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The education commissioner of the Latter-day Saints recently shared powerful personal motivations for helping to expand the international reach of BYU-Pathway Worldwide.
“I have a son now who is a missionary for our church in Zimbabwe,” said Elder Clark G. Gilbert at a conference of presidents of major American religious universities. “His companions are amazing. The young African men who are serving with him side by side, have the same burden, have the same ability. Are you saying that we’re going to send one home with no space, and my son is going to come home and go to BYU with this space and all the space?”
Elder Gilbert was the founding president of BYU-PW, which provides low-cost, on-the-road support to higher education for 60,000 students worldwide, and a former president of BYU-Idaho . He is a General Authority Seventy and commissioner of education for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
He was sitting on a table with the presidents of the flagship Catholic university, Notre Dame, and the flagship Jewish university, Yeshiva University, at the conference in Washington, DC, last week.
The conference included reporters from the Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Ed and Higher Ed Dive.
Elder Gilbert’s comments were prompted by comments shared by several presidents about their religious aspirations for new ways to provide greater access to affordable college education.
“How can I, as a person who believes in what we said about the community and believes in the dignity and potential of all God’s children, just watch that child went to the house that served with my son and said, ‘I’m sorry, the church has nothing to do with you.’ So there is hope.”
Latter-day Saint missionaries have long noted the disparity in their economic and educational opportunities. Many have tried to close the gap. The late President Gordon B. Hinckley spearheaded the church’s establishment of an Education Endowment Fund in 2001.
For many years, Elder Gilbert honored many members of the Latter-day Saints in the Boston area, who were sparks of inspiration for the establishment of BYU-Pathway in the World. Totally.
BYU-PW has grown rapidly in the United States, where students pay $79 per loan.
Elder Gilbert said the church Board of Educationled by President Russell M. Nelson and including other church leaders, was instrumental in overseeing BYU-PW’s international growth.
“When we started BYU-Pathway, there was a lot of concern about our governance structure,” Elder Gilbert said at the conference. “We were asked, ‘Are we going to repeat the cost of a large campus time and time again, anywhere in the world?'”
The church helps with tuition and other financial aid at BYU, BYU-Idaho, BYU-Hawaii, Ensign College and BYU-PW.
Elder Gilbert said the church cannot afford to build another BYU in Manila, Philippines, and then another in Accra, Ghana. But the board wanted BYU-PW to help more students around the world.
That created what Elder Gilbert called a need for renewal.
“I had members of my committee say to me, ‘Okay, I’m glad Pathway is growing, yes, it’s great. But it will serve 70,000 this year. You have to figure out how to serve a million students. That is the demand. And you have to do things differently.’
“This has led to a path and a search for new things and new models that we feel urgent,” he said. “We have to find a way, not only because we are new people or smart or arrogant, because we care about our fellow human beings.”
The campaign will not change the cost of the program, but many international students cannot afford the lower cost for American students.
For example, BYU-PW today pays $5 in debt to students from Zimbabwe.
“For a while, the church said, ‘Okay, we’re going to make that difference,'” Elder Gilbert said. “The church came and helped with that gap. But we saw a lot of growth, and I had to go back to our meeting and say, ‘We want to open in West Africa, and we want to open in the Philippines. We want to open in Latin America.’”
To reduce bills to $5 in Zimbabwe requires a lot of tweaks to the affordable model. BYU-PW sent many of its online courses to members of the international church, mostly from members of the church in the Philippines.
“That cost has been reduced,” said Elder Gilbert. “The church is still funding that difference, but it’s more sustainable. When we think about affordability in higher education, you can say, ‘Well, I want to fund philanthropy.’ Or you can say, ‘No, I really want the pricing structure to be cheaper.'”
During a panel discussion that included the need in religious universities for a common vision between boards of directors and teachers, Elder Gilbert thanked the great leadership of the Education Committee of the church.
“We may not do a Pathway at BYU (in Provo), which is more common, but our board of directors allowed the construction of the Pathway to happen, because they are the guardians of a distant horizon. more,” he said.
“BYU-Pathway is an answer to my 50-year prayer that we can have a common way to serve the whole church with the blessings of education,” Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, a brother of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the Board of Directors. of Education, in a 2021 message to BYU-PW employees.
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