Higher Education and Mormon Culture

February 16, 2010 | 54 comments
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Acorn to OakWhile discussing the development of Mormon culture at the recent Brazilian Mormon Studies Conference in São Paulo, Brazil, one friend told me that Mormon culture would really develop when there was an LDS University for members in Brazil to attend.His view was that BYU (in all its campuses) and  the LDS Business College provide not only a source for much of the cultural material developed and disseminated among Church members, but also provide a place where youth both meet and marry, and make life-long friendships.

I have to admit there is good logic here. But in General Conference in October 1999, President Hinckley said:

We are not likely to build other university campuses. We wish that we might build enough to accommodate all who desire to attend. But this is out of the question. They are so terribly expensive. But we shall keep these as flagships testifying to the great and earnest commitment of this Church to education, both ecclesiastical and secular, and while doing so prove to the world that excellent secular learning can be gained in an environment of religious faith.

Backing up these institutions will be our other schools, our institutes of religion, scattered far and wide, and the great seminary system of the Church.

At that point it looked as if BYU would expand to a new campus in Nauvoo, Illinois, but that effort closed in 2007.

This morning, as I was catching up in my reading, a link to Nauvoo University caught my eye. According to the website, Nauvoo is like Southern Virginia University, an independent liberal arts institution trying to provide an LDS student audience with an experience founded in LDS values. Essentially, Nauvoo University takes the place that BYU’s Nauvoo program had.

As I surfed further, I discovered yet another institution, Desert Valley Academy, located about an hour north of Las Vegas, which is also trying to reach an LDS student audience. DVA is seeking to raise $75 million to fund its ambitions.

Of course, I discovered, that these are not all. There is also an active post-secondary business program in the Phillippines, called the Academy for Creating Enterprise, and a foundation (the Acorn to Oak Foundation) raising money in an attempt to start an LDS-values University in Argentina.

I’m not sure where this leaves us. The optimist in me looks 50 years in the future and sees  an exciting network of colleges and universities, educating a significant portion of LDS youth. But I also see a lot of difficulties getting there, and the realist in me predicts that many of these efforts will fail. If nothing else, it seems like a lot of new institutions quickly — I’m not sure that Mormonism can pull off so much fundraising, since these come at the same time as the fundraising for the perpetual education fund, and fundraising for the relatively new mormon studies programs at USU and Claremont (and others in the works, I hope). Seems like a lot to pull off. [I must say, however, that I’d donate money to an effort in South America before those in the States, that seems like it has the largest potential long-term impact.]

Still, I wonder if this all really makes sense, as much as I wish it would. Will LDS colleges and universities have as much of an impact culturally (and spiritually too) as all this assumes? If so, then wouldn’t expanding BYU also make sense?

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54 Responses to Higher Education and Mormon Culture

  1. Karen M. on February 16, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    My brother-in-law from Fortaleza knows someone with LDS church development in Brazil who told him that there has been talk about building a church university in Brazil. He told him about the Fortaleza temple before it was announced, too, so it’s not a completely unrealiable source of information. I don’t know if it wil happen, but I would imagine that church leaders would be more willing to spend money on a university in S. America than in the States (as people used to hope).

  2. Last Lemming on February 16, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    Backing up these institutions will be our other schools, our institutes of religion, scattered far and wide

    Just how far and wide are institutes of religion scattered? Are there viable institutes in Brazil and other non-North American countries?

  3. Kent Larsen on February 16, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    Karen M. (1): Just so there isn’t any confusion, was this information from before or after the announcement of the perpetual education fund?

    I know I should treat this as just a rumor, but I find the idea very appealing.

    Last Lemming (2): there is an Institute of Religion locator at: http://www.lds.org/institutes. For each they list the universities served and the number of students enrolled, in addition to contact information.

    FWIW, for Brazil they list 162 Institutes of Religion. My guess is that if the counry has a few stakes, it has at least one institute of Religion.

  4. sister blah 2 on February 17, 2010 at 2:15 am

    Wow, usually I am such a cynic when it comes to BYU. But the idea of a BYU in South America really excites me. Thanks for this post, Bro. Larsen.

  5. Raymond Takashi Swenson on February 17, 2010 at 3:20 am

    One of the prerequisites for maintaining a college or university is raising funds, including a lot of donations for an endowment. We clearly have a number of people in the Church who have experience raising funds for higher education, including current and past presidents of BYU and BYU-Idaho, President Mike Young of the University of Utah, and President Gee of whichever university he is at these days (as I recall, he pulls down the largest salary of any university president). It is clear that BYU and its campuses are at capacity, even as the Church membership will continue to grow, especially outside the US. This should create demand for colleges like SVU, just as it created demand for Utah Valley University functioning as “BYU Jr. University”. People who are experienced in university finance should be able to evaluate when it is financially feasible at a particular time and place to start an LDS-oriented private college, especially one that has other virtues, such as being outside Utah in a location where cost of living and real estate is affordable with amenities desired by college-age LDS. So I would think that eventually we will see a version of all of these visions come to pass, though it may be another 20 years (by which time membership will have about doubled and demand increased, especially if members outside the US can become more prosperous). Unlike the centrifugal tendencies of many religious affiliated colleges (e.g. Notre Dame), my guess is that the independent LDS colleges will be very conscious of the need to appeal to the faithful LDS in order to justify their own existence as an alternative to more secular schools, and will be, to an extent, “more BYU than thou”. BYU has the name, so it might get away with things that an SVU would find threatens its identity as LDS for some students and their parents.

  6. Jonathan M. on February 17, 2010 at 5:55 am

    I have always felt there was and is potential for a small BYU-Europe, preferably located in the UK, largely because of the number of European members and others who are English-speaking. But I don’t suppose it will happen in my lifetime (I’m 53).

  7. Bob on February 17, 2010 at 9:15 am

    I am not getting the Vision. Are we pondering big school(s)? If in Brazil, will it teach in Portuguese? How will the other Countries of Latin America feel about this? If it/they get as big as BYU (There are a lot of Latin Mormon), will it/they break from Utah thinking?

  8. Karen M. on February 17, 2010 at 9:23 am

    He heard about his after (way after) the announcement about the PEF. My brother-in-law was told by his friend about it at the same time he told him about the Fortaleza temple (so sometime last year). I don’t want to get anyone’s hopes up falsely, so please take my thirdhand information with a grain of salt.

