30 January 2013

The End of Benemérito???

I just hear that apparently Elder Nelson and Elder Holland were at the Church-run school in Mexico City, El Centro Escolar Benemérito de las Américas, yesterday (Tuesday, 29 January 2013) to make an announcement that as soon as school lets out in July the school is going to be converted into a new Missionary Training Center (MTC). Rumors are also going around that this will become the biggest MTC in the world.

This appears to be a consequence of the change in the Church's age policy for missionaries. With the highest number of Latter-day Saints outside of the United States, Mexico is probably seeing a relative increase in applications comparable to what has been seen in the United States. Just as the MTC facilities in Provo will soon need to increase capacity, we can expect the Mexico MTC will as well. This will be especially the case if some American missionaries are sent directly to the country for their language training, as has been the case in many Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking missions over the last decade.

While I haven't yet been able to find an official Church statement on the subject, I assume this means the old Mexico MTC will be closed, as will the operation of Benemérito as the Church's flagship secondary education program. Obviously we can't begrudge the Church in its decision to shift resources to missionary work, but the loss of the school will be felt by students and alumni throughout Mexico. As one with a special interest in LDS education programs, I'm especially sad to hear the news. Benemérito is a boarding school, so, if the rumors are true, converting the campus facilities into a new MTC should be a relatively easy process.

04 December 2012

Q&A with the President's Council at Southern Virginia

I've been trying to find statements by Elder Sybrowski since his becoming the president of Southern Virginia University to get a feel for the kind of president he will be and his priorities, but the one time he was scheduled to speak at one of the weekly devotionals just happens to be a devotional that wasn't posted on their website. Hopefully that will be remedied in the future. In the mean time, I recently discovered that on 17 April 2012, the President's Council at Southern Virginia University had a Q&A session with students. The audio is available on the SVU Blog "The Scoop" at the following link:


This is a rare opportunity for those of us who are not at SVU to hear the then president-elect speak of his vision for Southern Virginia. Below are some notes I took from the discussion found during minutes 8 - 23.


Tyler McKay asks if there is going to be a general theme for the upcoming year. President-Elect Sybrowski replies that the theme should be the student's theme, "because that's what a leader-servant is" but then goes on to speak of his vision for SVU.

[Southern Virginia University] is the future of educating Zion. This model is the future of educating Zion.

For educating Zion this [BYU] model that the Church has embraced, has embarked upon is not the model of the future.

There won't be more BYU's There won't be a BYU of the East. At least it's not planned right now. The prophets can do whatever prophets want to do and we will sustain whatever they do. But in today's environment the vision of the Brethren in educating Zion is that they are doing what they are going to do in educating Zion.

The vision that we have is to create this as the model for educating the members of the Church and non-members of the Church, not only in North America, but where appropriately throughout the world.

It's incumbent upon everybody here, the students and we who sit here in front of you to get this model right so that this model is replicable and sustainable

We've got another year or two to do that. We're that close, and being that close we're really quite excited. But lest you think we're planning for more Southern Virginia's in other areas, we're not. There will come a time for that. Our focus, diligent focus is here and now on this campus.

We have a sacred responsibility to become self-reliant.

Now that's number one.

Physical Facilities.
We are actively seeking donors for new physical facilities.
We also need to and have a responsibility to fix-up our current facilities.

Raise Professorship Money
We need to create an environment where the consecrated service can still be consecrated, but the sacrifice doesn't cut so near to the bone.
We need to endow scholarships so they are self-sustaining. Scholarships off-set part of the cost of the education, and we need you to give back to the institution.

Follow-up Question

What can we students do?

1. Live the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Bear witness that He is the Christ, and look for opportunities to do that. We are that spirit and need that spirit.

2. Study, do well, and graduate so you can do well in society. Keep the commandments. Marry well and pursue the goals Heavenly Father has for us.

3. Set up organizations to clean up current facilities. Start with your own living space, and then help out with other places on campus.

4. Do those things, and then there will come a time in your life when you are in a position to do what you can for the institution. My recommendation is you ought to do it.

