stay-at-home moms, and dads who are not as willing to work 60+ hours per week). If so, the assumption that smart Mormons are usually also rich is not a safe assumption.

    For what it’s worth, I knew a lot of smart people at BYU, and the ones I knew came from solidly middle class families.

  37. Paula on September 1, 2008 at 11:55 am

    Re:30, 32, and 33, Doesn’t paying a lot of tithing and then sending your kids to BYU equate to finding a way to make your tuition payments tax deductible? I live in southern California, in a fairly affluent area, and see people who live in 2 and 3 million dollar homes sending 8 kids through BYU on tithing subsidized tuition. The excuse most people give here is that they pay a lot of tithing. But cheap tuition is not supposed to be a blessing of being a tithe payer. I think that charging tuition based on financial need would be great idea for BYU.

    Another benefit of eliminating subsidized tuition at BYU might be that more LDS kids would go to schools in their own areas, and the LDS influence on campus might be a really good thing. How can you let your light shine, if you’re hiding it under the bushel at BYU with 25000 other people who share your beliefs?

  38. Steve M on September 1, 2008 at 11:59 am

    Re: #33,

    It’s not about entitlement. I don’t think anyone is arguing that lower income families are “entitled” to tuition handouts any more than affluent families are.

    What is the point of so heavily subsidizing students’ tuition, if not to make a BYU education more affordable? Assuming that that is the purpose, then does it make sense to subsidize affluent students’ education to the same degree as less fortunate students’ education? Children of attorneys and business executives could still afford a BYU education if the tuition were two or three times the current rate, whereas lower-income students could not. If the Church is going to use tithing to subsidize BYU tuition in the interest of making a BYU education more accesible, it makes sense that those “sacred” funds should be reserved for students with true need.

  39. TMD on September 1, 2008 at 12:03 pm

    Though I don’t have it at hand, there is very good evidence that going to an academic powerhouse university–the Ivies or their liberal arts equivalents–makes a tremendous difference in applications for graduate schools, professional schools, initial jobs, and lifetime income. While it’s true that some can work their way out of the hole created by going to a lower-ranked school, they are nevertheless at a disadvantage.

    I also strongly agree with the argument that BYU tuition should be designed to pay the costs of the school, and tithing money used only to support those who need assistance to attend (so that money does not keey anyone out, but that those whose families can pay for them to attend, do). To those who say that higher education is overpriced, I have to ask how you would do it differently, and indeed, what you even know about running a good and effective university. But never pretend that BYU’s price is anything even resembling the real or correct cost of higher education. (I say this as someone who has quite substantial loan debt because I went to a good liberal arts college and paid for it through loans rather than putting it on my parents. Let’s just say that my parents would be substantially below the number argued for as the median at BYU.)

    I’d also llike to broach the subject of BYU-H and BYU-I. I recently had a very disquieting conversation about the effectiveness of a BYU-I education (apprently, on many indices, it’s not very good at all–some in CES argue that the prof’s there should not even encourage kids who go there to consider grad schools, and to teach accordingly) and the fact that the BYU-I model may soon be expanded to BYU-H, which has acted according to more of a liberal arts college in the pacific model since being founded by Pres. McKay.

  40. Stephen M (Ethesis) on September 1, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    .Did you know that 25 percent of the freshmen at Harvard are receiving federal financial aid?

    Soon to be 100% of those who come from families making less than somewhere between $60k and $100k and may very well move to 100% of all students (for Harvard — they are under pressure from the feds to spend more of the profit they are generating from their endowment).

    I was recruited by MIT, went to BYU.

    The question is whether or not:

    a) The tuition goes up and BYU becomes an LDS SMU/USC — a place for the wealthy LDS members to send their children to marry each other.
    b) You mire the school in mediocrity and never attempt to improve it by running off all the top students and pushing them to other schools.
    c) You attempt to create a place that offers a core culture experience for LDS who will hopefully leven the Church as they return to wherever they are/go. At the present,
    c is what the Church is attempting to do.

    Raising tuition crates a, and further strengthens the growing class structures that the Church is not excited to see vis a vis the Book of Mormon comments on the same.

    Running students off creates b and makes you seriously question why have a school at all.

    Only c really justifies having BYU.

    BTW, I transferred to CSULA after my mission, then went back to BYU for law school. I enjoyed law school at BYU much more than undergraduate school, though it seems to be the right place for my oldest daughter. My youngest daughter will probably start UT Dallas in six or seven years (we expect her to start about 14 or 15 when she can get a special needs driver’s license). UT Dallas is no longer more exclusive than Swarthmore undergraduate (it was for a while), but remains an excellent school.

  41. Kent Larsen on September 1, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    Matt W. (15):

    I obviously don’t have the data you have. But at most I think one of my assumptions might be mitigated based on what you post.

    I’m not sure that BYU’s admittance rate is the issue here. The issue is whether or not BYU’s policies reflect what its purpose is.

    I maintain, and continue to maintain that BYU shouldn’t be about trying to educate only the best and the brightest of Mormondom. Shouldn’t the purpose be broader than that?

    As far as I can tell, a 70% admission rate probably means that BYU could double in size before it has trouble filling all its spots (given the number that undoubtedly don’t even apply because they know they can’t meet the qualifications). Increase the tuition and it may be possible to either increase the size of BYU or increase other campuses or start other schools that will make up a good portion of that gap.

    As for 70% vs 85%, I think looking at it in terms of percentages is wrong. 70% means a little more than 2 of 3 applicants are accepted. 85% means 6 of 7 are accepted. Its really quite a large gap, IMO.

  42. Stephen M (Ethesis) on September 1, 2008 at 12:09 pm

    Hmm, messed up a parens some place there.

    And here I was thinking this was a BYU football post ;)

  43. TMD on September 1, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    in re BYU H, the most startling fact is this: the administration is currently pushing to move to a 4-4-2-2 teaching load (4 courses in both fall and winter, then two courses in two of the three summer terms), whereas the current load is 3-3 with optional teaching (at extra pay) during the summer terms. During the recent re-accreditation process, the accrediting board told the admin that they were the only college in more than a decade that had increased, rather than decreased, its teaching load, and by a quite substantial margin, and strongly encouraged them to change course.

    The practical effects of this are:
    1.faculty that is burnt out–there is a substantial increase in tenured faculty seeking to leave
    2. an increasing inability to get faculty with professional-level training, i.e., difficulty in getting people with PhD’s in the relevant field, to accept positions–instead, they seem to be hiring people with MA’s, then encourraging them to get education terminal degrees, which are substantially easier but also more limiting and hardly a sign of professional prowess in the relevant discipline
    3. faculty who are less effective teachers, because they lack the time necessary to be conversant in the current and up-to-date developments in their field
    4. a smaller range of courses that are taught in less interesting ways (because they are absolutely stale to the professor, having taught them again and again) which, again, lack up-to-date material unless the professor decides to ignore their family life.

  44. A. Nonny Mouse on September 1, 2008 at 12:26 pm

    Disclaimers: The Nonnie Spouse went to Ricks and then BYU. I went to BYU all my college years. We both received academic scholarships.

    I think we need to really return to first principles when considering most of the things that have been discussed on this thread about BYU.

    Ostensibly, the purpose of going to college is to gain an education. I’m going to narrowly define education as the process by which the student goes about receiving and understanding a body of knowledge. From this point of view, the value of the ivy league schools as better schools is already dropping, and will continue to drop. This is because the information that is dispensed at the ivy league is essentially exactly the same as the information as is dispensed at Local State U. The difference ends up being entirely a branding change. I really doubt that the professors at Harvard or Princeton are insanely better _teachers_ than the professors at Local State U. or at BYU or at any other school. In fact, I suspect that in many cases undergrads in particular get a better education from more highly qualifed teachers at a Univesrity like Local State U. or BYU or even a liberal arts undergrad-only college because there will be far more Ph.D.’s teaching the undergrad courses than graduate students teaching the under grads. If you’re a high powered academic mathematician at MIT or Princeton, chances are you’re not gonna be wanting to spend a lot of time teaching freshman calculus. More important to my argument, though, is the fact that if you’re (say) a Fields Medal winning mathematician, it still doesn’t change what you teach in freshman calculus. You’re typically still gonna use the same type of textbook taught at every other intro to calculus class in every other university on earth.

    So, the first principle: the actual undergraduate education (once again, strictly defined as a body of knowledge received by the student) gained at an Ivy League school vs. BYU vs. Local State U. is gonna depend on how much effort each student puts in, and that’s pretty much it.

    What an Ivy League school offers in terms of undergraduate education is a brand name. And a socio-cultural affiliation. When you go to Harvard or Yale you’re becoming part of an elite group of alumni. It says very little about what you learned and very much about what and who you think of yourself as being.

