As enrollment at Church-owned colleges and universities increases and ceiling limits are met, a smaller percentage of LDS students are afforded the opportunity of attending an LDS school.
But there is an option for those students who wish to receive an education that combines both secular and religious instruction, said Stanley A. Peterson, administrator of religious education in the Church Educational System.What many fail to realize is that LDS Institutes of Religion, located adjacent to numerous non-LDS colleges and universities around the world, provide religion courses similar to BYU and Ricks College, and offer social interaction for college-age members of the Church, he said.
"The purpose is to allow young people involved in post-secondary education an opportunity to have religious educational instruction, along with their secular educational pursuits," Brother Peterson explained. "What you have is a group of young LDS people who are of college age together in a setting where they can have religious education and some social activity. The whole purpose is to build faith, and testimony, prepare them for missions, prepare them for marriages in the temple, and to give them a foundation in the gospel."
The first Institute of Religion was established at the University of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho, in October 1926. The earliest recorded enrollment was 25 students, explained Stephen Jones, CES manager of reports and records.
Today, there are 1,273 Institutes of Religion located in all 50 states and in 62 countries, serving 1,711 universities and colleges, he added. Enrollment for the 1990-91 school year is 133,741.
Students usually range in age from 18 to 25 and can attend classes during the week to complement university and college schedules, he explained.
"Our religion courses at the institute are the same courses that are offered at BYU," Brother Peterson noted. "In fact, in many cases the same student manuals are used.
"Obviously in a smaller institute program where there is one institute teacher, they can't offer all the classes that a student could get in a bigger institute or at BYU," he added.
Brother Jones explained that for students who can't enroll in a full or part-time institute program, home study courses are available under the direction of an institute instructor.
Benefits to LDS students attending an LDS Institute of Religion are similar to those at Church-owned schools, Brother Peterson noted. "We find from various studies that if a young person goes to an Institute of Religion and participates in a religious educational experience there, that the chances of going on a mission and marrying in the temple are just as high as those at a Church school," he said.
Brother Peterson noted that there are no special application procedures to enroll in the institute program. Participants pay a small activity fee, which is usually about $6, and they purchase their own manuals.