Acting President Whitehead added:

5. Tell a friend and have them come back with you next year.


The priorities outlined in the foregoing vision of President Sybrowski can definitely be seen in the new funding campaign for Southern Virginia University. True to the university's mission statement, President Sybrowski appears committed to a model that can be reproduced for the benefit of Latter-day Saints in other parts of the world, which has always been a personal passion of mine.

However, what most impresses me about his answers is his sincerity. He wasn't making a prepared statement. Listening to him I really did get a sense of his commitment to the Gospel. Not just his commitment, but also his conviction that the most important thing students can do to help Southern Virginia is to live the Gospel.

The meeting was mostly business, and addressed concerns of students, but the section identified above would be worth listening to for anyone interested in LDS education in general, and the future of Southern Virginia in particular.

26 November 2012

Spotlight on Southern Virginia University

Over the past couple of years Southern Virginia University (SVU), has witnessed many changes that merit mentioning, so this post will attempt to catch the reader up with some of the most important. As was mentioned in an earlier post, SVU is perhaps the premier LDS institution of higher learning that is not actually owned and operated by the Church, and it's the only one with a full bachelor degree program. Southern Virginia had a shaky start back in 1996, when control of the board of trustees of what was then Southern Virginia College, was transferred to a group of LDS academics and professionals who had a vision of building an LDS university on the East Coast. The school opened under new leadership with a new LDS-oriented mission. That year they were able to recruit about 70 students. Ten years later they had over 700.

Despite the rapid expansion and early enthusiasm for the school, there have been many challenges. The original school was acquired because of falling enrollment and mounting debt. The new board had to assume the debt of the previous administration, but the thought was that the accreditation of the old school would carry over with the debt, allowing students to qualify for Federal student aid. Unfortunately that was not the case.

After several years of uncertainty, SVU acquired candidacy for National Accreditation through the American Academy for Liberal Education (AALE) in 2000, and full accreditation in 2003. This step allowed students at the school to qualify for Federal aid in the form of grants and loans. Some students were still uncertain about the value of the education because of the lack of regional accreditation, which was more prestigious and made transfers to other schools easier. The goal of the new administration was clear: obtain regional accreditation.

The efforts of two individuals in building the foundation probably cannot be stressed enough. President Rodney K. Smith and Provost Paul S. Edwards really set SVU on the path toward financial stability and regional accreditation. They were also instrumental in building a sense of campus community by always having an open door to welcome students, instituting weekly devotionals, and wearing the school colors proudly. Though proud of the rapid growth, these two leaders, as well as members of the Board of Trustees, knew that SVU had to put just as much or more focus inward toward improving the institution, as they did outward toward attracting students. Students were coming, but the attrition rate was high, with fewer than a third of incoming freshmen staying to graduate. While the first ten years saw a ten-fold growth in attendance, over the next five years the expansion of the student body appeared to have plateaued. Fall enrollment in 2010 was 777 (including both full- and part-time students).

While this may seem like SVU was losing momentum, the slower growth actually allowed the school to build a stronger foundation for the future. New student dorms were built after relying for years almost exclusively on the infrastructure built under the non-LDS leadership or on modular housing. Other buildings were also renovated and improved. The sense of mission on campus both among students, faculty, and administration has grown. And the school achieved its goal of regional accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Having accomplished what may be the most significant event of their administration, both Provost Edwards and President Smith have moved on to other opportunities. In late 2010, Edwards left to become the new editorial page editor at Deseret News. Then in early 2011 it was announced that President Smith would leave to head the new Center for Sports Law and Policy at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, CA. This led to a period of transition at Southern Virginia. Provost Edwards was replaced by Dr. Madison Sowell, who had previously served on the Board of Trustees, serving first as interim provost, and then stepping down from his board position to take a permanent position. Richard Whitehead became the Acting President, while a search for a new permanent president was conducted. Earlier this last year it was announced that Paul K. Sybrowsky would relieve Whitehead as the new President, beginning 01 June 2012.

With new leadership in place, Southern Virginia is now ready for the next phase of its growth and development. Exciting times lie ahead.

08 October 2012

New Policy on Missionary Age

As everyone has probably heard by now, at the Saturday Morning Session of General Conference, President Monson announced the minimum age for missionary service is now 18 for Elders, and 19 for Sisters. I want to examine briefly how this could potentially impact LDS higher education.

