I Have a Question

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“I Have a Question,” Ensign, Sept. 1998, 61

Because only a limited number of college-bound Latter-day Saints can attend Church schools, most LDS students must seek higher education elsewhere. What are some criteria for choosing a university or college?

Clarence F. Schramm, formerly zone administrator in the Church Educational System and currently a CES missionary teaching institute classes at universities in the Boston, Massachusetts, area.

Because of growing demand, Church schools such as Brigham Young University and Ricks College cannot accept an ever-increasing number of qualified students.

“Leaders and members plead for us to duplicate these schools elsewhere,” said Elder Boyd K. Packer, now Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “But we cannot, neither should we, attempt to provide secular education for all members of the Church worldwide. Our youth have no choice but to attend other schools” (Ensign, Nov. 1992, 71).

In choosing where to pursue a higher education, students and their families need to take into consideration important temporal and spiritual factors.

Location of the nearest institute of religion. “Young adults enrolled in universities and colleges or other postsecondary training should avail themselves of the opportunity to take institute of religion courses,” said President Ezra Taft Benson. “Joining our spiritual education to our secular learning will help us keep focused on the things that matter most in life” (Ensign, Nov. 1986, 46–47).

Strong institute programs, through which Latter-day Saint youth associate with each other as they study the gospel and prepare for careers, missions, and marriage, are available near an increasing number of colleges and universities. Information about the size of U.S.-Canadian institute programs can be found in a Church Educational System publication titled Institutes of Religion in the United States and Canada. Among other helpful resources for the United States and Canada is The College Guide for Latter-day Saints, which points out that institutes of religion, like Church-run schools, offer a haven for those seeking a spiritual environment and “are a quality choice for the majority of LDS college students” (page 5). Copies of these publications are available at many institutes of religion.

Educational needs. With help from parents and others concerned about their educational growth, students need to investigate, evaluate, and make educational choices that fit their educational needs.

“Many youth wonder whether they should go to a university, a college, or to a vocational school; the choice is yours,” said Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “The choice to be made is usually a matter of preference, however, not of principle. Therefore, before choosing, wisely inventory your own interests, your skills, and your circumstances. Work through your own feelings and preferences; then proceed and persist in obtaining the type of education and training which best reflects your interests and abilities” (Seek Learning: Even by Study and Also by Faith [1996], videocassette).

Seek answers to questions such as these: Is the school appropriately accredited? What is its academic reputation? Does it offer strong programs and qualified faculty in areas of academic interest? What is its job-placement record?

Cost. Choices will be influenced by a student’s available financial resources. Attending an in-state school within commuting distance from home offers tremendous financial savings over the costs of housing and out-of-state tuition. While the educational offerings at universities may be large, the opportunity for scholarships may be small because of competition. Smaller schools often offer greater opportunities for scholarships.

Environment. Students will find their overall circumstances more favorable when associations are based in an LDS environment. Single students especially need opportunities to form friendships with worthy companions. When a school is under consideration, students or parents may want to contact a local bishop or institute director for information. Does a functioning Church organization exist nearby? How large is the institute program? What about housing? When it is necessary to live apart from the family, students must choose roommates and environment wisely.

Students who carefully plan their educational future, making their Heavenly Father part of their decisions, will discover that they can obtain a good temporal and spiritual education if they take advantage of opportunities for spiritual and academic growth and surround themselves with good influences.