  9. Karen M. on February 17, 2010 at 9:54 am

    I guess what I mean is, although I think this is a reliable source, just because church leaders may have looked at the feasibility of building a university in Brazil doesn’t mean they have decided to do so. (But I hope they do!)

  10. Kent Larsen on February 17, 2010 at 9:56 am

    Bob (7), I’m not sure how to communicate the vision better.

    But to answer your specific questions, yes, I think these could be big schools, but they are more likely to be smaller than BYU for the foreseeable future.

    Will they teach in other languages when in other countries? Of course! Why wouldn’t they? You have to teach in the language that the students speak.

    What would other countries in Latin America feel about this? Well, I presume you mean how would Church members in other Latin American countries feel? Good question. I assume they would feel cheated if a BYU in Brazil were the only one. But it seems likely that a BYU in Chile or Mexico would make as much sense. I hope that whoever makes these decisions will consider that.

    BUT, more importantly, the current situation is already heavily biased toward English. When the number of Spanish-speaking members is close to passing the number of English-speaking members, of course at least some Spanish-speaking members will feel cheated that there isn’t a BYU Mexico City.

    The real question is whether the Church might actually create such a campus. And, since President Hinckley has said its not likely, what should members do instead of that.

    Clearly, in the U.S. many have decided that the thing to do is to start independent institutions. SVU has shown it can be done. I hope one way or another we can see it be done in Spanish and in Portuguese, the next logical choices.

  11. Geoff B on February 17, 2010 at 10:47 am

    The blossuming of smaller LDS colleges clearly shows there is a demand out there. The Church in Brazil and many other Latin countries is growing quickly, and I know many Brazilians with teenagers who would like to send them to LDS-themed colleges, and the kids themselves would like to go. Our ward in Rio helped send one faithful young man to BYU-Idaho in 2001, and I accompanied him on the plane from Rio to Miami. He barely spoke English and was shaking with fear at the idea of being out of the country for the first time, but I heard from him a month later and he was ecstatic and quickly learning English. Surely there are hundreds if not thousands of young people in Brazil who would choose to stay in Brazil given the choice.

    I have no idea what it takes to start a university. But the demand is there.

  12. queuno on February 17, 2010 at 11:08 am

    There was a thread recently on linkedin.com about Nauvoo University, and how to market it (I’m having linkedin login issues, so I can’t track it down at the moment). There was some concern that “top” students (and you have to have “top” students to make a new university work) would eschew a new university that the Church didn’t have any formal ties to.

    (I know, SVU is out there, and has great students — I know a family with 2 students there — but I suspect that if you asked 100 adults in an average LDS ward not located within 100 miles of SVU, you’d have 15-20 who would have heard of it. And 10 are Orson Scott Card fans.)

    It seems like a bit of a conundrum — how do you get students to flock to a new university? And especially, how do you get students to flock to a new university that has Mormon themes and standards but gets no recognition from the Church?

  13. Paul E on February 17, 2010 at 11:25 am

    Obviously funding is a key ingredient for the success of independent LDS colleges, but there are myriad other capacities and institutional factors required for a successful independent college that have been overlooked in this thread, capacities that may not be available in the LDS market at any price. The small independent college is, blessedly, a completely different institution than the large institutions that most Latter-day Saints are familiar with. The small college ethos requires an extraordinary level of commitment to student learning and achievement that one simply doesn’t find woven into the culture of the large BYU campuses or the large mountainwest state universities. So how many Latter-day Saints will genuinely come to these projects with the tacit knowledge of what it means to be excellent at teaching in the way professors at colleges like Reed, Carleton, Williams, and Swarthmore are with their craft if they have never experienced that kind of education? Where will we find the athletic directors and coaches who understand the noble amateur ethos of NCAA Division III rather than the professional sports mentality of division I if they have only played in Division I? Where are the Latter-day Saints who understand how to handle the increased regulatory requirements of higher educational institutions — and can address those requirements with integrity but without the huge staffs of educrats we see at large universities? Latter-day Saint youth the world over deserve the more bespoke education that can be provided through quality liberal arts colleges, but I worry that unlike the Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Lutherans, and Catholics with a long tradition of operating confederated small colleges that Mormon culture lacks the capacity to operate an array of excellent small colleges.

  14. Karen M. on February 17, 2010 at 11:29 am

    I know exactly nothing about starting and funding a University, but would it be a real possibility to have a few “satellite” universities in other countries (South America, Europe, Asia) with the BYU label? Kind of analogous to the smaller temples that Pres. Hinckley instituted. It seems like a natural outgrowth of the Perpetual Education fund to me.
    In my opinion, SVU is kind of an anomaly with its success. I think the direct church link might be important to the success of a church themed school in other countries. There are lots of international students who would like to come to BYU. Does anyone know if there is international interest for SVU?

  15. Bob on February 17, 2010 at 11:54 am

    Well,I guess if you ready want a lot of healthy and well funded small LDS colleges__you close down BYU.

  16. bbell on February 17, 2010 at 11:55 am

    I think a university or 2 in Mexico, Brazil, Chile etc would go a really long way towards retention and long term generational growth. Combined with the PEF this would be a knockout idea.

  17. Andre Mostert on February 17, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    Over 30 years ago we in the Nauvoo area proposed to the church hierarchy that it would help the church in the eastern part of the US if there was a church-related university in Nauvoo. We got the response “Sounds good, start raising money.” That ended that.

  18. Kent Larsen on February 17, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    Paul E (13) wrote “there are myriad other capacities and institutional factors required for a successful independent college that have been overlooked in this thread.”

    Of course you are right — but it wasn’t my intention to cover all the factors, just to bring up the issue in general.

    “how many Latter-day Saints will genuinely come to these projects with the tacit knowledge of what it means to be excellent at teaching in the way professors at colleges like Reed, Carleton, Williams, and Swarthmore are with their craft if they have never experienced that kind of education?”

    I don’t know how many. They do exist. IIRC, Claudia Bushman went to one of these small colleges.

    “Where will we find the athletic directors and coaches who understand the noble amateur ethos of NCAA Division III rather than the professional sports mentality of division I if they have only played in Division I?”

    I suspect that the LDS colleges in the U.S. are already confronting these issues. As for overseas, the sports issue is moot (at least in Brazil, and probably the rest of Latin America). In Brazil there isn’t any following for college sports, and I suspect that many colleges there have little or no athletics.