The most obvious effect of the change in policy is that more missionaries will in fact begin their missions at a younger age. Though President Monson didn't say the lower age requirement was meant to be a new standard, as soon as the announcement was made, my sister immediately started discussing whether or not her son should leave earlier on his mission. My nephew is 18 now, and was not planning on leaving until next August when he turns 19, but now he will probably finish out his first year at school and leave in May or June. Had this rule been in effect before he started college, he probably wouldn't have bothered getting a year of school in before his mission (as would have also been the case with myself). I imagine most young men will feel similarly, and as 19 was effectively the standard start age before, 18 will probably be the standard starting age in the future though as President Monson emphasized, this need not be the case for everyone. While we've always had a large contingent of missionaries that went on their missions straight out of high school, I feel like a significant percentage, if not a majority, had attended school for at least a semester before leaving on their missions, just because their birthdays prevented them from serving sooner. (Based on BYU's one-year retention rate, shown below, one might conclude that in fact only 15% of BYU students leave to serve missions after their Freshman year, or roughly 30% of men, meaning closer to 70% go straight out of high school, but this number sounds too high to me, so I need to research more closely how this number is measured before I draw that conclusion.) With a lower age requirement, this will probably become more rare, meaning most missionaries will not begin college until after their mission.

So what will be the effect on LDS higher education? I can imagine several areas where it could have an impact. The first might actually be an increased demand for education at the Church schools. Though I only have anecdotal evidence, my experience has been that there is a greater desire to attend one of the Church schools after a mission than there was before. This was the case with many of my mission companions, who attended community colleges near home (or even prestigious schools like the University of Utah) before their missions, but tried to transfer to BYU after their return because that is where so many of their mission friends were going. Of course many did not want to go through the hassle of transferring to a new school upon their return. If however, they had that interaction with other missionaries that seems to inspire so many to want to attend the Church schools, before they began their education anywhere, it is possible that the Church schools would have been higher on their radar. We might even get more missionaries out of the process, as some young men who wanted to serve missions lose focus during their first year of college, and these added return missionaries would also be more likely to want to attend Church schools. The effect may only be marginal, but even a marginal effect can put a great amount of pressure on the Church system to make room for more students.

The reverse could also be true. Many members prefer the Church schools because they know it will be easy to defer for two years without applying for readmission. Not needing to take a two-year break in the middle of school may encourage many to attend non-LDS schools that would have otherwise brought complications. However, I believe this potential effect will be minimal, leading to a net increase in demand for Church schools. If that demand is not met by the Church institutions through increased capacity, that would definitely play well for schools like Southern Virginia University or the Desert Valley Academy, trying to capture that excess demand. It could also increase the perceived exclusivity of the Church schools, by increasing admission applications, and thereby lowering the acceptance rate (a factor in the US News and World Report rankings).

More than the increased demand however, the area where I expect the change in age requirements to have the biggest impact is in the 6-year graduation rates for the Church schools. While a bachelor degree theoretically only takes four years to complete, it is no secret in higher education that students frequently take longer to finish their degrees. For this reason, the Department of Education tracks four-, five-, and six-year graduation rates. This figure features prominently in the US News and World Report rankings, counting it for 80 percent of the retention score, which is in turn 20 percent of the score for National Universities (of which BYU-Provo is one) and 25 percent of the score for Regional Colleges (which is where BYU-Hawaii and BYU-Idaho fall). The other 20 percent of the retention score is the freshmen retention rate. A significant improvement in the graduation rates could bring all of the Church schools up in their ranking. BYU's six-year graduation rate, while fairly decent, has long been hampered by two effects: woman dropping out of school after getting married, and men taking longer than six years to graduate. While the change in the minimum missionary age will have little direct effect on the former factor, the age change could substantially affect the latter.

