Last week, we took the time to opine on how Brigham Young University could expand opportunities to admit more students into its student body. After the series by reporter Braley Dodson, it was apparent to us that more qualified students wanted to attend BYU and because of enrollment caps and other factors, it wasn’t possible for that to happen.
We return to this subject after BYU announced this week it would raise its enrollment cap in a phased process over the next six years. According to Carri Jenkins, spokeswoman for the university, BYU will increase its enrollment by about 1.5% each year over the next six years. Based on whether or not that is compounding increase or not, that’s a minimum of 2,700 new students over six years, and up to about 2,800 students if the increase is compounded.
We were really excited to read this based on our previous editorial. We believe that BYU provides a phenomenal educational experience to students, with a clear demand from a global pool of eager students.
Since 1998, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has grown by almost 6 million members, representing a 57.56% growth in the church’s membership. This is a global church and we are more than aware that similar growth should be expected to be mirrored at the church’s flagship university.
But we definitely raised a collective eyebrow when we considered that 1998 was the same year the university last significantly raised its enrollment cap. While it would be hard to extrapolate the data from the church’s figures, we could easily assume that the number of eligible, qualified young adults and adults of the LDS Church has increased to some degree. With such an emphasis placed on education within the church, we’re glad the opportunity has been provided for more students to attend the university.
The next step in planning for this enrollment increase will likely begin at the city level. Provo needs to work ahead to ensure services, housing and other amenities that make Provo a fantastic place to live before 450 more students arrive to campus next year. Those 2,800 more students will likely create a greater draw on community resources and infrastructure, including utilities, roads and recreation amenities.
This phased approach to increasing the tuition cap is beneficial to Provo because it provides the city a sort of breathing space before the full enrollment increase is realized. However, we assert our belief that the city should work now with BYU to plan wisely for future growth around campus and around the city. More housing options, parking availability, street planning and the associated allocated resources will be needed to accommodate this growth. The city can’t just assume that because the growth begins slowly that the issue should not be addressed as early as possible. Kicking the can down the road would be detrimental for those future students.
In reality, we hope city leadership, and city residents as a whole, view the increase in students as a boon for the local economy. We get it that when students flood the city in the end of August that it can be a shock to the system. Getting up and down University Avenue becomes just a touch harder, and the Smith’s grocery store on the Saturday night before classes sees seemingly more foot traffic than a BYU football game. We’ll be the first to complain about Provo traffic, especially clustered around the university.
But that horde of undergrads swarming Smith’s represents sales tax revenue going into the city’s coffers. Imagine city budgets and resources without that dramatic uptick in city revenues. Add a few thousand more students to that equation, and it’s easy to see how greatly Provo will benefit financially by the enrollment increase.
We are excited by the opportunities that will be afforded to thousands of more prospective students who can receive an education and subsequently graduate as BYU alumni. We appreciate BYU opening its doors to more applicants and providing additional educational pathways.