    Back to BYU: What BYU offers is a great education for a killer price, in an LDS environment. You don’t go to BYU for the education. Really, in this day and age and going forward (and I really think this will become more and more mainstream, given open courseware initiatives) undergraduate education is about the environment that you (the student) are choosing to learn in. From this point of view, there is absolutely no reason why we should prefer or disprefer one type of student over another at BYU based on any criteria other than an academic one. (The necessity of entrance requirements to an institution of higher education is left as an exercise to the reader.) Saying that BYU ought to take steps to prefer or disprefer students because of their financial demographics really seems like a moot point to me.

  45. Geoff J on September 1, 2008 at 12:26 pm

    This thread is classic. So the idea is “BYU should turn away smart students so the student body can consist entirely of kids with average-at-best intelligence and academic capabilities”. The justification among other things is “Dumb kids are less likely to come from rich families and since we don’t like rich folks the kids of these rich folks shouldn’t be allowed at BYU because of their association with those yucky rich folks”.

    I can see the ensuing change in the BYU mission statement:

    “The mission of Brigham Young University is to assist individuals in their quest for mediocrity”

  46. ddrplant on September 1, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    Re 36: I don’t recall God having a limited list of approved blessings for tithe payers… thus I believe *any* blessing, including an affordable university education, could be a blessing for paying tithing. People who are not members of the church do pay higher tuition at BYU.

    Also, I’m with carmen (31). I attended BYU and I was expected to pay my own way through school/living even though I come from a moderately wealthy family. I worked hard and received a great education without any student loans.

  47. Sterling on September 1, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    #35: Go to factfinder.census.gov and you will learn some interesting things. The median household income in Utah was $51,309 in 2006. The national average for household income during that same year was $48,451. So households in Utah tend to be more wealthy. The same census showed that 59 percent of females 16 years and over across the nation were in the labor force. In Utah, 60 percent of these females were in the labor force. It looks to me like Mormon women are just as likely to work outside the home as their non-Mormon counterparts.

    #40: Here is an additional reason to consider when evaluating BYU’s admittance rate. BYU has published a new matrix which states that that only students who will receive a full-tuition scholarship for all four years are those whose ACT score is at least a 33. What this means is that only the BYU students who are as qualified as Harvard students will get four-year scholarships. Is it any wonder that large numbers of less-qualified LDS students are applying elsewhere?

  48. TMD on September 1, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    A.Nonny Mouse 43:

    Basically, I think your arguments are wrong across the board. It’s not just branding. THere’s a lot, both in terms of what is gotten, and information that is transmitted, that matters. What you describe are common myths, but myths nonetheless.

    The courses at an elite school quite simply demand more, and students are in an environment where they expect to do more and to be held to more rigorous standards. At the liberal arts college I attended, the average class had on average 2-3 times the amount of work per class than I found when ta’ing and teaching on the main campus of a big-10 university. If you try to force the students to do more, they’re apt to not read at all–and give you negative evaluations. The faculty members rely less on the textbooks, and when they do use them, they move through them much faster. They are more likely to be sources of homework or background knowledge than the substance of the course–as is the case when in the hands of lesser teachers and researchers and (worst of all) those without the rigor of a PhD–since they will generally know little more than is already in the textbook. And frankly, a lot of the run-of-the-mill textbooks are pretty mediocre.

    The environment also matters a great deal. In an elite instutution, far more of the students’ expectations and aspirations are higher. So they both support a more challenging education, and in lots of ways, provide more support for fellow students in getting what needs to be done done (of course, not all of this support is ‘positive’, but often negative feedback is important in getting people to meet a challenge). In addition to this, of course, students are building connections with others who will be potential collaborators in a variety of fields throughout their lives.

    As to the information aspect, there are two kinds of information transmission. On the one hand, there is that which is transmitted by the name alone. Lots of passes at local state U (or perhaps BYU-I?) would not be passes at much better schools. So at the general level, the brand still means something. But general brands are not the only kinds of information transmitted–no less important are recomendations for grad school, law school, etc. Professors at elite schools are more likely to know and be known at a wide range of places where students might seek further education, and as such will be considered by admissions committees as more reliable letter-writers. The same tendency will be reinforced by the fact that they encounter a smaller range of student ability and achievement, so a very strong letter will mean even more. [Of course, the fact that they are teaching what they are researching, and which is the state of the art, will mean that their students will also be more alert to the trends in the fields and thereby have sharper and more attractive disciplinary/professional interests. This will also help in the admissions process.]

  49. A. Nonny Mouse on September 1, 2008 at 1:08 pm

    TMD:

    I grew up in a small liberal arts college town in the east. My family associated with LDS students at the college for the 10 years that I lived there before going to BYU. I took the first half of my major classes concurrently enrolled at the college while in high school, and completed the second half of my major course work at BYU. I have to say that I didn’t think that the courses at the (highly ranked, well respected) liberal arts school were any harder, or particularly more challenging.

    Additionally, many of my (non-LDS) high school friends got into Ivy League schools when we graduated from high school 10 years ago. I don’t think any of them are doing things that they couldn’t have done had they not attended ivy league schools for their undergraduate educations. In many of their cases, they have said they are disappointed with their choices. In many cases, I know BYU students who went on to receive similar or the exact same post-graduate educational experiences as my Ivy League friends.

    I’m sorry, but I just think the branding is just that, branding, when it comes to undergraduate education. When you pick a school you are making a social decision; you’re selecting a crowd of people you want to be with and be associated with. That’s just the way it is. Educationally, academically, what you get out of your experience depends largely on you.

  50. Matt W. on September 1, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    Kent, BYU Idaho accepts 97% of applicants…

  51. ddrplant on September 1, 2008 at 1:11 pm

    Another thought, if the church bases BYU’s tuition on a student’s parents’ income, then the church sends the message that parents are to put to their children through school. Given the church’s focus on independence and provident living, I doubt this is a message the church wants to send.

  52. ganzo on September 1, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    Geoff J.

    The church provides and subsidizes what is, by many accounts, a great life experience at BYU. You can dig up many BYU devotional speeches given by general authorities telling BYU students how particularly blessed and special they are to be there. Is there any fair reason to exclude people from this other than not living a temple worthy life? Yet, because of supply constraints, BYU cannot accommodate all the demand for it. I think it is perfectly valid to discuss the fairness of this process with regard to income, testing ability, and any other criterion unrelated to a person’s spiritual worthiness. Should someone who may not be naturally gifted in academics (i.e., low test scores) be excluded from the broader experience if they are willing to work hard? And if it is purely about academics, should the church be involved creating an exclusive and elite university?

  53. NOYDMB on September 1, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    Is it any wonder that only those with poor academic performance claim that it’s inaccurate? There are too many students who slack off instead of studying, and there’s nothing wrong with telling them to put forth some effort before trying to join on to the Church’s flagship (BYU). It is proposterous for the liberals to enforce an equality of stupidity. It’s amazing, first equality of outcome, now equality of mediocrity.

    Let BYU have as many qualifications as they want, it doesn’t really matter. We are not the ones who have the right to make those policies.
    For those afraid that BYU isn’t rigorous enough, call up some of their departments and ask them how many of their students went on to highly ranked law, medical, and graduate schools. Coming from a top 10 in so many areas grad school (like I do), with half of my ward from BYU, I really feel the liberals trying to overthrow BYU’s leadership here to be truly out of touch.

  54. Megan on September 1, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    #50 –

    In my opinion, the primary reason that there is a trend in the church to not pay for children’s education is because it actually is possible for students to pay for their own at BYU. But guess what – these kids aren’t actually paying for their education! Tithing money is paying for their education. That’s hardly living independently.

    All financial arguments aside, I think that the best reason for high-caliber LDS students to look at better schools than BYU is that these schools and the people in them really benefit from having LDS students. I’m one of 5 LDS undergrads at my school, and for a fair number of my friends, I’m the only LDS person they’ve ever known. Even people who grew up with LDS friends and neighbors might go years without interactions with a member of the church because when they are in college and in their early twenties, most of their LDS peers are in Utah and/or Idaho.

  55. Matt W. on September 1, 2008 at 1:44 pm

    in other words, BYU alread has made it “possible to … start other schools that will make up a good portion of that gap”

  56. Matt W. on September 1, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    oops, 54 is a follow up to #49, sorry I stopped to help my daughter play toki tori,

  57. Juliann on September 1, 2008 at 1:53 pm

    #32, I was not making a judgment on who should get what…only pointing out that in saying “rich” people are using others’ tithing money it should be noted that they do pay more in tithing themselves. It is possible they are putting enough into the pot to subsidize themselves and someone else. It is worth considering if we are going to divide people into classes. Meanwhile, I see BYU as a life experience that probably can’t be replicated based on what I observe through my daughter. (I refused to go in my time and went to the UofU). Academics are easier to come by than those less definable things….as has been made clear, there are other places to go for that. If someone is deemed to be rich should their child be denied that?