For example, it is not uncommon for a student to need an extra semester to graduate due to missing a prerequisite for a class, especially in some of the more structured majors, where one class leads to another. At a normal university, a student taking an extra semester to graduate may hurt the four-year graduation rate, but it does not affect the six-year rate, which is what the US News and World Report ranking takes into consideration. If however that same student also takes two years off in the middle of their schooling (as is the case with the elders), then the extra semester puts them over the six-year mark. Even without needing an extra semester to get the right prerequisites, for many missionaries the timing of the call would also frequently cause them to miss a semester (as was the case with myself--I attended school for a year, left for my mission in October because of a September birthday, and two years later I came home too late to enter for the fall semester, so I lost a semester without experiencing the prerequisite problem). Multiply this by the number of return missionaries at a school like BYU, and this can have a significant impact on the school's six-year graduation rate and potentially its ranking. If however, the clock doesn't start until after one's mission, as I expect will become more the norm at the Church schools with this new policy in place, then an extra semester will not affect the schools ranking as most missionaries won't matriculate until after their missions. We may be able to see some marginal increase in the ranking of the Church schools as an effect.

Of course the reverse may be true of sister missionaries. Though traditionally some sisters have interrupted school to serve, just as often it seems they finish school before serving, both because of the timing of a birthday, and the decreased urgency of serving a mission. If sisters start opting to leave for their missions at the younger age, those who had previously been finishing school before their missions may not be able to. Add to that the fact that more sisters may serve as a result of their lower age requirements, as I suspect will be the case with marriage not being as likely at this younger age, and we will have even more woman interrupting their schooling, which will put negative pressure on the six-year graduation rate. Overall however, I expect the net effect will be positive, as we will probably still see fewer sisters than elders serving overall, and as sisters only serve for 18 months, a lost semester is less likely to put them over the mark as two years does for men.

Obviously it will be some time before we will know the full effect of the change at the Church schools (and for that matter at other schools with a large LDS presence). For now, here are the graduation and retention rates at the three ranked Church schools, as well as some of their peers in the US News and World Report rankings, and Harvard as a reference for what the scores look like at the top of the list.

US News and World Report Rank Four-Year Graduation Rate Five-Year Graduation Rate Six-Year Graduation Rate Full-Time Student First-Year Retention Rate Part-Time Student First-Year Retention Rate
Harvard University (Cambridge, MA) Ranked #1 National Universities 87 96 97 98 N/A
Brigham Young University--Provo (Provo, UT) Ranked #68 National Universities 31 54 78 85 53
Clemson University (Clemson, SC) Ranked #68 National Universities 50 72 76 89 59
Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey--New Brunswick (Piscataway, NJ) Ranked #68 National Universities 53 70 77 91 56
University of Minnesota--Twin Cities (Minneapolis, MN) Ranked #68 National Universities 46 66 70 89 60
Howard Payne University (Brownwood, TX) Ranked #13 Regional Colleges West 22 35 39 67 17
Menlo College (Atherton, CA) Ranked #13 Regional Colleges West 29 33 33 71 0
Northwest University (Kirkland, WA) Ranked #13 Regional Colleges West 44 54 55 70 25
Brigham Young University--Idaho (Rexburg, ID) Ranked #16 Regional Colleges West 25 41 55 71 55
Brigham Young University--Hawaii (Laie Oahu, HI) Ranked #17 Regional Colleges West 28 45 56 58 17
East Texas Baptist University (Marshall, TX) Ranked #17 Regional Colleges West 27 33 36 64 0
University of Montana - Western (Dillon, MT) Ranked #17 Regional Colleges West 18 24 29 68 75

Above data came from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.

22 September 2012

CES Firesides

Well, it has been a long time since I've posted anything. Sorry to any regular readers. (I don't expect there are any as I haven't posted in over two years.) A lot has changed in the field of Latter-day Saint (LDS) Education since my last post, but a lot has also stayed the same. This is kind of my relaunch for the blog. I hope to be able to update this blog regularly to discuss some of those changes as well as to post new information as it becomes available.

For today, I want to take a look at what I consider to be an interesting trend. Two weeks ago, on  9 September 2012, Elder Holland gave the CES Fireside from Dixie State College. It was a great talk and worth listening to, but what I want to focus on is not the substance of the talk, but the location from which it was given.