    Despite all this, I believe you have a bit of a point, although in the U.S. we probably have some of the expertise you are talking about. Church members are involved in a number of small colleges, like Snow, College of Eastern Utah, Eastern Arizona, etc. Though these are usually state-run colleges, different from independent liberal arts colleges, at least some of the issues are similar.

    I guess what I’m trying to say, is that while the issues you bring up are important and real challenges, I don’t think they are insurmountable. If nothing else, there is nothing to prevent these schools from hiring non-LDS staff in key positions initially.

    And, what is to prevent these schools from growing into larger schools eventually? The Brazil institute data show nearly 35,000 institute students in Brazil. What if you could get 3,000 to 5,000 to go to the same school?

    FWIW, BYU Provo enrolls just half of applicants. Some 5,000 of those who applied end up elsewhere. Institute enrollment in the U.S. totals more than 140,000. Perhaps there is room there for a few other institutions?

  19. Kent Larsen on February 17, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    Andre (17), isn’t that what those behind Nauvoo University have decided to do?

    IIRC correctly there are something like 10 Mormons or former Mormons on the Forbes list of the richest Americans. There are many more millionaires who don’t make that list, and many more around the world (I believe there are at least 3 active LDS multi-millionaries in Brazil).

    I’m not saying that the fundraising will be easy, merely that it is possible.

  20. Adam Wride on February 17, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    Kent –
    Thank you for the mention of the Acorn to Oak Foundation and for the emails we have exchanged.

    A little history: The Acorn to Oak Foundation was setup as way to pull together Latter-day Saints with the express purpose of establishing a BYU/SVU like university in Argentina. I plan on posting a good bit here in the comments about our decision making process but a long story short: we knew we needed small wins early on to win over local leadership, show we could be successful in even the small things, and to involve Argentines in the organization (I’m the only US born member of the foundation and we know that long term success will come from local “ownership” of the university). Our first effort was to organize some GMAT classes for university grads looking to do their MBA at BYU (ironic, yes, but a great way to meet the right people in Buenos Aires). We got 3 into the BYU MBA program that year (2007). We got our small, early win.

    I’ve been down to Argentina 3 times since we started Bellota a Roble. During one of those trips I met with Don Atkinson, who at the time was the MTC mission president in Bs. As. He recommended that we take a look at what problems needed solutions in Argentina. Although the end goal is still to establish an LDS university, we recognized that the problem we wanted to solve was the lack of LDS community for young single adults. In the US we have Utah valley, Boston, and Washington DC and others where there is a critical mass. This isn’t just about marriage (though it’s a big part). LDS Argentines have very poor graduation rates with translates lesser jobs, more family and financial instability, and greater inactivity in Church.

    From this focus we have turned our sights on developing a university residence, Residencia Faiek, in Argentina (Cordoba) where the standards of the Church are maintained (not just dress/grooming/behavior but also educational standards) – think BYU’s Heritage Halls minus BYU. Such residences are quite common in Argentina (though only a few are religious based) and give us a way of pulling together a community without the extreme costs of a university. Additionally, Argentine university education is quite good if you can get it and stay on track, so there is no need to start an LDS university to improve educational standards (I have to assume that this is part of why the Church has not built foreign universities to date in these countries and why they are closing the Church College in New Zealand).

    The beauty of this residence is that it will be self-sustainable (we’ll run it like a business but we are organized as a non-profit) so once we raise the initial funds, we will be able to operate the residence without additional money. Any additional growth will be done in the same manner (raise funds first, then grow; never putting the existing program at risk).

    A pitch for those interested in supporting Residencia Faiek, named after a pioneer church member in Cordoba whose kids all graduated from universities there: We are signing the lease on an apartment this week and want to wrap up the fundraising period as soon as possible (so we can focus on getting the interested students into the apartment and focus on programming (keeping students on their education track, working relationships with employers, etc).

    Yes – we are starting small, but there really is no other way to start. BYU started small, SVU started small, and we’re starting small.

    If you would like to donate to the opening of Residencia Faiek, donate here: http://www.residenciafaiek.org/donate/

    If you have questions I’ll be checking in the comments.

  21. queuno on February 17, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    Reed, Carleton, Williams, and Swarthmore

    Let’s say I’m an LDS soon-to-be HS graduate. Assuming I want the small-college feel, what would make me pick a non-Church-sanctioned LDS college over Williams or Swarthmore anyway? The Institute? The LDS professors? Keep in mind that I’m probably to have to pay a *lot* of money to attend, because the Church isn’t subsidizing 70% of my tuition costs.

    If I’m an LDS student in Texas, why would I risk my education by going to Orson Pratt U, when I could just go to UT or A&M that have strong student wards and institutes?

    And where do you get the faculty? You’d have to assume that they want to teach there and not just use it as a jumping-off point to another university.

    Startup businesses are attractive to a lot of people for a lot of reasons. I can’t see who is attracted to a startup university, esp. one that purports to be LDS-themed without the LDS backing.

    As someone said, SVU is an anomaly.

  22. Jonathan Green on February 17, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    For a college or university outside the US, making English the language of instruction is more common than one might think. I’m not saying it’s necessarily a good idea for a private LDS college in Latin America, but there would at least be plenty of precedent for it. The advantages and disadvantages should be considered.

    P.S. Hi, Andre!

  23. Adam Wride on February 17, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    @Jonathan M – our goal with the university residence is to prove out a model that could be taken beyond Argentina and to Brazil, Mexico, and definitely Europe.

  24. LeRoy on February 17, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    If I am remembering correctly, SVU started when a group of benefactors purchased an already existing private college that was having financial and enrolment difficulties. Existing, non-mormon professors were welcome to stay on (with certain condistions). Can this situation be duplicated elsewhere? It might be easier to acquire and re-purpose an existing institution than to start a new one “from scratch”.

  25. queuno on February 17, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    From this focus we have turned our sights on developing a university residence, Residencia Faiek, in Argentina (Cordoba) where the standards of the Church are maintained (not just dress/grooming/behavior but also educational standards) – think BYU’s Heritage Halls minus BYU.

    I think this is a terrific idea, and something that’s portable to universities in the United States. Some entrepreneur in Austin or Columbus or Tallahassee could do well catering to the LDS community at those universities with an LDS-standards apartment complex/residence hall.

  26. Paul E on February 17, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    A challenge with the concept of BYU satellite campuses in South America is accreditation. The best colleges in South America are accredited through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) which has a a core requirement a governance rule that seems to exclude church ownership and operation (SACS-COC Core Requirement 2.2 “the board is not controlled by a minority of board members or by organizations or interests separate from it.”) The regional accreditor that accredits BYU and BYU-I has no jurisdiction in South America. So and LDS model in South America will probably require some kind of independent effort that maintains an LDS environment and manages to incorporate, in some fashion, CES institute classes.

  27. Adam Wride on February 17, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    @Karen M: “I think the direct church link might be important to the success of a church themed school in other countries.”

    In my conversations with SVU officials and with some LDS leaders both here in the US and in South America, the Church is willing to do as much as possible for these institutions but up to a point. The Church is not interested in operating more universities, but is happy to see schools like SVU succeed. How do they do this? They build the largest institute building on the east coast in a tiny town, they move EFY from Williamsburg (a great vacation destination for families) to Buena Vista and pay SVU for use of the campus, and they paid SVU for use of the buildings for Sunday services. I’m sure they do more than this, but it can give us an idea of how the Church can support these types of institutions without giving them the official blessing that would constitute “build[ing] other university campuses”.

  28. LeRoy on February 17, 2010 at 1:42 pm

    This discussion began with the heading “Higer Education and Mormon Culture” and seems to be founded on the notion that we need to have mormon higer education in order to have mormon culture. What is “mormon culture”? And will it (should it) be the same in every nation, land and clime? About 18 years ago, my wife and I spent a social evening along with other bishops and their wives, with a member of the Presiding Bishopric. (I will not give his name, but he is still alive and well and serving actively as a general authority.) To paraphrase some of his remarks, he said “The brethren are trying to decide what is the gospel, and what is western American mormon culture. We want to export the gospel, but we don’t want to export the culture.” In the years since, I have noticed an increasingly tight focus on principles of the gospel in general conference.

  29. Adam Wride on February 17, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    @ queuno

    Yes, the residence idea is very portable to the US or any number of cities around the world.

    I don’t think there is much to learn from this, but it is interesting that a member built an apartment complex for LDS students @ Michigan State and now the Institute runs it (the student application says that it is owned by the Presiding Bishopic):
    http://www.lds.org/institutes/home/0,8473,768-1-36-99901,00.html

  30. Adam Wride on February 17, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    @Paul E

    Accreditation for an LDS school in South America by an accreditation body in the US isn’t going to be important (in my opinion) to the founders of an LDS school there. These schools are for members in that country and will only need the accreditation that is necessary in that country.

  31. Adam Wride on February 17, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    @LeRoy

    “The brethren are trying to decide what is the gospel, and what is western American mormon culture. We want to export the gospel, but we don’t want to export the culture.”

    Exactly.

    This is why foreign universities need to be run and, ideally, started by the local members. Otherwise you will get a BYU/Idaho in Mexico, when what you need is a LDS Mexican university.

  32. Alex T. Valencic on February 17, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    I feel like I am the only one who doesn’t really see the appeal of attending a Mormon-based university. I applied to BYU-Provo and was accepted, but I had also applied to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and was accepted there, as well. I chose to come to U of I because I didn’t WANT to be in a heavily-saturated LDS environment. Instead I became deeply involved with our local Institute of Religion and our student ward, and also became deeply involved with non-LDS groups on campus.

    I do like the idea of having an LDS residence established on campuses. It is my understanding that they used to exist, through the LDS fraternities and sororities (Sigma Gamma Chi and Lambda Delta Sigma, I think), but they were discontinued as emphasis on the Latter-day Saint Student Associations increased. I think it would be nice to bring them back.

    However, getting to the OP, why must we have LDS institutes of higher learning in order to spread LDS culture? I don’t get the idea of why this is thought to be true, and I quite rather disagree. I am quite certain that the bulk of post-secondary degree holders in the Church earned those degrees outside the LDS school system. And LDS culture seems to thrive anyway.

  33. Karen M. on February 17, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    Alex : “I feel like I am the only one who doesn’t really see the appeal of attending a Mormon-based university”
    Two words: subsidized tuition

  34. Kent Larsen on February 17, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    LeRoy (28) wrote:

    This discussion began with the heading “Higer Education and Mormon Culture” and seems to be founded on the notion that we need to have mormon higer education in order to have mormon culture. What is “mormon culture”? And will it (should it) be the same in every nation, land and clime?

    While I don’t think it is necessary, higher education clearly contributes to culture, both inside Mormonism and outside Mormonism. BUT, I don’t think that this necessarily means the Mormon culture in the U.S. (or, more specifically, in happy valley).

    I’ve thought about this quite a bit, and my conclusion is that we don’t have a “Mormon” culture at all–we are missing too many elements for what we have to be considered a full “culture.” What we havem, at most, is “Mormon” subcultures within various national or regional cultures. In my view those subcultures will likely interact with each other, pollinating each other with cultural ideas and elements, some of which will grow, and others that won’t.

    Adam Wride (31) is correct about this. There is no reason that an LDS institution of higher learning in Mexico needs to import anything from the U.S., including Utah Mormon culture. BUT, the reality is that, in most parts of the world, Mormonism is so recent and has grown so quickly that some help in kick-starting cultural institutions, both financially and logistically, makes sense. That is what Adam is trying to do with Acorn to Oak Foundation and what I’ve tried to do myself with several things, such as Mormon Translation and the Brazilian Mormon Studies Conference. The Church has already made it clear that it will not do these things. And, it is possible that these ideas either won’t work where we are trying them, or else won’t work everywhere. But I think they are worth trying.

    But, I do realize that they must be tried with some care, and attention to the local members and what their culture will see as useful.

  35. Kent Larsen on February 17, 2010 at 6:59 pm

    Alex T. Valencic (32) wrote:

    I feel like I am the only one who doesn’t really see the appeal of attending a Mormon-based university.

    Oh, you aren’t the only one. If I’m reading the numbers correctly, about 2,500 students each year are accepted to BYU-Provo but don’t enroll. And there are many more that don’t even apply. If the total enrollment to the BYU campuses and LDS Business college is about 50,000, and institute enrollment is 140,000 in the U.S., then only about 25% of active LDS college students are at one of the LDS institutions of higher learning. Probably more want to go, but not the majority.

