Ricks College is "no longer the best kept secret in the Church," said Ricks Pres. Steven D. Bennion.
A rapidly rising enrollment and an open admissions policy have made it increasingly difficult to provide for the needs of the students with the available resources, he said. Therefore, it became necessary two years ago to establish an enrollment limit at the two-year college in Rexburg, Idaho.Applicants are encouraged to begin the admissions processes as early as November in their senior year in high school, noted Gordon A. Westenskow, director of admissions and scholarships.
"The Church Board of Education has determined that all the Church colleges and universities have facility and staff limitations," explained Ricks Pres. Steven D. Bennion. "Therefore, ceilings have been established to effectively serve students who are admitted."
Pres. Bennion noted that a limit of 7,500 was set at Ricks. However, the fall 1990 enrollment exceeded that figure, with 7,795 students registering. "We overshot the ceiling a little bit. Enrollment management is a refining art. The last couple of years we've had fewer no-shows than our previous history."
Ricks College admits 4,000 new freshmen per year, said Westenskow.
Despite the new ceiling and pronounced enrollment growth, Ricks still has an open-admissions policy, explained Pres. Bennion. He added that there are specific reasons for this policy.
"Philosophically, I feel pleased that we allow students across the academic spectrum the chance to be `added upon' at Ricks College," he said. "There are late bloomers who go on to do marvelous things, and with the competent and caring faculty we have here, and a personalized learning environment, I think many of those people really blossom," he said.
Pres. Bennion also explained that BYU has become more academically selective. "Within the Church system, you need to have some diversity, and Ricks helps to complement that diversity," he added.
However, combining open enrollment and a ceiling poses problems. "You come to a point where you have to draw a line and say, "We're full," he explained.
"So this year, approximately 1,000 students didn't get in who wanted to," he said. "That's frustrating to us and to those who wanted to come. We've encouraged them to seek good non-LDS colleges or universities where there are fine Institutes of Religion, or to apply to Ricks or other Church institutions for later times."
Another area in which Pres. Bennion said Ricks is experiencing unusual pressure is student housing. He added that both on-campus and community housing are filled.
Westenskow said that admissions to Ricks College operates on a first-come, first-served basis.
He admonished all students comtemplating attending Ricks College to take the ACT test during the spring or summer of their junior year of high school. If they are already in their senior year, they should take the test no later than December, he added.
Some deadline exceptions are made for returning missionaries, Westenskow said, but he added that parents with children on missions should start the application process for them.
"When parents find out that both Ricks and BYU are hitting maximum enrollments, a lot of them become more concerned about their children," Westenskow said. "There's limited space in both schools. I think we're going to see a trend of earlier applications. So the procrastinators are going to get hurt."
Application deadline for the first term of summer school is April 15, 1991.
The tuition at Ricks College is currently about $500 lower per year than BYU, Westenskow explained. Pres. Bennion added, "We're a lower division school, and that tuition more accurately reflects the cost here, versus an institution that has upper division and graduate programs, like BYU.
"Scholarships were increased significantly a year ago. Of course we're working with private resources to enlarge the funds available for scholarships as well," he continued.
A wide variety of students attend Ricks College, Pres. Bennion said. While 75 to 80 percent are from 11 Western states, he said there are 400 to 500 students from foreign countries. Canada and Japan account for the largest number in that group. Most of the student body range in age from 18 to 23 and approximately 1,300 students are returned missionaries.
A large number of students attending Ricks College plan to transfer to other institutions following their Ricks experience. Pres. Bennion said, "There's an increasing number of four-year colleges and universities that are excited about our students."
He said many students transfer to a larger school nearby, such as BYU; Utah State University in Logan, Utah; and Idaho State University in Pocatello, Idaho.
There are also those who transfer from other institutions to Ricks College, however. Westenskow said BYU sends about 200 to 300 annually to Ricks, usually those who are seeking a smaller setting.
"Some of the students who appreciate Ricks the most are of backgrounds where they have been a distinct minority as Latter-day Saints," he noted. "They come here and can't believe they are gathered with this many LDS students."
Pres. Bennion noted, "I think that Ricks is a marvelous place for a student to grow academically and spiritually. The college wards and stakes provide a marvelous experience for the students. So I think Ricks, as a two-year college, is a great launching base for students wherever they may go."
He cited the arts program as an example of quality education at Ricks. "The Los Angeles Arts Center and College of Design, one of the premier arts colleges in America, received one of our students many years ago, who is now on our faculty," Pres. Bennion said. "Then the arts school received one to two more. And these students have done so well that now representatives of the school come up annually to recruit our students. We have about 20 Ricks students at that college."
Pres. Bennion encouraged those desiring to attend Ricks College in the future to prepare by attending seminary and by exploring their academic interests, so they might be able to enhance their background a little sooner.
Colleges provide balanced training
With the growing concerns LDS parents and their college-age sons and daughters have about achieving a well-rounded education – one that combines secular and spiritual truths – it's not uncommon for members to look at Church-owned colleges and universities for the answer.
A fast-growing Church membership, however, has made it more difficult for most Church institutions to continue providing for the needs of all LDS college-bound students.
Limitations in facilities and staff have made it necessary to establish enrollment ceilings to better serve the students with the resources available.
And because of enrollment ceilings, these institutions continue to look for creative and productive ways of sharing their unique educational experience with as many Church members as possible.
Not all college-bound LDS students wish to attend Church schools and many take advantage of the institute program instead. But for those who do, it helps to know beforehand what it takes to get in. And now is not too early to begin the admissions process for the 1991-1992 school year.
While all Church schools have honor codes and certain standards that must be adhered to, admission policies vary among the institutions. Details not found in the accompanying articles may be obtained from each institution.