For those who don't know, the CES Firesides (CES = Church Education System) are a series of talks put on by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints several times a year, aimed primarily at young single adults (YSA) aged 18-30, but college students of any age and marital status are also encouraged to attend. The speakers are almost always chosen from the top leadership of the Church. Frequently, the speaker is a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, but they also include members of the Quorums of the Seventy, or an auxiliary leader such as the General Relief Society President. The specific topics vary, but most talks touch on a similar theme: i.e. that our college years are a pivotal time in our lives in which the decisions we make (especially the decision of who we marry) can set our path for eternity. It's definitely a message that the Church wants every YSA to hear.

The Church used to sponsor six firesides a year, but lowered that number to five in 2003, which is where it has stayed ever since. The firesides are translated into a dozen or so languages and broadcast to Church buildings all over the world. They can also be viewed online, so the location of the speaker when the fireside is actually given doesn't matter that much, but as one can imagine, the Church likes to give as many people as possible the opportunity to see these live. This is especially true when one considers how large the Church is and how rare it is to see one of the top Church leaders in one's lifetime. Even Brigham Young University (BYU) students, who would appear to be spoiled with the frequency with which they have Church leaders visit to give devotional addresses, for the most part leave Utah after they graduate, at which point their opportunities to see Church leaders in person will diminish greatly. So the Church chooses to broadcast these firesides from those locations where the largest number of LDS students can benefit. As the Church's flagship institution, BYU is clearly at the top of that list, but as Elder Holland's address two weeks ago demonstrates, there are several other locations that also have large numbers of LDS students.

Though this blog is primarily concerned with identifying LDS educational institutions, it is interested to note the interplay between the Church and secular institutions. For many years, the Church has run Seminary and Institute programs as a way of supplementing the secular education available at public schools and most private universities. (Seminary is for secondary school students and Institute is for students in higher education.) Seminaries and Institutes definitely constitute an area worth examining in LDS Education. It is partly to supplement the instruction one gets from the Institute programs that the Church sponsors the CES Firesides, so it is only natural that in choosing a location from which to broadcast, the Church has occasionally done so from its own Institute buildings. To see how common this practice is, I went back and looked up the location for every CES Fireside from 2001 to the present. The findings are below.

BYU (Provo, UT) 42 68.85%
BYU-Idaho (including one time as Ricks College; Rexburg, ID) 3 4.92%
LDS Conference Center (Salt Lake City, UT) 3 4.92%
Ogden Institute of Religion (Ogden, UT) 2 3.28%
University of Utah Institute of Religion (Salt Lake City, UT) 2 3.28%
BYU-Hawaii (Laie, HI) 1 1.64%
Dixie State College (St. George, UT) 1 1.64%
Mesa, Arizona 1 1.64%
Moscow, Idaho 1 1.64%
Oakland, California 1 1.64%
Pocatello Institute of Religion (Pocatello, ID) 1 1.64%
Salt Lake Tabernacle (Salt Lake City, UT) 1 1.64%
The Mormon Center (Sacramento, CA) 1 1.64%
Utah State University (Logan, UT) 1 1.64%
Total 61 100.00%

Of the 61 CES firesides examined, it is not surprising that 42 were broadcast from BYU in Provo, UT. If one combines the three Salt Lake locations (University of Utah, the Conference Center, and the Salt Lake Tabernacle) Salt Lake City easily becomes the second most common location with 6 CES firesides. Anyone familiar with LDS demographics would not be surprised by the other locations being spread out through the western United States. Though several firesides do not appear to have been broadcast from specific universities (or Institute buildings associated with specific universities), it appears the most likely target live audience included students at nearby state schools with a large number of LDS students such as Weber State University, Arizona State University, University of Idaho, and Idaho State University. The two California locations have no single university with an obviously large LDS student body, but each location is close to several large schools such as the University of California-Berkeley, University of California-San Francisco, California State University-East BayCalifornia State University-Sacramento, and University of California-Davis. Combined these schools probably boast a respectably sized LDS student body, which may not be on par with the enrollment at state schools inside the Mormon corridor (Utah, Idaho, and Arizona), but which are sizable nonetheless.

The current trend will probably continue for the foreseeable future, with the majority of CES Firesides being broadcast from BYU, with occasional visits to other pockets of LDS students in the western United States. Other cities likely to host a fireside based on the number of LDS students could include Las Vegas, NV; Seattle, WA; or Los Angeles, CA. The East Coast is a less-likely location. Thriving Latter-day Saint YSA communities do exist in New York, NY and Washington, DC, though these consist more of young professionals and graduate students than of the undergraduates that typically make up the target audience for these firesides. As it grows, Southern Virginia University might also be a possible location in the future. With that, I hope everyone looks forward to the next fireside in November, scheduled to be given by Bishop Gérald Caussé. I'll update when I know the location.

20 June 2010

Primary and Secondary List 2010

Information about primary and secondary schools is more difficult to locate, mostly because many of them do not publish their information on the internet, so I'm sure I'm missing some entries, but here is what I have found.

Beginning with schools officially operated by Church Educational Services, LDS Philanthropies shows that the Church currently operates LDS Elementary School in Suva, Fiji as well as the Fiji LDS Church College, which is really the equivalent of an American high school (most of the Church schools in the Commonwealth nations follow this convention of referring to secondary schools as "colleges").

The Church operates Moroni High School in Kiribati.

In Tonga, the Church operates Saineha Middle and High School on Vava'u; Liahona, Pakilau, and Havelu Middle Schools, and Liahona High School on Tongatapu, and middle schools on Eua and Ha'apai.

In Samoa the Church operates the LDS Church College in Pesega, LDS Church College and Primary School in Vaiola, and the Sauniatu Primary School.

The only other schools for which the Church advertises its support are the Juarez Stake Academy or La Academia Juárez and El Centro Escolar Benemérito de las Américas, both of which are the equivalent of high school programs.

While the Church-run schools in the South Pacific are perhaps the most famous schools in the recent history of the CES, the Church policy on education, ever since the call to gather to Utah was ended, has been one of building schools only where local educational opportunities were insufficient to meet the needs of the members. With the recent shut down of the Church College of New Zealand, as well as earlier shutdowns of Church primary and secondary schools in Mexico and elsewhere (I've have heard unsubstantiated reports of former Church schools in Peru, Chile, and Bolivia), one might be led to believe that it is only a matter of time before the Church pulls out of primary and secondary education entirely. However, it is telling that while some primary schools were shutdown in Mexico, the Church still operates two high schools in that nation, one of which is well over a hundred years old. Even as the local education systems continue to improve, the Church schools have become a part of the local community, and pulling out is never easy. (One need look no further than the reaction to the shutdown of the Church College of New Zealand.) While the Church may be hesitant to open new schools, they will also likely be slow to close them down.

While the Church has been slow to build more schools, occasionally one will hear stories about partnerships it has entered into with members who already owned schools. I've heard of at least two stories, one in India, and one in South Africa. Hopefully I will be able to pull more information in the future, but in both of these schools the founder was a convert to the Church who built the schools primarily to help orphans and low-income students. The Church agreed to provide some financial assistance, and with no pressure from the Church, the owners introduced gospel instruction into the curriculum. This would be a good example of a project where the Church influence is directly felt, but it nonetheless tries to keep a low profile.

The next category of schools would be the independent LDS schools, i.e. those like SVU which have an LDS mission, but have no formal ties with the Church.

The American Heritage School in American Fork, Utah mentions the "restored gospel of Jesus Christ" in its mission statement directly. This clearly qualifies it as an independent LDS school, but it has also lent its name to a series of independent "sister schools" known as American Heritage School of Las Vegas, Cache Valley, South Jordan, and Spanish Fork.

The Spanish Fork campus moved and changed its name to the Helaman Academy. It quotes extensively from LDS scriptures in its mission statement and references a commitment to "the gospel" (emphasis added), which would definitely qualify it as LDS in character.

The Las Vegas Campus and South Jordan Campuses fail to mention the Church in their mission statements, at best claiming to be "Christian", but both schools explicitly adopt LDS values in their code of conduct, so it's safe to say they are LDS in nature if not explicitly in name or purpose. The South Jordan campus appears to be the third iteration of a school, previously known as Mount Hyrum, which was more explicitly LDS, whereas the Las Vegas campus appears to have grown directly out of an LDS homeschool group.

