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.