Campus news items: BYU-Idaho reports fall enrollment decrease

While Idaho’s public universities reported an enrollment rebound this fall, campus enrollment at Brigham Young University-Idaho fell by close to 5%. (BYU-Idaho photo)

(UPDATED, 10:45 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 24, with details about BYU-Idaho’s enrollment trends.)

Enrollment at Brigham Young University-Idaho declined by more than 1,300 students this fall.

The Rexburg-based university reported on-campus enrollment of 25,631 — a total count that includes students in face-to-face courses, online classes or internships.

A year ago, fall enrollment totaled 26,963.

This makes BYU-Idaho something of an outlier, since the state’s public universities reported enrollment increases this fall. Two factors contributed to BYU-Idaho decrease.

  • Church missions. As The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has resumed missions — postponed in 2020, at the onset of the global coronavirus pandemic — some students are leaving college to begin serving their missions.
  • Admission policy. BYU-Idaho has three semesters — fall, winter and spring — with students attending two of the three semesters. BYU-Idaho is admitting fewer students for fall semester, in order to stabilize student populations between the three semesters. Overall enrollment has remained steady, university spokesman Brett Crandall said Wednesday, even though the admissions policy is cutting into the fall numbers.

Overall, BYU-Idaho’s fall 2021 numbers are up slightly from pre-pandemic enrollment of 2019. But the university’s enrollment has defied prevailing pandemic trends.

Unlike many colleges and universities, in Idaho and across the nation, BYU-Idaho reported a significant enrollment spike in the fall of 2020. With church missions on hold, many students returned to campus in 2020, and some high school graduates started college while they waited to serve a mission. “We knew that was just going to be a bubble,” Crandall said Wednesday.

BYU-Idaho reported some other fall enrollment numbers:

  • Women account for 52 percent of the university’s on-campus enrollment.
  • Married students account for 22 percent of BYU-Idaho’s on-campus enrollment.
  • An additional 18,674 students are enrolled in the BYU-Pathway Worldwide online program, a 7% increase from a year ago.

Boise State launches new concurrent enrollment program

High school students in six Idaho communities will be able to earn a semester’s worth of college credit through a new Boise State University concurrent enrollment program.

The 15 To Start program will launch next fall. High school sophomores can apply for the program by Feb. 15. It’s open to students in Cascade, Emmett, McCall, Mountain Home, Parma and Payette — areas served by Boise State’s existing Community Impact Program, which supports rural students who are taking online college courses.

Participants in the 15 To Start program are expected to pursue 15 college credits while in high school, and should be planning to attend Boise State after graduating from high school.

“I like to be able to help students reach their goals — helping them understand that they can do it,” said Karina Smith, Boise State’s assistant director of concurrent enrollment. “Some students don’t see themselves as being able to access college, so showing them that ‘yes, they can’ is powerful.”

Click here to learn more about the program.

Idaho State to launch mental health care scholarships

Idaho State University plans to use a $1.5 million Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health donation to boost mental health care in rural Idaho.

The donation will fund 50 scholarships per year in Idaho State’s behavioral health programs: counseling, clinical psychopharmacology, psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, clinical psychology, and social work. Scholarships will also be available for students studying including sign language interpretation, or studying Spanish for health professions.

Due to a high prevalence of mental illness, and poor access to care, Idaho ranks No. 49 in the nation in terms of mental health programs, said Rex Force, Idaho State’s vice president for health sciences and senior vice provost. He hopes the training stipends will help rural communities attract more mental health professionals.

“Currently, many students working and training in rural clinical locations, more so than urban locations, are frequently offered jobs after they’ve completed their education,” Force said. “This means a direct influx of health care providers ready to provide care in those rural areas, a need that is often more acute than in urban areas.”

Not a cartoon: U of I researchers study Tasmanian devil

University of Idaho researchers are studying the Tasmanian devil — and how this species affects ecosystems half a world from the Moscow campus.

The cartoon character notwithstanding, the Tasmanian devil is actually an important apex predator and scavenger within its habitat. And because the Tasmanian devil also eats bones, it releases phosphorus, nitrogen and other nutrients into the soil — nutrients that would otherwise remain locked in bone material.

However, the Tasmanian devil is also facing the threat of extinction, through a highly transmissible form of cancer. The U of I researchers will attempt to study the impacts of the Tasmanian devil, in areas where the population is still thriving.

“We know through population and community ecology that if you remove a keystone species, there’s a reorganization that occurs throughout the food web,” said Laurel Lynch, an assistant professor in the U of I’s Department of Soil and Water Systems. “What we don’t know is whether this reorganization cascades below ground and influences microbial populations and plant-available nutrients.”

A $678,000 federal National Science Foundation grant funds this research.

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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