    I do like the idea of having an LDS residence established on campuses. It is my understanding that they used to exist, through the LDS fraternities and sororities (Sigma Gamma Chi and Lambda Delta Sigma, I think), but they were discontinued as emphasis on the Latter-day Saint Student Associations increased. I think it would be nice to bring them back.

    I don’t know why that happened. Could there have been a liability issue?

    However, getting to the OP, why must we have LDS institutes of higher learning in order to spread LDS culture?

    I don’t think we are saying that institutions of higher learning are required to spread Mormon culture. But it is a byproduct of those institutions. The reason to start institutions of higher learning is because the higher learning is needed, and perhaps because the environment in other institutions isn’t what many students desire.

    BUT, from a perspective of trying to grow the Church, learning in an LDS environment does seem to help build stronger members and stronger LDS families.

    And, if it helps build local LDS culture in more places, that could be a good thing (as long as they don’t merely try to parrot BYU LDS culture).

  36. Bob on February 17, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    If Higher Education is only what is being talk about, then the Church should completely step away from secular education.
    If it about creating or maintaining a worldwide Mormon Culture, then close BYU (and it’s football team), and beef up the Institute programs worldwide at the secular colleges. Otherwise, BYU will continue sucking the oxygen out of the whole room.

  37. sister blah 2 on February 17, 2010 at 9:59 pm

    Bob #7:

    “If it/they get as big as BYU (There are a lot of Latin Mormon), will it/they break from Utah thinking?”

    I think for me that is one of the strongest factors in making the idea appealing to me. (There I go being a BYU cynic again)

    Seriously, though, I think it would help to get out the crowbar of a new LDS university to pry the gospel away from some of the BYU-indoctrinated culture that many BYU alums seem to have a hard time separating. But it would still be orthodox in all the meaningful ways, because it would be under church control. Win-win.

  38. Kent Larsen on February 17, 2010 at 11:14 pm

    Bob (36), perhaps you could go into a little more detail — I can’t figure out what you are trying to say.

    If I gave you the impression that starting a college or university is only about the education, then I misspoke. I am trying to say that it is the principle reason to start a college or university, but not the only one.

    As for your comment on closing BYU, I think you are being both unrealistic and overly critical. I agree that there are elements of the culture that comes from BYU that are objectionable. (I came away from my experience there with a love-hate relationship for it — one that has kept me from donating anything when they call.) But I do not think that it is all bad. And I don’t think that closing BYU would necessarily make things better.

    If I have misunderstood what you are saying, please explain.

  39. Dan on February 17, 2010 at 11:34 pm

    Kent,

    How are the universities in Brazil these days? How competitive are they in the international scene?

  40. Bob on February 17, 2010 at 11:50 pm

    #38: Kent, What I am saying is the Church can not go worldwide on the BYU model. The BYU model is very limited. I LIKE BYU!
    But if the goal is a good worldwide Mormon experience at college. Then good Institute programs attaced to good colleges is a better model,(IMO).
    If you had to pick a college for your son, and there was not a BYU, how would you pick? If the Church cut it’s interest in BYU, still many Mormons would go there. But they could put that Church money into good Institute programs attaced to good colleges through out the world.
    I see no need for the Church to teach Math, English, etc.

  41. Adam Wride on February 18, 2010 at 12:04 am

    Kent,
    Towards the end of your post you bring up the issue of financing all of these new endeavors (a very real hurdle, but not an insurmountable one for LDS education).

    A comment and a question:
    1. My understanding is that the PEF has more money than it knows what to do with – it can’t make loans to enough people (at the standards that they, rightfully, maintain)
    2. Will there ever be an LDS Ave Maria? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ave_Maria_University (as in, new university started with big $$$)

  42. Adam Wride on February 18, 2010 at 12:12 am

    Will there ever be an LDS Ave Maria? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ave_Maria_University (as in, new LDS university started with large $$$)

    Also, have to say that it is great that SVU has gone from “let’s see what happens” to “well, they are the exception”.

    Great things are happening.

  43. Kent Larsen on February 18, 2010 at 10:37 am

    Dan (39), I’m afraid I don’t know very well. The Wikipedia page covering Brazilian University Rankings may give an idea.

    The THES-QS rankings seem to put the best Brazilian universities mid-range in the world. The University of São Paulo is ranked #207 (just behind the University of Florida and just ahead of Rensselaer Polytechnic), The University of Campinas is #295 (well behind the University of Utah-#259 and just behind UC Riverside and tied with Tulane) and the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro is #383 (behind the University of Tennessee and the City University of New York and ahead of the University of New Mexico and Yeshiva University).

    Also on the list is the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (ranked in the 400s).

    BYU is ranked in the 500s.

  44. Kent Larsen on February 18, 2010 at 10:58 am

    Bob (40): wrote

    If you had to pick a college for your son, and there was not a BYU, how would you pick?

    My wife and I did go through this with him a couple of years ago. I was generally in favor of him not going to BYU. The alternative was the Universiy of Wisconsin, Madison. But BYU was 1/3rd the price, and was quite strong in the field he is studying.

    If the Church cut it’s interest in BYU, still many Mormons would go there. But they could put that Church money into good Institute programs attaced to good colleges through out the world.
    I see no need for the Church to teach Math, English, etc.

    I agree with your assessment to a degree (in fact, I discussed this very issue some time ago here). BYU should at least raise tuition substantially — the artificially low rates distort decisions about where to go. I think that alone would go a long way to resolving the objections you have.

    But, I think that you should remember that some of this discussion is about creating independent LDS colleges. Is your opposition to those also?

  45. Kent Larsen on February 18, 2010 at 11:12 am

    Adam Wride (41) wrote:

    Will there ever be an LDS Ave Maria? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ave_Maria_University (as in, new LDS university started with large $$$)

    Well, as I pointed out above, Desert Valley says it is trying to raise $75 million — a bit less than 1/3rd of what Ave Maria is trying to raise ($250 million).

    Even DVA’s $75 million is a tall order. $250 million? Maybe, but???