  58. Sterling on September 1, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    #52: In 2004, 9 to 10 percent of the freshmen at Harvard received Pell Grants. Now a quarter of all the students come from low-enough income families that they qualify for federal financial aid. Do you think Harvard had to lower its admission standards to make its freshman class more socioeconomically representative of the U.S.?

    #53: There are 34,000 students at BYU, if you count all of the undergraduates, graduate students, and professional students. In
    2002, only 11,000 of these students had on-campus jobs. So maybe only a third of BYU students have to work their way through school. The rest are probably supported by their families.

  59. Matt W. on September 1, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    More on the Rich people poppycock

    Here’s where BYUI says they admit 97%

    And since BYU admits 70%, this makes it better than UT-Austin which admits 51%, and comaprable with Texas A&M which admitts 71%.

    A good resouce is here if you are interested, even though they track BYUI’s acceptance rate as much lower (maybe due to the time of the articles publication or not counting the “three track” model…

  60. Geoff J on September 1, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    Ganzo (#54): Should someone who may not be naturally gifted in academics (i.e., low test scores) be excluded from the broader experience if they are willing to work hard?

    Yes. Because of space constraints average and below average students get the wonderful institute programs at their local state or community colleges.

    And if it is purely about academics, should the church be involved creating an exclusive and elite university?

    If the church is going to be in the university business at all it seems to me it ought to be the highest quality we can muster in terms of academics, sports, etc. You know, quest for perfection and all that. Now perhaps you could lobby for the church to dump all the BYU’s, but that is a different argument entirely.

  61. Matt W. on September 1, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    Stirling, The fact that a third had on-campus jobs is phenomenal! Studies show that Most students (80%) take off campus jobs. I am actually amused you were trying to slide that one through.

  62. Gimly on September 1, 2008 at 2:34 pm

    I see an undergraduate degree as virtually worthless nowadays other than as a stepping stone to a higher degree, and as I understand BYU does very well at placing students “up”, so I don’t see the issue. Going to the Ivy League is a total waste of money–the supposed increased rigor isn’t worth the 4x+ tuition.

    And as for #52, I’m quite sure the commenter would have been blaming things on “the negros” fifty years ago. The whole “liberals” bugaboo is about as simplistic a bit of name-calling as there is.

  63. queuno on September 1, 2008 at 2:35 pm

    What’s the enrollment at Harvard? 4000? I’ll take the top 4000 students at BYU and stack them up against Harvard.

    In my opinion, BYU should take the alumni donations to the football team and athletic program (like the despicable $50M training facility) and redeploy them into figuring how to admit another 7000 students a year.

    For some of us, if there hadn’t been a BYU, we probably would not have been able to go to college, despite our ability to get into other more pricey schools we couldn’t afford, and then we probably would have been stuck in some stake without any other singles, and we probably would have married out of the Church and gone inactive. Or at least that’s the argument I hear the brethren make.

  64. queuno on September 1, 2008 at 2:36 pm

    In 2002, only 11,000 of these students had on-campus jobs. So maybe only a third of BYU students have to work their way through school.

    In 1995-1996, I was employed off-campus, as were thousands of students. So maybe it’s more like half to three-fourths…

  65. queuno on September 1, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    His point was that BYU isn’t providing the reputation and possibly not the education that the level of their qualifications deserves, and shouldn’t pretend to be something its not.

    My brother’s law school fell over themselves, and his prospective employers are falling over themselves, over his BYU degree. The same went for me, applying to grad school, and for employers. My doctoral committee was astounded at the quality of my undergraduate programs.

    Maybe some majors have issues outside BYU. But there are plenty of other majors (accounting, languages, science, engineering, public relations) that are considered top-notch internationally and nationally.

  66. Sterling on September 1, 2008 at 2:44 pm

    #60: You are right. BYU is unique in how many student jobs it subsidizes. But it still looks like only about 70 percent of the students in on- and off-campus housing, as of 2000, were in the labor force.

  67. Matt W. on September 1, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    Sterling, my 80% was nationwide. I think the difference in BYUs percentage compared to the national average is explicable by the low tuition rate.

    And just so no one thinks I am psycho for knowing all this stuff, it just so happens that mutual for Tomorrow night is college prep.

  68. Stephen M (Ethesis) on September 1, 2008 at 3:32 pm

    In my opinion, BYU should take the alumni donations to the football team and athletic program (like the despicable $50M training facility) and redeploy them into figuring how to admit another 7000 students a year.

    Except the program runs at a profit. So, we move the money, the donations shift, and now we cut 4,500 students because of the reduced revenue.

    I’m not fond of football, but I don’t see the value in killing it and taking an overall loss. Not that we didn’t kill football at CSULA when I was there (though that was the student council before the one I was elected to, mine just refused to bring it back), but I would not currently do that at BYU (though I am all for killing NCAA football generally).

  69. Peter LLC on September 1, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    think of this more like A Modest Proposal or a thought experiment than any kind of well-thought out proposal.

    Except that A Modest Proposal was well-thought out…

  70. sister blah 2 on September 1, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    BYU should raise tuition to market rate if for no other reason than to make students think twice about majoring in Home and Family Living.

  71. Kent Larsen on September 1, 2008 at 5:29 pm

    Peter (68), if you want to be offensive, especially without justifying what you say, please go elsewhere.

  72. Steve M on September 1, 2008 at 5:38 pm

    My brother’s law school fell over themselves, and his prospective employers are falling over themselves, over his BYU degree.

    I’m not sure this is a typical experience. My law school certainly did not “fall over” itself, and my current prospective employers certainly are not “falling over” themselves, for my BYU degree. At best, I think that BYU is not seen as a liability; it seems to be pretty much considered on par with other institutions. But given that about 95% of my classmates attended undergraduate institutions that are ranked higher than BYU, it’s not exactly opening doors for me that wouldn’t have been open otherwise.

    That having been said, I do have to say that I’ve had no problem competing with those of my classmates who attended Ivies, and that probably says a lot more about the quality of education I received at BYU than about my own abilities.

  73. Steve M on September 1, 2008 at 5:49 pm

    Re: #53,

    All financial arguments aside, I think that the best reason for high-caliber LDS students to look at better schools than BYU is that these schools and the people in them really benefit from having LDS students. I’m one of 5 LDS undergrads at my school, and for a fair number of my friends, I’m the only LDS person they’ve ever known.

    I’m going to second this. I think it would do a lot in the way of building goodwill for the Church if LDS students spread themselves more evenly among the nation’s top undergraduate institutions. It would seem that, at present, a fairly high percentage of “high-caliber LDS students” attend BYU, while only a few choose a less traditional route.

    Of course, many of these students tend to go on to top graduate and professional schools after completing a BYU education.

  74. Kent Larsen on September 1, 2008 at 6:07 pm

    Jonathan Green (21):
    You are basically right that rankings don’t necessarily reflect the quality of undergraduate education. I refer to rankings merely because they have an effect on the outcome — how graduates are perceived in the workforce. While I’m of two minds on this issue (whether or not going to the Ivies for an undergraduate gives you a better education), I tend to believe that for most general education classes, the education isn’t significantly better.

    BUT, when it comes to reputation, at least in my experience, BYU doesn’t have the same pull that the Ivies have. All other things being equal, the Princeton grad gets a better job than the BYU grad.

    FWIW, when I came here to New York City, my accounting degree from BYU (ranked #3 at the time, and still ranked #3 according to what I understand) didn’t pull any weight. No one knew what schools had a great acounting program and what schools were average. They did know, more or less, who was good locally. [Note, I didn't go into public accounting, they may have known in the big accounting firms.]

    I guess more than anything, there is an element of this that is regionally based. BYU undoubtedly has a great reputation in the Intermountain West. Here in the East, not so much.

  75. Bob W. on September 1, 2008 at 6:07 pm

    As the proud parent of a BYU Econ senior who has had a 4.0 since his last freshman semester I have enjoyed this thread. I have long believed that BYU takes A quality students and gives them a B quality education. LDS students with high ACT and SAT scores clamor to get into BYU for non-academic reasons. My peers were in the first classes of the BYU law school while I attended law school at the U. They were certain that within ten years their law school would be ranked with Harvard, Columbia and Yale. It has surpassed U in beauty paegant standings but it still is not up with the Ivies and won’t be until the Y changes its view on academic freedom. The beginning post on this thread was dead on, but those policies will never be adopted. We will continue to settle for B educations for our A students.

