By Marianne Holman Church News staff writer
The graduation caps have flown through the air and the diploma has arrived in the mail, but for many 18-year-old high school graduates the thought of attending classes at a university or college seems like an impossible dream to pursue. For some, it is the cost of university level courses, others it is the necessary test scores for admittance and, for many, the fear of a rigorous study load and the unknown that comes from a new chapter of life keeps them from pursuing more education. Whatever the reason may be, a new program through BYU-Idaho might be the ticket for these high school graduates, as well as other young adult students, to higher education.
For Rachel Kaiser, a mother in Massachusetts, more education is something she has always wanted, but finding the time and resources for more schooling was a challenge. Although she has been satisfied in her current work, a bachelor's degree has been one of her dreams. Through the new "Pathway" program, she is able to meet with other students once a week and get on the path to a bachelor's degree.
"It is going to open up new doors for me and for my children," she said. "I've applied almost everything I have learned so far — calendaring, study skills, finances, scripture study — the whole thing has been a blessing."
In an effort to help more people worldwide earn a college degree, BYU-Idaho has developed a program designed to help individuals — like Rachel — attend college classes within their hometowns and internationally at a lower cost. Rather than having all of the students go to Rexburg, Idaho, BYU-Idaho is bringing education to the students — wherever they might be.
The "Pathway" program was developed for young adults who have not yet earned an associates or bachelor's degree who are not already enrolled in college. The program mixes online courses and group learning held in local, already existing institute buildings. A pilot program began in the fall of 2009 with around 50 students in three U.S. cities and has successfully grown to 22 sites in the U.S., one site in Mexico and one site in Ghana, Africa. So far, more than 450 students have participated, along with 32 senior missionary couples called to serve as on-site staff.
The program intends to help young adults — 18 to 30 — get on a path for more education. Students wishing to participate are not required to take any standardized tests (such as the ACT or SAT) to begin their learning in the program, making it an ideal place to start for individuals who, for whatever reason, weren't able to go to college right after high school. The educational program is intended to feed students onto a path of earning a bachelor's degree — whether it is done at BYU-Idaho or another college or university.
Pathway has classes conducted online, but requires students to gather in small groups at least once a week. Groups meet at institute buildings, where volunteer missionary couples offer support and facilitate collaboration on assignments and educational activities.
"What I like to see is when they'll help each other," said Elder Cordell Cropper, who serves with his wife, Sister Susan Cropper, at the Manhattan New York Institute. "If they didn't have the support of one another, it wouldn't work. It is unique here because it is LDS students who share values who begin with prayer, end with prayer, and sometimes even have prayer in the middle of the lesson for the Lord's help in their studies to help them personally and to be a help in building the Church."
These smaller groups are designed to address two major obstacles — cost and fear — that often prevent individuals from starting and completing an education.
"We conducted focus groups across the country, and we were surprised to learn just how big a factor fear is," said J.D. Griffith, Pathway and online programs managing director. "We designed this program to help students overcome their fears by easing them into college and providing a supportive framework."
Courses include religion, life skills, math and personal finance classes. In order to progress in the program, individuals must maintain a 'B' average. Upon completion of the level one requirement of 15 credit hours, students may apply to BYU-Idaho during their third semester to earn an associate's degree or certificate, and then on to a bachelor's degree. This way, they are more prepared for a university setting, even if their continuing education is done through online courses or at a college near their home.
Applications for the program may be obtained by contacting the mission couples or institute directors at the participating sites. For more information, go to www.byui.edu/pathway