  46. Bob on February 18, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    #43: Kent,
    This is my out of the box thinking_ I don’t think it will happen ( ending BYU). But remember, this is the Church that ended the founding of Zion 3 or 4 times, ended polygamy, ended the Priesthood ban, ended big Temples for little ones.
    Let’s say no more Church colleges. So in Idaho, 5,000 LDS students decide on Boise U., ( they have a football team to love). Can’t they make a good Mormon experience at college with 5,000 LDS students? How about if Ohio State, for whatever reason, becomes the local college of LDS choose, and 5,000 end up there, (they have a football team too). I could see 5,000 at USC or UCLA, ( about half are already from out of the country, and they have football teams).
    Why wouldn’t the same thing happen in Brazil or somewhere else in the world?
    Again, just a different model from my head.

  47. Kent Larsen on February 18, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    Bob (54) wrote: “Why wouldn’t the same thing happen in Brazil or somewhere else in the world?”

    Um, I think that it already has. Outside of the U.S. they don’t really have any other option. They go to college and attend institute just like you suggested.

    Your idea really only is relevant in the U.S.

    The idea of creating an LDS college (Church owned or independent) would lead to a new option for them.

  48. Bob on February 18, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    #46: I don’t know how many come from Brazil to go to BYU. But if they stayed in their home country, there would be larger college Institute programs there, and more funding available that is not now going to BYU, making for better Institute programs(?)

  49. Kent Larsen on February 18, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    Bob (48), the Church says there are nearly 35,000 enrolled in institutes in Brazil. If there are much more than 100 that come from Brazil to go to BYU I would be quite surprised.

    Believe me, its not enough coming from Brazil to have any measurable effect on institutes of religion in Brazil.

    I think you are arguing against something that doesn’t happen.

  50. Bob on February 18, 2010 at 7:04 pm

    #49: You numbers on Brazil win the day.

  51. Bob on February 18, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    #51: Sorry “your #’s”

  52. Paul E on February 20, 2010 at 10:40 am

    Regarding the demand: CES Institute enrollment figures need to be considered carefully. Enrollment can mean darkening the door of the Institute once or twice during the semester. Go visit an institute mid-day and count actual souls actively participating in regularly scheduled classes and consider the return on investment in both human and physical capital. Institute is well-conceived and when used a great blessing to LDS college-students, but I contend it is far less used than the official enrollment figures might suggest.

    Regarding the need: Of course LDS-oriented institutions are not for everyone. Nonetheless, the dominant documented patterns of undergraduate student life throughout the country are not just indifferent to but clearly antithetical to gospel standards (see e.g., the work of Kathleen Bogle regarding sexual behavior on college campuses; or Barrett Seaman’s work on binge drinking). Even the most valiant youth are at high risk in these environments.

    Regarding financing: Some college industry-standard rules of thumb for viability of domestic small colleges: $100 million endowment, 1250+ students, with less than 35% discount rate on the average $26,273 private college tuition. Someone mentioned Ave Maria as a model. Look at its most recent publicly available tax documents: over $42 million in expenses annually, but probably less than 15% of that is covered by the $17,500 tuition charged to its less than 600 students. An Ave Maria model would require something like $30-35 million annually from fundraising, endowment earnings, and auxiliary revenue. Not promising.

    Regarding the Southern Virginia anomaly: Anomalous indeed. With no endowment to speak of, a sticker price of two-thirds the average private college, with financial aid for nearly every student, with top-financial stability scores from the U.S. Dept. of education, with the majority of operational costs covered by tuition, room & board, look at the results on the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) and Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA). Go to: http://www.svu.edu/about/assessment.aspx SVU seniors as a group are testing in the 93rd percentile nationally for their ability to analyze, critique, and solve complex real-world issues. Graduates are going on to top programs in medicine (e.g., University of Washington), business (e.g., Cornell) and law (e.g., Wake Forest). Not bad.

    Regarding an international model: we should all take heart in the stellar model provided by Ashesi University in Ghana. This is not an LDS model, but it is a model of strategic, targeted and effective philanthropy. Go to: http://www.ashesi.edu.gh/

    Regarding higher education and culture: cultures require cultural organs and universities are clearly vital organs for the intergenerational transfer of not just information but the tacit knowledge of a culture (see e.g., Michael Polanyi). Interesting to note, however, that it was the chartered (read here “independent”) universities of Europe (Bologna, Paris, Oxford) that became most effective in this enterprise. These institutions were heavily influenced by the crown and the church, but their charters made them institutionally and organizationally distinct from church and crown institutions of learning. A neo-institutionalist read of the past would suggest that in the realm of culture and learning, institutions of the crown and the church have always paled in comparison to what is provided independently (see e.g., writings of Tyler Cowen, Jack Goldstone, Douglass North, E.G. West). Will a Mormon culture rich-enough in letters, arts, and science to stand up to popular culture thrive if all the LDS colleges and universities are owned and operated by the Church? or if all our children opt for state-supported colleges and universities?

    Kudos to those who embrace the requirement to be anxiously engaged in good causes (like LDS higher education) of their own free will to bring to pass much righteousness. There is much work to do.

  53. Kent Larsen on February 20, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    Paul, thank you for your insightful and helpful comments. You have gone far byond my original point (that there are efforts to create institutions of higher education for LDS students, that those institutions can have a positive effect on Mormon culture, and that more needs to be done, especially overseas).

    I hope you don’t mind, Paul, if I “out” you a little, in case it isn’t clear to readers here — Paul is an SVU employee (and someone I knew a little when we were both at BYU many years ago). He has much more expertise on these questions than I.

    I must say, however, than I hope SVU isn’t an anomaly. If the Church is really not going to create additional campuses of BYU or institutions of higher learning, I think we will need more “anomalies” like SVU.

  54. Mike L. on February 22, 2010 at 7:49 pm

    I always find these great threads after the real debate has basically ended. To begin I want to state my great respect for both Paul E. and Adam W. with whom I have spoken extensively about the history and direction of LDS education. I wish them and their respective institutions the best of luck, (and Adam, I promise I’ll donate to Residencia Faiek as soon as I get a more stable job…the current market has not been kind to this law school graduate).