  76. Kent Larsen on September 1, 2008 at 6:10 pm

    Sarah (26):

    Your suggestion that everyone else is overpriced ignores, I think, the cost to the institution of providing that education. The Church subsidizes, last I heard, 2/3rds of the University’s budget. Without that subsidy, BYU would either need to raise tuition or raise its endowment earnings to cover it.

  77. Geoff J on September 1, 2008 at 6:13 pm

    Bob W,

    Why not steer your kids to “Ivies” if you think BYU provides a B quality education? This sort of comment baffles me. Who chooses a school they don’t like if they have better options?

    PS — Kent’s suggestion that BYU turn down extra smart kids is one of the most ludicrous suggestions I have read in a while.

  78. Frank McIntyre on September 1, 2008 at 6:17 pm

    Bob,

    Your BYU econ senior had an education in economics that rivaled that given anywhere in the nation. Especially if he availed himself of the 500 level econ classes.

    “They were certain that within ten years their law school would be ranked with Harvard, Columbia and Yale.”

    Never trust a lawyer…

  79. Ben Huff on September 1, 2008 at 6:33 pm

    I think part of what BYU is for, is to brew an intellectual culture, just like the purpose of other high-profile universities. For that function there is value in having bright, motivated people there. Particularly professors. And the smartest professors will generally be more interested in teaching there if they are working with students who can handle challenging material, maybe even some of the ideas the professors are brewing.

    BYU-I and the Institute programs reach other demographics, and there are initiatives such as the PEF to help those in need become educated. Not to say we couldn’t do more.

    As for tuition, it would be nice to draw more money in from wealthy parents, but I don’t think it is obvious that the parents’ income should determine how much the child pays. This model seems to me to perpetuate adolescence when students should be becoming independent. BYU does a pretty good job of helping students take charge of their own lives in a spiritually supportive environment, and I think the tuition is part of how it does that. Not that rich parents aren’t likely to undermine the process in various ways anyway, but at BYU it is very realistic to pay your own way, which can be a beautiful thing.

  80. Ben Huff on September 1, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    A Nonny Mouse, your observation that BYU classes are similar in their level etc. to classes at a well-ranked liberal arts college does not say anything about whether Ivies are better than Local State U. BYU classes are generally taught at a fairly high level from what I gather, so I’m not surprised it compared with the liberal arts college you mentioned. There are places that require more of students than BYU does (or did when I was there, in the early 90s), and there are places that require significantly less, academically (including many state universities). At Notre Dame it was normal to require students to write four papers plus two exams in introductory philosophy classes, whereas a friend at Florida State is planning just one paper and two exams.

    I think there are a lot of reasons to be cautious about the idea that the Ivies and such are better, but that’s because it’s a question of the total package. There are serious academic differences, though BYU is closer to the top than the bottom of the scale.

    If we want more of our best students to go elsewhere, and there are advantages even from a branding standpoint, manipulating the admission standards is a pretty clumsy way to do it. If we want more of our best students to go elsewhere, and also stay strong in the church, marry in the temple, etc., we need to find ways to reproduce some of the other advantages of BYU, like residences with LDS standards, magnet schools to draw a critical mass of LDS, and better Institute programs. Some places have incredible Institute teachers, but many are not proportional to the quality of the schools. Institute should be as rigorous as students’ other classes. Otherwise their spiritual development will lag.

  81. Kent Larsen on September 1, 2008 at 8:45 pm

    I think the thing that bothers me most about many comments here is that they ignore the basic question of the post, “do BYU’s policies match its mission.”

    Several of the comments seem to believe that BYU’s mission is ‘academic excellence.’ I’m not convinced that this is BYU’s mission given its policies. I don’t claim that BYU’s mission is incompatible with academic excellence, but I think that the religious aspects of its mission are more important. How else do you explain BYU policies like the Honor Code (which doesn’t have anything to do with academic excellence) and its antipathy towards scholars whose work is seen as incompatible with Mormon culture (such as Brian Evenson).

    Others imply that BYU’s mission is about making good, successful LDS families. If so, then my acquaintance who was told he needed “academic repentance” should really be howling, because academic performance isn’t part of BYU’s mission.

    Of course, the reality is that BYU’s mission is somewhere between these two. Whether or not telling some students to go elsewhere, or raising tuition is good depends a lot on the details of how you see BYU’s mission.

    Its unfortunate that there were a few people who chose to vilify the suggestions without showing how these suggestions were incompatible with BYU’s mission.

    Please, if you don’t like the suggestions, explain why they don’t fit BYU’s mission!!

  82. Kent Larsen on September 1, 2008 at 9:04 pm

    I found Mike’s (#35) comment particularly instructive. It does imply (anecdotally, I admit), that BYU’s criteria are not just academic.

    But, I wonder about some of the results (and I admit it is almost impossible to know). I hope that BYU’s admissions people know more about what makes good results than I do, because some of this seems like BYU is choosing students that may already be destined to give good results, not providing help for borderline cases. For example:

    AT: Would he have left the Church if he didn’t go to BYU? Or been a worse Church member? Would Georgia Tech have made him a better engineer than BYU? or given him a higher chance of a job outside the Intermountain West, where the Church could benefit more?

    TD: What happened to this student? Did he go elsewhere? Succeed? Would he have been successful at BYU? Would his time at BYU have changed the laid-back attitude or made him a better Church member?

    TW: A sad case. Would BYU denying him have forced him into a position where things were more black and white? Where he would have not seen other LDS students involved with drugs? Would that have made a difference? Was BYU his best shot at staying out of trouble? Or would he have benefitted from being seen as different because he was LDS?

    I’m sure we can all come up with similar questions for the others Mike listed. I have no idea the answer. But the question remains, if part of BYU’s mission is to make good Church members and good LDS families, did accepting or denying these students further that mission or not? Perhaps Mike can say (I know I can’t), or the relevant Bishops. I guess what I’m asking is, would different BYU policies have made a difference?

  83. Kent Larsen on September 1, 2008 at 9:21 pm

    Steven M. (40):

    I think your argument is quite strong, but I’m not sure I agree that these are the only options. While I don’t think BYU’s mission is about academic excellence, I do think it has a role.

    More importantly, I’m not sure that BYU’s current policies actually do that! When I waas at BYU, I felt too much like “the campus is our world” instead of “the world is our campus.” I still don’t think anything there prepared me at all for life outside of a Mormon-dominated culture. (I came from an area that wasn’t Mormon-dominated, so I guess in my case the preparation wasn’t needed.)

    In my own experience there, I think I came away even more distrustful of authority (probably a good thing, but not what BYU’s administration was aiming for, IMO) than when I left suburban Washington D.C., after growing up very politically aware in the Watergate years.

    What I’ve seen through my son (now on a mission, but probably headed back to BYU when he finishes) makes me wonder if BYU really is preparing students for the real world. It still seems too much like BYU thinks its supposed to babysit students (i.e., In loco parentis, as the premiere issue of Student Review called it) instead of teaching them correct principles so that they can govern themselves. If you are doing the latter, are dress and grooming standards that go beyond what is suggested to Church members in general really necessary?

    So, I don’t quibble with your characterization of BYU’s mission. I’m just not sure that BYU’s policies are really getting the students to that point.

  84. Kent Larsen on September 1, 2008 at 10:04 pm

    GeoffJ (45, 60, 77):

    You’re clearly annoyed by this thread, and it seems to be more because we’ve suggested that BYU’s mission statement doesn’t necessarily justify an emphasis on academic achievement.

    What is it that you think BYU’s mission is? Is it academic excellence only? Are there other concerns?

    You wrote: “This thread is classic.”

    I hope it is. I don’t think many people think about these issues.

    So the idea is “BYU should turn away smart students so the student body can consist entirely of kids with average-at-best intelligence and academic capabilities”.

    No, the idea is that some students should go to schools with better reputations where they can both have an impact as an LDS student and, perhaps, become LDS Church members with the advantages that those schools offer.

    No one wants to dumb down BYU necessarily, just increase the number of LDS students in the high reputation schools. The point is, don’t have students go to BYU that won’t benefit from being at BYU.

    You later wrote: PS — Kent’s suggestion that BYU turn down extra smart kids is one of the most ludicrous suggestions I have read in a while.

    I hear your contempt, and I resist it. I know I don’t deserve it. And you haven’t done anything to indicate why you are contempuous of this idea. Again, please tell us what you think BYU’s mission is, and why that means that these suggestions are “ludicrous.”

    Without that, I can only assume that your contempt is because you are offended or uncomfortable with the whole idea, perhaps because you see an element of truth in them.