The American Heritage School of Cache Valley was apparently a reincarnation of the Liberty Education Center, which was a reincarnation of the Kimber Academy, but it does not appear to be in operation anymore. The Kimber Academy on the other hand is operational from all appearances, and has affiliates in Lehi, UT; Midvale, UT; Moses Lake, WA; and Boise, ID. (I can only find evidence that the Lehi and Midvale affiliates are currently operational.) The Kimber schools don't appear to reference the Church directly, either in a mission statement or the code of conduct, as did the American Heritage Schools, but the Book of Mormon appears to be an integral part of the Kimber curriculum.

As was mentioned briefly before with regards to the Las Vegas campus of the American Heritage Schools, it appears that many of the LDS schools have grown out of or been given support by small LDS homeschool play groups, which seems an appropriate place to mention a growing phenomenon nationally that has been particularly evident among Evangelical Christians and more conservative Latter-day Saints. That phenomenon is a preference for homeschooling. Among the Evangelicals, the number of home schoolers has grown so significantly that they now sponsor the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) on a shared campus with Patrick Henry College (a college that was founded in 2000 largely to cater to homeschoolers) in Purcellville, VA. The Latter-day Saints are not quite as well organized, but several resources and organizations have grown up to support members who choose to homeschool. These include: the LDS Home Educators Association, the National LDS Homeschool Association, the Latter-day Saint National Home Educators, the School of Abraham, the Washington State Latter-day Saint Family Educators, LDS Homeschooling in California, the Latter-day Saint Eastern Home Educators (in which my sister actively participates), and the Maeser Academy (an online LDS high school).

Something fascinating, but not particularly surprising considering LDS culture, is the way the different LDS education initiatives interact with each other. For example, Latter-day Saint Eastern Home Educators have held their annual conference at Southern Virginia University for the past couple of years, and though separated from some of their peers in the west, the Latter-day Saint Eastern Home Educators discuss and debate the methods and resources coming out of Utah more than the amble resources which are so much closer in Purcellville.

One of those topics of discussion is the Thomas Jefferson Education. The entire LDS homeschool network seems to have been affected in one way or another by the Thomas Jefferson Education, so much so that many individual homeschoolers are defined by whether they support or oppose the method, albeit the larger organizations and networks tend to be neutral and thereby more inclusive. One even sees the influence of a Thomas Jefferson Education at institutions like the original American Heritage Academy, which is older than the method.

The Kimber Academies and many of the homeschool groups also appear to have close ties to another institution, George Wythe University, whose founder first articulated the Thomas Jefferson Education. This school was not mentioned in the entry on LDS higher education because it does not claim to be LDS, but clearly most of the students, the founders, and supporters are LDS. It will be interesting to see how George Wythe University and Thomas Jefferson Education continue to shape the future of LDS education. This movement has certainly had the most success at establishing independent LDS educational institutions in recent history.

When one moves away from this particular philosophy of education it is difficult to find any other successful independent LDS schools other than those previously mentioned in India and South Africa where the Church has had some direct involvement. I am aware of an LDS boarding school founded in Japan, but it barely lasted four years before going under. The Deseret Academy in Utah is another example of an LDS school that just couldn't survive.

As I become aware of other schools, I'll try to list them, but for now this is what I could find.

17 June 2010

The Higher Education List 2010

I guess a good place to begin is to list the schools that are currently operating. In the future I plan to do a piece on each school individually, but the list should act as a guide of where I'm headed.

The first category I will cover is higher education. As anyone familiar with LDS education is aware, the Church actually owns and operates several institutions, four of which would fall in the higher education category. These schools are Brigham Young University, Brigham Young University--Hawaii, Brigham Young University--Idaho, and LDS Business College. At this point one might want to mention an institution like the BYU Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies, as it is owned and operated by the Church, and it offers a higher education curriculum. It even has a separate open application process from the other Church schools. The question here is one of administration and autonomy. While non-BYU students may apply to the Jerusalem Center, it is officially under the BYU umbrella in a way that the Hawaii and Idaho campuses are not. Also, if we list the Jerusalem Center separately, we would have to then consider the Barlow Center in Washington DC, BYU's London Center, and maybe even BYU's Salt Lake Center. These programs generally restrict admission to already admitted BYU students, but I've heard (unsubstantiated) stories of students getting admitted to BYU, with their admission being restricted to their participate in the Washington Seminar. To further complicate matters, the Church runs the Missionary Training Center in Provo (in addition to several others around the world), which is officially under the BYU umbrella, and is arguably one of the best language schools in the country, but one cannot apply to attend in the traditional sense, and no certificate or transferable credit is offered, so I'm really going to have to come up with a better definition of what constitutes "higher education" if I hope to come up with a comprehensive list.