    As for my contribution to the debate, I want to begin by examining an assumption of the debate. That is the assumption that developing Mormon culture is a good thing. I can think of a dozen reasons an LDS education, and more specifically an LDS university, is a good thing without involving the issue of developing Mormon culture. Some of these involve the already stated issues of pulling our kids out of overly risky environments (and not just environments where drinking and promiscuity is prevalent as Paul E. pointed out—some professors, both familiar and unfamiliar with our faith, have as a stated goal the undermining of the religious faith of their students). This can best be accomplished at an LDS university, with an LDS dorm/apartment situation providing a reasonable substitute. Some of these involve gathering the youth so they can reap the benefits of being around others their age, including the strengthening of one’s testimony and resolve to serve in the Church over a lifetime, and the increased probability of temple marriage. These benefits can be met by Institute, student wards, or even just a strong YSA program.

    There are other benefits to an LDS university of course. It’s been said that the Church should get out of teaching secular subjects like Math and Science [Bob (40)], but in establishing the Brigham Young Academy, Brigham Young said, “Brother Maeser, I want you to remember that you ought not to teach even the alphabet or the multiplication tables without the Spirit of God.” Divinely inspired men (and women) of learning certainly exist at other institutions, and most of them are not members of the Church. But if you could gather teachers and professors possessing the highest academic credentials, and the Spirit of God, the power of their teaching would surpass anything the Ivy Leagues can offer. Likewise, if the students gathered with a commitment to both academic rigor and learning by the Spirit, the students trained at such an institution could potentially revolutionize our understanding in all fields. Now is BYU accomplishing this? That’s a question we could debate for some time. Perhaps Paul E. is right in his assessment that the real purposes of BYU may be best accomplished at a more independent institution like SVU, but as the Church’s flagship institution, I’m still hopeful that BYU will one day rise to its full potential.

    Now I think any one of those reasons is a great reason to have an LDS university, and none of this has to do with developing Mormon culture, but developing Mormon culture is a byproduct of all of it, and especially of an LDS university. An LDS university will not only increase the dialogue among the members in a nation or community, but it will also provide LDS academics greater opportunity to research and publish in their respective fields, complimented by a more open LDS perspective. Instead of relying wholly on translated material from Church HQs, or those few unofficial publications that get translated (usually general authority titles), local saints will have more opportunity to develop a robust debate on the Church locally and to publish not just material of a strictly academic nature, but maybe even popular fiction or music.

    But why do we care about developing Mormon culture? As has been stated, from a global perspective it may actually hinder us in our efforts if we do have a worldwide uniform culture, because we are less able to adapt to local needs. Instead the Church becomes inextricably associated with the United States, because Mormon culture is largely a subset of American culture. That being said, if we could avoid the issue entirely the Church may be better off. BUT Mormon culture WILL develop. It doesn’t matter if we force it or not, it is a natural progression, especially in our faith experience. So if we’re stuck with our own distinct culture, we’d probably be better off if that culture could adapt locally, which is the role LDS universities overseas could help fill, especially if they are not just an overseas campus of a U.S. university. (Note: I am not trying to be critical of Mormon culture, as I am certainly a product of it to a large extent and I love my culture. I’m just trying to be objective in my assessment of its pros and cons, especially overseas.)

    Now some people have wondered who would ever want to go to a Church school, whether or not it was sponsored by the Church. I kind of view this in the same way as I view the religious orders in the Catholic church, the Nazarites in Ancient Israel, or the Ammonites in the Book of Mormon. In each of these cases you have a group of people who are distinguished from the body of the Church by additional vows or covenants not subscribed to by the average member. Please do not read too deeply into this analogy. I realize BYU and SVU students do not actually make additional covenants (though the honor code of both institutions is at times more demanding than a temple recommend—i.e. male facial hair). Nevertheless I think the analogy is a good one because at no point has a member of a religious order ever been justified in thinking themselves “more righteous” than a faithful member of the religious body who has not taken these additional vows. While it is true that some members of these orders (and some BYU students) do consider themselves to be “more righteous,” more often the case is the opposite. Often the members of these orders join because they recognize and fear their own weakness and feel they cannot resist sin without the extra protection of additional vows and covenants. This was almost certainly the case with the Ammonites in giving up their arms.

    So the Church maintaining BYU as a flagship institution could be seen as something akin to the Jesuits or Franciscans in the Catholic church. No member should ever feel bad for choosing not to attend BYU, just as no Catholic should ever feel bad about not becoming a Jesuit priest. In fact, the Mormons who attend other schools are the strong ones who could resist the temptations of a secular campus. They are like some of the early leaders, including J. Ruben Clark, Jr., who went East to get the best learning the world had to offer so the Kingdom could be better established. But just because some don’t need the security of gathering with other saints during their college years, or they can get by with something considerably less than an LDS university, such as Institute, doesn’t mean there is no value to an LDS university for others. As Paul E. (52) stated, “LDS-oriented institutions are not for everyone,” but the benefits of their existence for some seem clear, at least to me.

    For me, the question of an LDS university is less about culture and education as it is a question of gathering. The Church has always recognized the need for members to “gather to Zion.” In the early days this accompanied a command to gather to one of the approved Zion locations, one of the most notable being Utah for its long term demographic effect on that state. But even as the call to gather to Utah was still in effect other gathering sites in Hawaii and French Polynesia were established to provide the benefit of local gathering (see “Unto Every Nation: Gospel Light Reaches Every Land” by Cannon, Cowan, & others). The call for the gathering for modified around 1890, when the message became one of building Zion in your home nation.

    However, even as the Church is built up “at home” we still find the need for gathering. In Japan, some 30 units have been dissolved in the last ten years (see http://ldschurchgrowth.blogspot.com/2010/02/japan-hiroshima-mission-to-be.html), and many of them have been wards. (I personally know the Ibaraki 1st and 2nd wards combined with the Suita Ward and the Settsu Ward to form the current Ibaraki Ward in about 2001. Similar consolidations happened in Nagoya with the Meito 1st and 2nd wards, and in other places across the Tokai and Kansai regions). The consolidations are driven largely by sacrament meeting attendance figures, but the fact is the numbers before consolidation had been stable for nearly ten years prior. The Church recognizes that members are stronger and converts better retained when there are more members actively participating in a unit. The fact is the Church in the Osaka region was spread too thin from the beginning, and since converts didn’t make up the difference due to falling baptism numbers coming off the high in the 80s when a lot of the wards were established, the consolidations took place. By consolidating, the wards are now able to provide more of the programs of the Church, focus on strengthening the testimonies of the members, and developing new leadership. While this is good for the health of the overall Church, even with the level of consolidation that has gone on there are still few wards in Japan that have more than two or three active YSA, and no stake is reasonably close to having the numbers to justify a YSA or a student ward (maybe some near Tokyo could justify a small branch).Given the special needs of our college-age youth, a “gathering” seems all the more important. Hence the need for an LDS university.