  85. Kent Larsen on September 1, 2008 at 10:14 pm

    queuno (65) wrote:

    Maybe some majors have issues outside BYU. But there are plenty of other majors (accounting, languages, science, engineering, public relations) that are considered top-notch internationally and nationally.

    As I said above, this isn’t my experience here in New York City. I’ve yet to meet anyone who knew that BYU’s accounting program (which I graduated from) is #3 nationally.

    I would have been better off coming into most accounting jobs here from a strong local school, such as St. Johns. St. Johns they know. BYU is something far away and exotic, like Bob Jones U.

    I also have a language degree from BYU. Ditto. No one outside of Portuguese professors knows that BYU has a strong language program.

    Perhaps this is changing, or perhaps other programs besides accounting and languages have different experieces. But I haven’t seen it.

  86. A S on September 1, 2008 at 10:14 pm

    I don\’t have any opinion, just a personal story. When I was a first year at the University of Chicago, I was asked by my (home ward) bishop how I liked U of C. When I told him I liked it, he told me that if I was smart, I would have gone to BYU so I could get married. I still smile about that when I look at my wife and my U of C diploma.

  87. Geoff J on September 1, 2008 at 11:00 pm

    Kent: What is it that you think BYU’s mission is?

    Well, I suspect it is something like this:

    The mission of Brigham Young University–founded, supported, and guided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints–is to assist individuals in their quest for perfection and eternal life. That assistance should provide a period of intensive learning in a stimulating setting where a commitment to excellence is expected and the full realization of human potential is pursued.

    All instruction, programs, and services at BYU, including a wide variety of extracurricular experiences, should make their own contribution toward the balanced development of the total person. Such a broadly prepared individual will not only be capable of meeting personal challenge and change but will also bring strength to others in the tasks of home and family life, social relationships, civic duty, and service to mankind.

    To succeed in this mission the university must provide an environment enlightened by living prophets and sustained by those moral virtues which characterize the life and teachings of the Son of God. In that environment these four major educational goals should prevail:

    * All students at BYU should be taught the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Any education is inadequate which does not emphasize that His is the only name given under heaven whereby mankind can be saved. Certainly all relationships within the BYU community should reflect devout love of God and a loving, genuine concern for the welfare of our neighbor.
    * Because the gospel encourages the pursuit of all truth, students at BYU should receive a broad university education. The arts, letters, and sciences provide the core of such an education, which will help students think clearly, communicate effectively, understand important ideas in their own cultural tradition as well as that of others, and establish clear standards of intellectual integrity.
    * In addition to a strong general education, students should also receive instruction in the special fields of their choice. The university cannot provide programs in all possible areas of professional or vocational work, but in those it does provide the preparation must be excellent. Students who graduate from BYU should be capable of competing with the best in their fields.
    * Scholarly research and creative endeavor among both faculty and students, including those in selected graduate programs of real consequence, are essential and will be encouraged.

    In meeting these objectives BYU’s faculty, staff, students, and administrators should be anxious to make their service and scholarship available to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in furthering its work worldwide. In an era of limited enrollments, BYU can continue to expand its influence both by encouraging programs that are central to the Church’s purposes and by making its resources available to the Church when called upon to do so.

    We believe the earnest pursuit of this institutional mission can have a strong effect on the course of higher education and will greatly enlarge Brigham Young University’s influence in a world we wish to improve.

    –Approved by the BYU Board of Trustees
    November 4, 1981

    It seems to me that in a university where “commitment to excellence is expected and the full realization of human potential is pursued” the best and brightest Mormons would always be welcomed and sought after.

  88. Left Field on September 1, 2008 at 11:04 pm

    Putting “academic repenting” in quotation marks implies that that is BYU’s term, and the next sentence reinforces that implication. I have a hard time imagining that phrase in an academic rejection letter, even from BYU. Are you sure the phrase was not a tongue-in-cheek turn of phrase originating from your acquaintance?

    “BYU policies like the Honor Code (which doesn’t have anything to do with academic excellence). . .”

    I beg to differ. How can policies on cheating, plagiarism, and other academic misconduct not have anything to do with academic excellence? Now, if you had said, “…parts of which don’t have anything to do with academic excellence,” I would have to agree.

  89. Jonathan Green on September 1, 2008 at 11:07 pm

    Um, Kent, I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone that New Yorkers are infamously provincial. In fact, about 99% of American citizens everywhere have never heard of about 99% of all American colleges and universities. That the citizens of NYC rub shoulders with and think highly of students from Pace and Fordham and NYU really doesn’t tell us that those schools are doing anything particularly right.

    BYU is an interesting institution, and the American higher education landscape would be poorer without it. There have been some questions about BYU’s mission, so why not take a look at the mission statement? Like about every school everywhere, academic excellence is not the only consideration. But the presence of an honor code or even grooming standards are not necessarily hindrances to academic achievement–most likely, they have little or no effect one way or another.

    Kent, your primary concern seems to be that more LDS students should attend higher-ranked colleges. That may be a laudable and achievable goal, but high school seniors and their parents are already making informed decisions based on quite a lot of information. If a lot of them decide that BYU best suits their needs, what’s wrong with that? I guess I don’t see that making BYU a poorer match for students’ needs would improve the situation.

  90. Geoff J on September 1, 2008 at 11:11 pm

    Kent #84: I hear your contempt, and I resist it. I know I don’t deserve it.

    Hehe. Contempt for an idea you have presented does not equal contempt for you Kent.

    No, the idea is that some students should go to schools with better reputations where they can both have an impact as an LDS student and, perhaps, become LDS Church members with the advantages that those schools offer.

    First, there is nothing precluding LDS students from attending any school they can get in to right now so if this is all you are angling for the good news is your wish is already granted.

    Second, you are whistling a different tune in #84 than you we got from you earlier. I asked in #1 “Are you suggesting BYU should say to some applicants: “Sorry, you’re too smart to attend here. We prefer less intelligent students…”?” and your response in #9 was “Yes, that is what I’m saying.” I was astounded that you would actually agree with my suggestion which I wrote assuming we could all agree that such an idea was completely absurd. (Though as I mentioned you seem to have shifted positions in #84 so maybe you didn’t mean what you said in #9 after all…)

  91. Matt W. on September 1, 2008 at 11:20 pm

    Kent: I am not here to argue what the mission of BYU is or isn’t, I am fine with your definition of it being a hybrid between academic excellence and faithful lds families. What I find odd, is you are saying that BYU should minister to the weaker and not the stronger membership. The basic idea is you teach the best and brightest and they go home and share the love and teach their best and brightest. Further, there still is that problem that 70% are admitted to BYU and 97% are admitted to BYUI. They are doing their absolute best to make sure everyone can get a BYU experience. I am aware that BYUI hasn’t quite achieved the reputation of excellence of BYU, but it does accomplish everything you are asking for here in this post.

    Geoff J: sweet pull.

  92. Kent Larsen on September 1, 2008 at 11:31 pm

    Left field (88), the statement was made in person by an admissions office employee to my acquaintances’ mother. She was quite definite about exactly what words were used.

    If you ask me, the term is inexcusable.

    As for the Honor Code, I meant the dress and grooming standards. My mistake.

  93. Kent Larsen on September 1, 2008 at 11:43 pm

    Jonathan (89) wrote: “That the citizens of NYC rub shoulders with and think highly of students from Pace and Fordham and NYU really doesn’t tell us that those schools are doing anything particularly right.”

    While I agree with the idea that many New Yorkers are provincial, there are 7 million or so of us. I’m not sure that any stereotype about that many people can be very accurate.

    But I have to take a little umbrage at including NYU in your list of schools that aren’t “doing anything particularly right.” Last I checked, NYU was ranked higher than BYU in most areas. In my case, NYU’s MBA program was top 20 at the time I went there, while BYUs was in the 50s, and considered a “regional school”.

    As far as the education itself, I thought most of my classes at NYU were better than similar classes at BYU (as an accounting major, I took more than a few business classes there).

    Kent, your primary concern seems to be that more LDS students should attend higher-ranked colleges.

    Not really. While I would like to see that, I’m much more interested in exploring whether or not BYU’s policies and the affect of those policies actually match the mission statement.

  94. Kent Larsen on September 2, 2008 at 12:21 am

    Geoff J (87, 90):

    Does the words on the paper match what actually happens? The issue here is the connection between that mission statement and BYU’s policies. Draw me the connection.

    You seem to think that this mission statement is all about excellence somehow. But it seems to me to be very heavily weighted toward making strong LDS families. I don’t see anything in the statement that is incompatible with pushing the “best and brightest” students toward other schools when BYU isn’t providing what they need. Nor do I see anything incompatible with the idea that tuition should reflect the University’s costs or be allocated to maximize the number of students that can benefit.

    In fact, I would argue that the mission statement implies that some of BYU’s policies may not fit. If BYU’s academic admission standards keep increasing, will this mission statement really be reached? The mission statement talks of reaching a balance, and I would argue that convincing students to go where they are most likely to reach that balance is what BYU’s policies should be doing.

    Likewise, facing realistic tuition charges is probably better for achieving balance, isn’t it?

    FWIW, I think my responses are consistent — two different ways of saying the same thing in answering the question you seem to be asking repeatedly for some reason.

    So, I don’t see your claim that this idea is ludicrous. Show me how these suggestions are incompatible with BYU’s mission statement.

  95. Jonathan Green on September 2, 2008 at 12:42 am

    Re-read, Kent. I didn’t say that NYU, Pace, etc. aren’t doing anything right, only that their degree of familiarity to the locals in NYC doesn’t tell us anything one way or another.

    About the mission statement, it’s an interesting question you pose, but the burden is still on you to show that particular existing policies are not in harmony with the university’s mission. We could imagine any number of policies that would not be inconsistent with its mission, but so what? I’m just not seeing a big upside to only admitting mediocre students. Perhaps you have some other examples?

  96. Geoff J on September 2, 2008 at 12:49 am

    Kent: I don’t see anything in the statement that is incompatible with pushing the “best and brightest” students toward other schools when BYU isn’t providing what they need.

    So let’s say an excellent high school student applies to BYU. How exactly would BYU determine that it cannot provide what she needs? If some hypothetical all-knowing administrator were to decide BYU cannot provide what she needs how would that administrator go about pushing her to another school? Would the administrator simply reject here application? One of those “sorry, you’re overqualified for BYU — we only accept stupider people than you”? Why can’t she just go to the school she wants to attend? Why would it fit the mission of BYU to punish her hard work and talent? I know you already admitted this idea of yours is not well thought out (#9) but come on Kent — this is a really lame idea.

    Nor do I see anything incompatible with the idea that tuition should reflect the University’s costs

    I also don’t see anything wrong with BYU charging more if the board decides that is what is best.

    tuition should… be allocated to maximize the number of students that can benefit

    I’m afraid have no idea what you are talking about with this one.

    I would argue that convincing students to go where they are most likely to reach that balance is what BYU’s policies should be doing.

    Again, for your idea to work in practice all you need is an all-knowing admissions administrator. Do you have anyone in mind for that position? If not why not let the students decide what schools they want to attend?

  97. Kent Larsen on September 2, 2008 at 1:54 am

    OK, Geoff J, Jonathan. I’m done with this one. I think I’ve made my point about as well as I can make it. If its not good enough, perhaps its not worth it.

    As we say in Portuguese, Este já perdeu a graça!

  98. Matt W. on September 2, 2008 at 9:35 am

    Or as they say in English “I was wrong, but I’m unwilling to admit it.” :)

    No worries Kent, If it’s any consolation, I have an acquaintance who dropped out of BYU after hearing GBH say that many people in need of spiritual nourishment wanted to go to BYU but couldn’t (this was pre-BYUI, mind you). He felt that he was taking someone else’s spot and transfered to a different school.

  99. Jonathan Green on September 2, 2008 at 9:36 am

    Me too, Kent, but thanks for playing! I’ll try to rustle up some pedantic objections to your new post.

  100. SteveP on September 2, 2008 at 9:38 am

    Yes, BYU professors must maintain a temple recommend. They have to get an ecclesiastical endorsement each year as well. If they are non-members (and currently non-members cannot be hired except in very rare circumstances–which have been rare enough that our department has been able to get permission) they have a yearly interview to make sure they are maintaining the honer code (including word of wisdom) in all aspects including dress and grooming standards.

  101. SteveP on September 2, 2008 at 9:40 am

    I meant “unable to get permission”

  102. John Buffington on September 2, 2008 at 10:58 am

    In response to Chris Grant

    “My department (mathematics) would be very interested in learning about concrete ways that undergraduates at some other institution (Ivy League or otherwise) are receiving an education superior to that provided by BYU”

    Chris

    I am a graduate of BYU, (mathematics, as luck would have it–we took Math 541 together with Jack) and can comment quite clearly on this point. I don’t give a toss about reputations, but after I left BYU, I attended Queen’s University and The University of Alberta. Both required me to exhibit considerable math skills, and based on the foundation I received at the Y, I was more than up to the task.

    I understand that this post is not about “how good is the math dept at BYU”, but I think that we sometimes dismiss the academic value of an education that can be received in Provo. Mine was top drawer.

    I hire people all the time. I truly don’t care where they went, so long as they can convince me that they have the skills I need. There are virtually no ivy leaguers in my group of 16. Not by design, but this is just the way it ended up.

  103. Kent Larsen on September 2, 2008 at 11:57 am

    So, we now see that Matt W can’t let things go without having the last word. Que mal criado!

  104. mike on September 2, 2008 at 12:09 pm

    Reply to Ken #82

    Your questions are both specific, and general as might apply to thousands of other similar students. I can answer or speculate about the specifics. But the general answers are perplexing to me. My daughter is filling out college applications and although she does not want to go to BYU, this discussion has been very timely for us. For her, U of U or USU seem like “church universities” compared to her high school and then there are the excellent local schools and the Ivy leagues. It is not an easy choice. To answer some of your specific questions:

    AT: Will likely succeed at anything he puts his mind to. He is a rising freshman beginning his college studies now as we discuss this. My speculation on his future is this: BYU, mission, marriage, transfer to Ga Tech and get that great job. Then kids, Bishop, maybe a GA some day. But the more general question remains unanswered, about all the other youth like him. Our kids are also thinking about this and maybe they will decide regardless of what we adults do. My daughter used to tease AT when he was studying so hard during seminary or MIA: “Why are you studying so hard, so you can get into a school better than BYU?” But BYU is where he always wanted to go.

    TD: He is also a rising freshman and decided to start at U of GA, a pretty good school but also famous for is extreme drunkenness and debauchery. (And a better football team than BYU.)Gambling in Georgia gives all state residents with half-way decent grades a nearly a free college education. (Hey, if you can’t get Mormon tithe paying widows in President Monson’s old ward to pony up your tuition, why not a voluntary stupidity tax on the poor folks from the state with the second lowest SAT averages in the country?) TD’s parents are mighty worried, but he gave a great Sacrament meeting talk recently about how (he intends) to stay close to the gospel. He is shy and probably won’t date very many of the some 30 LDS girls on campus. Singles wards will be crucial for him and a better institute program would help. The mission decision could change any of this either way and his father told me he thinks TD is 50/50 on going/not going. The path of his life will soon be at this major fork and he is going to make his choice in a hellish environment socially without much support from the church. I think he will choose well. But statistically with all the other youth like him, we are losing way too many of them; including one of his older brothers who is about 4 years further down the wrong fork in this path.

    TW: Youth don’t just start selling cocaine at football camp their first summer at BYU. He had probably been living a double life for quite some time. Early morning seminary, football practice, classes, church meetings, dealing cocaine. He represents a major failure to detect an individual who really doesn’t fit into the BYU mold. He was a popular leader at a high school where about 80-90% of the athletes use cocaine, definitely a bigger risk than TH the lazy genius with a beard who volunteered at a soup kitchen and probably read two issues of Sunstone magazine. The desire for a winning football team blinded them more than anything else. (Not every cost is immediately visible in dollars and cents, Stephen #68)

    TW is not so much a problem of loosing our youth, but rather a problem of winning them in the first place. That isn’t happening at BYU. BYU is making good people better, but it is not making bad people good. Does BYU really want to begin to reform a bunch of street thugs who might talk the Mormon talk but are not yet walking the Mormon walk? Because if they do, then the entire approach to the Honor Code is wrong. It has too little provision for repentance; especially if it requires multiple false starts and frequent failures. My impression is that if you violate minor standards a few times or a major standard once, BYU shows you the door and doesn’t worry if it slams you in the arse. We all seem pretty clear that BYU is a university for the worthy or those seemingly in the fast lane to the celestial kingdom. (But the whole have no need for a physician, so how is it the Lord’s university?)

    TW got into trouble again and had another longer course in jail. He was released on a Saturday night and on Sunday he showed up for Testimony Meeting. He got up and stated that his father (in the Bishopric) asked him not to do this but he was going to do it anyway. Then he walked over to the piano, actually leaping easily over a couple rows of choir seats (his athletic ability is frightening), and for his testimony he played the absolutely most beautiful song of repentance and redemption I have ever heard. I could feel his despair and guilt and shame and his begging for the healing power and sweetness and mercy of Jesus in his deep baritone voice. Tears were streaming down his face and many other members in the congregation. He had invented a new authentic powerful kind of music: black Mormon gospel redemption music, I would call it.

