As thousands of missionaries return home due to changing restrictions for foreigners in various countries in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many are finding their term of service cut short or altered in ways they didn’t expect.
In an effort to help accommodate the needs of these returning missionaries — many of whom find themselves in an unanticipated moment of limbo or transition to regular life — BYU-Pathway Worldwide announced this week a newly discounted tuition rate for missionaries who are returning or have returned in the last five years.
Thanks to scholarship funds generously contributed by donors to the Church-owned online-based education program, returned or returning missionaries are now eligible to receive a 25% discount on their tuition throughout all three semesters of the PathwayConnect program, explained JD Griffith, BYU-Pathway Worldwide’s vice president of administration.
Last year, BYU-Pathway announced that all returned missionaries would be pre-approved for admission into the PathwayConnect program. But this year, as thousands of missionaries find themselves in uncharted territory, BYU-Pathway administrators wanted to find an additional way to help the sudden increase of returned missionaries in need of something practical, spiritual, and educational to continue their personal development and growth following their return from the mission field.
“We’re really focused on these missionaries that are being released earlier than expected,” Griffith explained. But the discounted tuition rate will also be available for all returned missionaries who returned within the last five years, he said.
“From a personal standpoint, I had a son return early due to some health concerns, and I know the importance of getting a young adult involved in something constructive as soon as possible,” he said. Many of the missionaries returning this year will be coming home off the planned cycle and, in some cases, they won’t be prepared with a plan for school or next steps.
For Summer Frandsen, who served a mission in Cincinnati, Ohio, and returned home last July, the transition from full-time missionary service to regular life was made easier through her participation in the PathwayConnect program.
The transition from having a strict schedule each day to coming home and having little to no schedule can be difficult, she said. But PathwayConnect offers a way to stay connected to and focused on the gospel while also learning practical and valuable life skills.
“When you come home from a mission, it’s so easy to get distracted by the world,” she said. “You come home a little blindsided. But with PathwayConnect you are able to learn things you didn’t really realize you needed to learn … it’s helpful to feel grounded like that.”
As missionaries return home and complete their 14-day period of self-isolation to protect against the possible spread of the coronavirus, BYU-Pathway offers a uniquely positioned option within Church education for missionaries to stay busy and continue their personal progress in a remote and virtual way.
Read more about BYU-Pathway Worldwide’s decision to switch all PathwayConnnect gatherings to virtual gatherings in response to COVID-19.
“We want to help these missionaries with some of the struggles of coming home earlier than anticipated and maybe help parents or whomever else would help them with tuition by offsetting those initial fees and get them started,” Griffith said. “Even if they only wanted to take a semester or two, those credits in PathwayConnect can transfer to other Church schools, and so it’s not wasted time. It’s online, they still have the opportunity to shelter at home and take an online class and have something to do each day.”
To ensure this effort will be beneficial not only in the short term for those returning home early, but also in the long run for returned missionaries who are looking for an opportunity to continue their education, BYU-Pathway administrators have been working closely with the Church’s missionary department.
Since this time last year the letters detailing a missionary’s departure date, which they receive in their online missionary portals prior to returning home, have included information about the automatic eligibility of returned missionaries to enroll in the PathwayConnect program. In the coming weeks, however, those letters will be updated to include information about the tuition discount as well, Griffith said. And of course, those who have already been released or returned home are still eligible for the tuition benefit.
The hope is that an offer like this will provide something positive for these missionaries as they return home during this difficult time, Griffith added.
This discounted tuition scholarship effort is one that has been in pilot testing in certain areas of the world for nearly a year now, explained President Clark Gilbert, president of BYU-Pathway Worldwide.
“We had a great response to our pilot efforts for returned missionary scholarships over the last year,” he said. “Now, with so many returning missionaries being impacted by COVID-19, we decided to accelerate the program for all returning missionaries to help them, and their families, get a head start.”
The next PathwayConnect semester begins on April 20 and registration is open now. The priority deadline for registration is March 31, but registration and enrollment will be available up until the new semester’s start date. The new semester will run from April 20 to July 23.
CES education options available for recently returned missionaries: