Pediatric care in the Student Health Center? Changing tables in campus rest rooms? Baby strollers roaming the walkways of BYU–Idaho? Ricks College had little need for such amenities. However, with the transition to a four-year university, there have been these and other noticeable changes due to a remarkable increase in the number of married students.
According to the Academic Office, the number of students who were married at Ricks in fall 1999 was less than 500. This number pales in comparison to the current statistics of over 2,900 married students–adding a sense of maturity to the classrooms on the BYU–Idaho campus.
Married students now make up more than a quarter of the entire student body and attend 10 married student wards. “It’s great being married here, especially when you realize that about one out of every four students is married too,” said Cole Johnson, student director of Married Student Activities.
In the past five years, the single student enrollment has grown 5 percent, while the number of married students on campus has grown 651 percent. The university is working to keep stride with growth and to provide for these students and their families. “The environment of the university has changed, and in turn has become more accommodating to married students,” said Sarah Bushman, a married student from Provo, Utah
Several changes have been made to better serve the rising number of married students on campus. Adding pediatric care to services offered in the new Student Health Center is one measure the university has taken to meet the needs of students and their families.
Previously the Health Center was housed in a relatively small area of the John L. Clarke Building with only eight exam spaces to serve students and their spouses. Shaun Orr, Health Center administrator, said that the university had simply “outgrown the old center.”
The new center opened its doors on July 5 and is almost three times as large as the previous one. It has 14 exam spaces plus a pharmacy, laboratory, and radiology facilities. Not only does the center accommodate more students, but it is also meeting a larger range of their dependents’ needs with the inclusion of pediatric care.
“Along with spiritual growth here at BYU–Idaho, we need to ensure physical health as well,” Orr said. “When children are healthy, the family will be able to more fully accomplish its goals.”
Changing Tables and Housing Needs
The university is adapting to the growing number of married students and their needs. Part of the transition process is paying attention to details even as small as changing tables in campus rest rooms—which have become common.
More significantly, before moving to university status, Ricks College did not operate family housing. According to Sharon Tuckett, director of Housing, discussions regarding the impact becoming BYU–Idaho would have on student demographics started quickly following the announcement in 2000.
Considering needs based on research, BYU–Idaho temporarily converted Lamprecht Hall (formerly known as Dorm 5) to family housing until other options became available. Eventually, BYU–Idaho responded to supply and demand for family housing in the community by deciding to build units of its own.
Construction began on University Village in May 2003, and the first apartments were opened in January 2004. A total of 156 apartments are now available.
“BYU–Idaho is continually assessing needs for the future,” Tuckett said. “At this point there are sufficient apartments on campus and in the community.”
She also pledges that the Housing Office will continue to do all it can to meet the students’ needs.
Strollers and Activities for Families
Young mothers and fathers pushing baby strollers on campus are no longer an infrequent sight. In fact, multi-seat strollers accommodating up to three children can be seen at BYU–Idaho events and activities.
To supplement the physical, social, and spiritual needs of married students, BYU–Idaho has created a support system. Married Student Activities is one program that is targeting the needs of these on-campus families.
This organization’s mission is to enrich the marriages and families of students by providing opportunities whereby they can improve relationships. Activities are designed to help married students meet other couples, have spiritual experiences, join in inexpensive and uplifting dates, and learn life skills such as budgeting and home management.
One way this program provides for the physical needs of married students is by arranging for them to help tend the gardens operated by the Department of Agronomy and Agriculture Business. Families harvest various vegetables during the year for the price of pulling a few weeds. “We frequently go to the gardens to pick vegetables for salads or other side dishes,” said Matt Bond, a married student from Chicago, Ill.
Social and spiritual needs are met with activities and firesides focused around family unity and basic challenges that families confront. “With Married Student Activities, we do anything we can to help couples become stronger and more prepared to enter the world after college and be an eternal family,” Johnson said.
BYU–Idaho is meeting needs of the growing number of married couples. Improvements on campus are easing the anxieties of married students and creating an atmosphere of growth. “There are so many benefits of attending BYU–Idaho, both financial and spiritual,” Bushman said. “I think the population of young families will continue to grow.”
Just as married students make adjustments to a new lifestyle, so is the university. Married students are organizing their schedules, studying, and working year-round to provide for their families. Likewise, the campus is planning, building, and implementing changes such as a year-round calendar and extended hours in the library and Hart Building to help students achieve their goals.
“It’s been nice as BYU–Idaho has added or improved a number of things such as more mothers’ lounges, more housing, many free or inexpensive dinners, and activities with baby-sitting,” Johnson said.
As married students contemplate their new responsibilities such as health care, housing, and managing finances, the university helps provide means whereby students can fulfill these needs while balancing academics.
Things like pediatric care in the Health Center, changing tables in the rest rooms, and strollers canvassing campus are evidence of an ever-developing and transitional environment. It seems that in the near future some might even say they never knew anything different. SM
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