    He told me later that he composed the song in his mind while praying in jail and it was the first time he had ever tried to play it. TW hasn’t been back to church since then for a few years now and his father tells me vaguely he is drifting and making more poor choices. Our ward and church are so much the poorer for his absence. Neither our ward nor BYU for that matter are properly equipped nor advanced enough in teaching the gospel to reach him. His talents are enormous but so are his faults. His only remaining option is the Lord’s real university; which does not have an address nor a campus (except the entire world) nor an admissions committee and where instruction is all one-on-one with the head master giving every lecture. TW appears to me to be flunking.

    What I see in this discussion is mere tinkering with minimal complex outcome differences while we out here in the boondocks are losing most of our youth. The problem is far greater than BYU and college and reaches into other topics. I recall one post on another thread that reported only 10% of our boys are going on missions. And we are quibbling over lofty mission statements and tuition costs? Maybe we should think big; what could BYU do to actually double that 10% to 20%??? (I don’t know, but the answer is not tuition/admission changes).

    What is BYU doing for TW and the maybe 90% of Mormon boys (and corresponding girls) who choose not to go on missions and choose not to do all the other important things we expect them to do?

  105. Sam B. on September 2, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    Kent (85),
    That’s funny; people I know seem to know that BYU has a strong accounting program. (I’ve known several BYU grads at PwC and other accounting and consulting firms here in New York.) It’s true that in New York BYU suffers a little from being far away. On the other hand, back in San Diego, a degree from UCLA or USC is probably as valuable, if not more so, than one from Columbia or NYU. The networks are stronger. So your experience (and mine–I’m the only person at my law firm who is LDS or went to BYU) is probably not indicative of broad reputational trends. But my BYU undergrad let me comfortably (and with no debt!) into an Ivy law school, and nobody looks at my undergrad anymore.

  106. CTJ on September 2, 2008 at 1:08 pm

    Way late to this interesting thread but my two cents….

    My concern with BYU (and why I didn’t attend) is summed up a conversation I had with a leader in the ward I grew up in…

    leader: I always wanted to be an architect

    me: why didn’t you become one?

    leader: BYU doesn’t offer a program

    Believe it or not, thousands of us have attended a non church school and come out with our testimonies intact.

  107. Kent Larsen on September 2, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    mike:

    I really appreciate your comments. All I can say is: Amen.

    I certainly never intended to suggest that the problems at BYU (and this is just one aspect of those problems) have near the import of what most Bishop’s face with their youth programs. We don’t seem to have as many youth as you have in your ward, but since we cover what you might call the “inner city” including plenty of low-income areas, we have plenty of youth with problems.

    The comment you made that may be most on point concerned TW: “BYU is making good people better, but it is not making bad people good. Does BYU really want to begin to reform a bunch of street thugs who might talk the Mormon talk but are not yet walking the Mormon walk? Because if they do, then the entire approach to the Honor Code is wrong. It has too little provision for repentance; especially if it requires multiple false starts and frequent failures. My impression is that if you violate minor standards a few times or a major standard once, BYU shows you the door and doesn’t worry if it slams you in the arse.”

    This is exactly the kind of thinking I wanted to elicit and discuss. I don’t have all the answers, and I certainly see the viewpoint that a school like BYU may not be for trying to reform “street thugs.” But, I would argue that the BYU mission statement doesn’t seem, to me, to exclude that possibility.

    Should BYU try to reform like you describe? I don’t know. It wasn’t what the post envisioned originally, but its sure a possibility.

    I think the situation of AT is closer to what the original post described — the suggestion would be simply that if AT will still stay with the program, he might be better off at GA Tech, instead of BYU.

    Perhaps what others say here is correct — that its too difficult to tell which students will and won’t succeed by not attending BYU and which ones need BYU to succeed.

  108. Kent Larsen on September 2, 2008 at 1:26 pm

    Sam B (105):

    I tried to make it clear (perhaps I wasn’t successful) that I have never tried to work at a public accounting firm — the companies that employ a lot of accountants and that act as outside auditors. The only thing these companies do is accounting, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they knew the status of BYU’s accounting program.

    My experience has been working as an accountant for companies that do other things — book publishing, software development, auctions, etc. in my case. (I don’t do auditing — never really liked it, so I didn’t even try to work for a public company).

    I’d bet that explains the difference in our experiences.

  109. Matt W. on September 2, 2008 at 1:58 pm

    Kent 103: I have nothing intelligent to add, I just need to have the last word.

    More Seriously, I think BYU is attempting to do the things suggested in 107 via a “trickle down economics” approach.

  110. JrL on September 2, 2008 at 2:48 pm

    Since “rich people” make $5 million per year, they’re all paying $500k in tithing, right? Makes it hard to argue that their kids are being subsidized by someone else.

    More seriously ….

    I am extremely grateful for the education that my kids have been getting at BYU – for a price that is significantly below good public universities in my state. Then again, even with the Church putting in 2/3 of the cost, I can get all my kids through BYU without exceeding the tithing I’ve paid over the years, and of course I plan to keep paying tithing for many years after they graduation. Though my tithing may not cover the operating costs of the University allocable to my kids this year, the buildings in which my kids study were built with tithing funds to which I contributed. Though others are, in a sense, subsidizing my kids this year, the long term may give a different view.

    I appreciate the well-considered comments about good LDS students going elsewhere. Someone pointed out, though, that if we really want that to happen, we need a sort of magnet program — we need more universities with a “critical mass” of LDS students. But that’s tough to do outside of the American West, and I’d be interested in a thread on how it could be accomplished. I was grateful my kids had an affordable choice other than the nearby State U, with its coed dorms and well-justified anti-drinking campaigns — despite its good, but quite small (20-30 undergrads) Institute program.

    In my view, the Church’s principal benefit from BYU (and BYUI and BYUH) is the production of well-qualified graduates who have testimony, training, and experience that allows them to contribute to the Church immediately upon graduation — and without the kind of debt that cripples so many individuals and families. I don’t know that the Church is getting the value it should from its efforts. But the problem, I think, is not the product, it’s where the product lands. Too many BYU grads, regardless of where the come from, stay near Happy Valley — another possible topic for discussion.

  111. MoJo on September 2, 2008 at 2:54 pm

    My dad always wondered why there was no BYU-Chicago and/or BYU-Atlanta.

  112. Assorted Chocolates on September 2, 2008 at 8:27 pm

    Gosh, this post and these comments are making me feel guilty. I’m sorry I go to BYU. I’m sorry my Monson scholarship was funded with tithing money.

    No seriously, maybe I should have at least applied to other universities besides BYU. Now that I think about it I don’t think I had any particularly good reasons for choosing BYU.

  113. Jim Donaldson on September 2, 2008 at 8:40 pm

    Re:111

    I can recall Boyd Packer in some talk (in the last several years) say that if it were up to him and he could find a buyer, he’d recommend that the church sell BYU, that the church shouldn’t be in the college business. In was in response to a question about why there weren’t more BYUs and why they didn’t expand BYU more.

    By the way, the historical fact is that the church tried to cut down to just BYU-Provo early in the depression (i.e., 1929-1930). They gave Dixie, Snow and Weber colleges to the state of Utah (where they had quite a bit of influence in the legislature) and they tried to give BYU-Hawaii and BYU-I/Ricks to Idaho (where they didn’t have nearly the influence in those state legislatures) and Hawaii and Idaho wouldn’t take them.

  114. Jim Donaldson on September 2, 2008 at 8:40 pm

    Re:111

    I can recall Boyd Packer in some talk (in the last several years) say that if it were up to him and he could find a buyer, he’d recommend that the church sell BYU, that the church shouldn’t be in the college business. In was in response to a question about why there weren’t more BYUs and why they didn’t expand BYU more.

    By the way, the historical fact is that the church tried to cut down to just BYU-Provo early in the depression (i.e., 1929-1930). They gave Dixie, Snow and Weber colleges to the state of Utah (where they had quite a bit of influence in the legislature) and they tried to give BYU-Hawaii and BYU-I/Ricks to Idaho (where they didn’t have nearly the influence in those state legislatures) and Hawaii and Idaho wouldn’t take them.

  115. ldsartcollector on September 3, 2008 at 12:54 am

    You can\’t deny someone enrollment at a church owned university just because their parents wealthy. If the parents are active that means they pay tithing. And therefore they are paying more tithing than the average member which means more of their money is going to pay for church owned schools.

    The BYU administration has yet to master the art of PR. They are constantly offending people and giving perks to wealthy donors who owns the apartment complexes surrounding the university. Don\’t you think it\’s convenient that BYU has rules that you have to live within so many mile so of campus and your housing has to be approved by the school. It\’s a monopoly.