Moving on to those programs which operate independent of the Church, but nevertheless hold to an LDS mission, the most prominent and fully operational program is Southern Virginia University (SVU). This school explicitly mentions the Church in its mission statement and it offers a full undergraduate education which has been certified by Virginia and accredited by the American Academy for Liberal Education, an accrediting body recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. The only other fully functional program that explicitly adopts an LDS mission is the Academy for Creating Enterprise (ACE). This group maintains three campuses, one in the Philippines, one in Mexico, and one in Brazil. The basic program is an 8 week course in entrepreneurship. At one time BYU-Hawaii offered a certificate to graduates of the Academy, but their website has changed several times, so it is no longer clear that this is the case.

There is one more functioning program that deserves mention as being in the LDS tradition, but it is not clear how committed it is to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is Nauvoo University. Though Nauvoo University is clearly being headed up by members of the Church, at one time Nauvoo University had a member of Graceland University's administration (a university sponsored by the Community of Christ) on its board, and for a time it presented itself as serving members of all Mormon traditions. This makes sense in that it claims to be a reestablishment of the original Nauvoo University founded by Joseph Smith, but it leaves one to wonder whether it fits in the above definition of an LDS education. They did adopt the original mission statement given by Joseph Smith as their own, but this does not explicitly mention the Church. Recently they appear to have moved closer to a more exclusive approach as to which of the many Mormon traditions they favor, but even so, they are not explicitly LDS in nature as are the Church-owned schools, SVU, and ACE, and one must wonder how their character will evolve in time given how new this institution is as an independent body. Currently they only offer a semester worth of classes, but they are clearly a functioning institution of higher education.

There are three other programs which are explicitly LDS in nature, but are not really functioning programs. The first is Desert Valley Academy (DVA), which has yet to offer any classes, but plans to open in 2012 as a full degree-granting university. I wish them luck, but only time will tell if they are successful. The second program is Bellota a Roble (or Acorn to Oak), which has held GMAT prep courses in Argentina, and currently operates an apartment in Cordoba where LDS students can stay, but they have yet to implement something consistent enough to be considered a fully functioning program. Their stated goal however is to build a full university someday. Finally, a group of BYU students have gone to Japan every summer under the auspices of the BYU Japanese English Education Research Center for the past four years to teach English in some of the Church buildings to members of the Church who need to get their TOEFL scores up so they can attend one of the Church schools in the United States. This group is headed up by Professor Watabe from BYU. He has also been actively working to build support for something more permanent, including possibly an LDS university in Japan so students would be able to enjoy the benefits of an LDS education without having to pass the TOEFL and traveling to America. As of yet, this project has not taken on a formal structure.

Thanks to some wonderful, but somewhat dated, research by E. Vance Randall of Brigham Young University and Chris Wilson of Loyola University published in proceedings of the 12th Annual Conference of the LDS International Society, another group has been identified. These are educational initiatives that were founded by LDS members and in which many or most students are LDS, but which tend to be more general in their mission, often having a general humanitarian purpose. Having worked in Bolivia with Ascend Alliance, I know that most of the students in our business classes were initially LDS, and we actually made a proactive effort to find non-LDS students in keeping with the general humanitarian mission. I haven't verified the operation of all of these groups, but this lists some of them: Choice Humanitarian, UNITUS, JUCONI, Ascend Alliance, Enterprise Mentors International, Reach the Children, Norma I. Love Foundation, Rose Education Foundation, Help–International, American Indian Services, Huntsman Armenian Projects, Ouelessebougou–Utah Alliance, Norman Gardner/Braille Resource and Literacy Center, and Universidad Hispana.

And finally I have heard rumors of yet another school in Guatemala, founded by members of the Church for returned missionaries, but I am still looking up the background information.

This brings me to the end of this list. If I missed anything let me know. Next time I will try to shift to primary and secondary.