    Here is one final note about the need for LDS universities overseas. In a place like Brazil where most members stay in their home country for school, there is a coordination issue. If we could convince a large number (say 200 or 300) to attend the same university, then not only would the institute be able to offer a wider variety of classes, such as Pearl of Great Price or Church History, but we could establish a respectable student ward or two. This would provide most (but not all) of the benefits of an LDS university. (I want all the benefits so I still support the full package.) However in some places, like Japan and Western Europe, a very large percentage, if not a majority of the LDS youth go to the United States for school. They don’t all get into the BYU system, so many of them filter into alternative “LDS” universities like UVU, Utah State, and Weber State. Unlike some of their counterparts in the lesser developed world, these members have adequate educational opportunities available to them at home. By and large they are not coming just to get an American education. In fact many LDS Japanese BYU-Hawaii graduates find that an American education isn’t as much as one would hope when they go back to Japan. To compensate BYU-Hawaii has pulled together donors to provide students with a living stipend so they can travel to Japan to do free internships, hoping these internships turn into job offers and increase the prestige of the BYU brand in Japan.

    Needless to say, these members are coming to U.S. universities to “gather” with other LDS youth, whether or not it is at an official “LDS” university. The problem isn’t that they come (though if we want to develop a non-U.S. centric culture, this alone could be problematic), but that too many of them fail to go back. This process of “spirit drain” is akin to the “brain drain” suffered by many developing nations. The kids who leave are overwhelmingly the active youth, the children of the bishops and the stake presidents, the return missionaries, in short the future leaders of the Church in many of these countries. With low levels of converts in many of these nations, we can’t afford to lose the second generation to emigration, but in many cases that is exactly what happens. An LDS university in their home country (or perhaps closer to home, such as in England for European saints or Australia for New Zealand saints) might help alleviate this problem. Again, not everyone would want to stay, and not everyone who stays would want to attend an LDS university, but let’s give them the option.

    Here’s a final thought. Naturally I would prefer the Church gives its official sanction to an LDS university, even if it didn’t receive a tithing subsidy (which I am fairly confident is less then 70% at BYU, though a lot of it depends on what counts in the totals). I would prefer this because we do believe in revelation and a man being “called of God” in the Church. I like the idea of the president of an LDS university being someone who was placed there by revelation and set-apart for that purpose. No, a university president is not an ecclesiastical position, but one does have stewardship over hundreds or potentially thousands of youth in the Church. With that kind of scale involved, I almost think the position is as important as a bishop or stake president, even though a university president should probably never sit as a judge of worthiness by virtue of that office. That said, I am happy to know that President Smith at SVU does treat his job as a sacred trust. I know he prays over his students, cares for everyone of them, and actively seeks revelation with respect to how he runs the school. If the rest of the administration follows his lead in this respect, God can’t help but play a close role in directing the affairs of that school. Of course, as the number of LDS universities grow, it will become a hard task to know which are led by those sincerely pursuing God’s will for their school and which are LDS in name (or culture) only. While settings-apart are no guarantee of faithfulness, it’d be nice to know that someone at least had the mantle of stewardship placed on them by the proper authority.

    But alas, it does not appear this is an expansion the Church is keen on pursuing. The Church was approached with the option to buy an existing university in Japan which it turned down. They commissioned a woman on BYU’s faculty to look into the feasibility of constructing a university somewhere in Latin America, but canceled the study after the preliminary figures came in. I’ve been told that Senador Jeffrey Jones approached President Hinckley about the possibility of building a university in Mexico (possibly close to the border, so U.S. professors could teach there but live in the United States, commuting) and that Deputado Moroni Torgan approached the brethren with a similar request for Brazil. Neither petition was met with success.

    Is it possible that the Church will about face on this one and start building? Of course, anything is possible. But cost does seem to be the overriding factor. BYU-Idaho now requires all of its students to take at least one online course and they are running on different tracks so they can fit a third more students than would have otherwise been possible. BYU-Hawaii is trying out a pilot program to see if they can get their students to complete all of their first year (mostly GE/prerequisite) courses at institute outreach centers with couple missionaries serving as tutors in their home countries. If successful, BYU-Hawaii will eliminate the freshmen class entirely from its campus, cutting costs, and allowing more students to attend (at least for 3 years). With these innovations, the Church is trying to reach out to more students at a minimum cost, but plans for another campus seem far away. (I wonder what the Church would do if someone donated the campus?)

    If I were starting school today, I confess some of these “innovations” might frustrate me. I think there is something special about being a “freshman” and living in the dorms for the first year. Partaking in the excitement as guys you’ve grown closer to than even your best friends from back home, all in a short month or two, begin to receive their mission calls. It gets you excited to turn in your own papers. Tunnel-singing every Sunday night or getting in trouble with the honor code office for dying your hair blue are the traditions and memories that keep students loyal to a school. A university was never just about the learning that you get from lectures and books. It’s about the learning you get from moving away from home, the learning that only occurs when one freely interacts with peers. (Kent Larson [44] mentioned another thread where he discussed the merits of BYU as compared to the Ivy League schools. On academicearth.org you can listen to lectures from some of the best universities in the country for free. Turns out the lecturers at the Ivy Leagues aren’t that much better than BYU professors, though most are better published. With some exceptions, the real difference in value added from faculty at most Ivy Leagues doesn’t kick in until you get to the graduate level. At the undergraduate level, the most value from an Ivy League education actually comes from the networking opportunities and peer discussions. In fact, in tacit acknowledgment of this fact, Yale requires students in most large classes to spend about a third of class time in small group discussions in which the professor is absent, but discussion is led by a TA. BYU experiments with this as well. In response to that other thread, I say we should keep academically qualified students at BYU if possible, because the peer learning is where so much of the value is.) Online learning and independent study may be the future of getting the right credentials, but if that’s the Church’s solution to the demand, they’re missing the value of an LDS education. With that in mind I hope SVU continues to enjoy success, and that others will follow their lead and bring the blessings of an LDS university to ever more locations around the world, whether that be Brazil, Mexico, Japan, Germany, or South Africa.