  116. Allen on September 3, 2008 at 11:19 am

    I think the church schools should follow the pattern used by other schools. Raise the tuition to be near that of the Ivys and other schools and then give generous financial aid to the families with lower incomes. My daughter went to Yale after high school. She graduated with no student debt and is finishing her Ph.D with no student debt. We were one of the poorer families, and my daughter received generous financial debt in conjunction with her working part time and my family paying what we could afford.

  117. Kent Larsen on September 3, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    LDSArtCollector (115):

    “You can’t deny someone enrollment at a church owned university just because their parents wealthy.”

    Probably not. But you can effectively charge them more, by making them pay full tuition and giving scholarships and loans to those less wealthy. This is the only thing that has been proposed here to rectify the financial situation. The other part of the proposal isn’t about who is wealthy, but about whether or not some students would be better off at other schools.

    I do agree with you about BYU’s administration and PR.

    When I was there, we couldn’t go a semester without something happening that made the school look like a bunch of kooks. The bookstore banned “Culture Club,” a whistle-blowing Cougareat employee, who reported on health code violations (cockroaches, IIRC), was fired, the printed student directory showed Karl G. Maeser without a beard, even though he wore a beard throughout his adult life, etc.

    And then, after I was long off campus, the Museum of Art actually put two Rodin nude statues in the basement instead of showing them — which cost a friend of mine, a BYU graduate, a job.

    Now you know why we joke that BYU’s motto is “The Campus is our World.”

  118. rd on September 3, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    Assorted Chocolates,

    If there’s any place you need not feel guilty, or where other people’s viewpoints should not make you feel guilty, it’s here. Congratulations on the Monson scholarship, a laudable achievement, one not to be undersold. BYU’s honors programs are top notch, the prospects for excellent grad-level education second-to-hardly-any, and the social benefits outstanding. Embrace your education and enjoy your time at BYU. I know I did.

    There are reasonable critiques around here, but you will find the same at any school of any significance. I attended a great grad school after BYU and didn’t find it any more challenging or the students any more impressive. If anything, they made more poor choices that foreclosed future opportunities–despite their brilliance. There are very few relative numbers of alumni posting around here and the viewpoints, though valuable, should by no means impose guilt.

    So enjoy fall semester. Really.

  119. rd on September 3, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    Assorted Chocolates,

    If there’s any place you need not feel guilty, or where other people’s viewpoints should not make you feel guilty, it’s here. Congratulations on the Monson scholarship, a laudable achievement, one not to be undersold. BYU’s honors programs are top notch, the prospects for excellent grad-level education second-to-hardly-any, and the social benefits outstanding. Embrace your education and enjoy your time at BYU. I know I did.

    There are reasonable critiques around here, but you will find the same at any school of any significance. I attended a great grad school after BYU and didn’t find it any more challenging or the students any more impressive. If anything, they made more poor choices that foreclosed future opportunities–despite their brilliance. There are very few relative numbers of alumni posting around here and the viewpoints, though valuable, should by no means impose guilt.

    So enjoy fall semester. Really.

  120. TMD on September 3, 2008 at 6:11 pm

    JRL, 110, I think that one can reasonably question the quality of the education at BYUI, and perhaps increasingly BYUH as well.

    114, with regard to BYU-H, that’s impossible, since it was founded by Pres McKay in the 1950′s.

  121. Rob on September 3, 2008 at 7:02 pm

    Turning away the brightest students is an absurd suggestion and would ruin the value of a BYU degree for any student attending after such a policy were implemented.

  122. TJS on September 5, 2008 at 9:10 am

    I\’m sorry I came to this discussion late. I just wanted to add some thoughts:

    In the beginning of the decade (around 2001-2), in my student employment at BYU, I was able to find out how much BYU spends per student (the source was someone very high at the university who would definitely know). I was told that the amount spent per student at BYU is about $20,000 – $25,000. IIRC, yearly tuition is somewhere between $3,000 – $4,000, so students are only paying for about 1/7 – 1/8 of the cost of their education.

    As a BYU grad, I am grateful that my education was subsidized. I feel like I received a top-notch education, and I am now in a professional graduate school at one of the top universities in the nation. I don\’t think coming from BYU was a liability at all. My university respects BYU grads and always admits a fair number every year. Not having student debt from undergrad made it a lot easier to be able to attend here.

    I think it would be a bad idea for the church to sell BYU or to do anything to encourage smart students to go elsewhere (by, for example, raising tuition). BYU does a lot to increase the LDS church\’s influence in the world. When people know that the LDS church maintains a large, respected university, it helps dispel ideas that the LDS church is some strange fringe religion. BYU provides a place for LDS-themed scholarship that would just not be produced without BYU (e.g. FARMS) and research into issues important to LDS people (for example, much research on the importance of strong families). If the church got rid of BYU or decreased the quality of the students, it would decrease BYU\’s reputation and standing, and hence BYU\’s influence. By attracting so many talented students to BYU who then go on to top grad schools and professional success, it increases the church\’s visibility–for the rest of their lives, those graduate\’s resumes and company bios will list BYU for their undergrad degree, and people will know they are church members and be able to see (hopefully) good examples church members in prominent positions.

  123. Kent Larsen on September 5, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    TJS (122):

    Interesting thoughts. I think that the per student spending is great information.

    Do you have any thoughts about whether the subsidy given to students should be done by simply making the cost for LDS Church members $3,000-$4,000 as it currently is or whether the subsidy should be extended to those students with fewer financial resources through University-run financial aid and by letting those that can afford it pay the full cost?

    As for how BYU’s reputation, I don’t think anyone else above has raised that idea.

    But wouldn’t it be better to state as much in BYU’s mission statement?

  124. Clark on September 5, 2008 at 5:18 pm

    I always figured you could do something like the out of state “tax” that state universities do. Have a different tuition rate for folks from high Mormon areas like southern Idaho or Utah versus everyone else. I believe there is already preferential treatment in terms of admission.

    But the overall complaints about BYU seem pretty unfounded (IMO). Unfortunately the discussion all took place when I didn’t have time to contribute.

  125. Clark on September 5, 2008 at 5:28 pm

    BTW – one thing that does bug me that I didn’t see mentioned in the comments. Tithing isn’t our money. These analogies to taxes and representative government seem weird. The money of the government is partially mine in a way my tithing money just isn’t. Once I sign that to the Bishop I consider my voice in the matter done. While I’d hope the Brethren listen to the Lord and are accountable and wise in how they spend it, I don’t think I have the kind of voice in those decisions I do in government. Complaining about spending it at BYU seems on par with complaining about all that oak wood in chapels, if you catch my drift.

    I do understand some of the complaints about BYU. But speaking as someone who was the only Mormon in a student body of 1,200 in High School and one of the few Mormons in the Province, being able to come to BYU and actually be around Mormons was an overwhelming experience for me. I think people who perhaps came from the west where there were lots of Mormons don’t quite get that. I grew and developed a lot independent of my studies. Going to a different school really wasn’t the same. (And I did my Freshman year elsewhere) I would like BYU to up the standards and difficulty a tad to be more like some of the bigger named schools though. Especially now that UVSC (now UVU) can take some of the load that BYU was taking. (Ditto with BYUI and its expansion)

  126. Kent G. Budge on October 8, 2008 at 6:16 pm

    I turned down admission to Caltech and MIT to attend BYU as an undergraduate in physics. In retrospect, it’s one of the best decisions I ever made.

    On graduation, I entered the graduate program at Caltech in astrophysics. I had many good experiences there and value my Caltech Ph.D. However, my experience as a graduate student there reaffirmed my wisdom in obtaining my B.S. at BYU.

    I have a brother, a professor and active LDS though not at a Church school, who has passed along the criticism that the BYU student body is better than the faculty deserves. I’m not sure I believe this. It seems clear that BYU is not as research-friendly as many national universities, but my experience is that research excellence is only loosely correlated with teaching ability. At the undergraduate level, this is particularly true, and I think the best measure of BYU’s success is whether it is successful at preparing students for top-tier graduate and professional schools.

    I didn’t hear any particular snark about BYU once I got to Caltech, nor much since. I *did* hear a lot of snark about Mormonism, subdued in my presence of course. I’m not sure I did much to help the Church’s reputation, since I insisted on remaining religious and a conservative, and I chose not to go into academia immediately after graduation. (Long story for another time.) Later I did seek a position at BYU, but it never materialized, and I remained within the DoE laboratory complex.

    I believe there are a number of excellent faculty at BYU, who stay because of their vision of the University. I wish I was one of them. Nevertheless, the pay is notoriously low and the research funding limited, which kind of points to some obvious conclusions — some of you have already reached them — of what an increase in tuition might go towards.