Becoming BYU-Idaho Rethinking Education by Steve Moser
Changing the name, but preserving the “Spirit of Ricks.” creating a two-tiered institution that allows students to choose between associate or bachelor’s degrees. coping with the expected increased enrollment by using an innovative year-round track system, hiring additional faculty, and constructing new buildings and renovating existing facilities. Discontinuing intercollegiate athletics and creating a new expanded activities program for more students.

Any one of the above tasks poses an interesting challenge. Together they are truly daunting. But, as sure as winter gives way to spring in Idaho and grass emerges from underneath a blanket of white, the task of transitioning Ricks College into BYU–Idaho moves forward. In just a few months “Becoming BYU–Idaho” will no longer be in the future.

This is an exciting time to be on the Ricks College campus. As we approach the first anniversary of “the announcement” of June 21, 2000, much has already taken place and by late August of this year when the next class arrives, more of the future will have come into focus.

But, the change is and will continue to be a process, cautions President David Bednar. “President Gordon B. Hinckley pointed us in the right direction, and everyone involved with the transition is heeding his charge to ponder and pray as we work within our individual stewardships. Through inspiration, effort, then more inspiration, we are moving closer to creating the type of school President Hinckley envisioned.”

To make that vision a reality, the college is “rethinking education.”

The “Spirit of Ricks” is preserved and enhanced.
The most visible of the changes ahead is the adoption of a new name. As Ricks College becomes Brigham Young University-Idaho and transitions from a distinguished junior college to a four-year university, one of the tasks will be to preserve and enhance the “Spirit of Ricks.”

Simply stated, this will entail upholding a tradition of individual attention and service, hard work, friendliness, and compassion—the same things that have bonded the students, faculty, and administration for more than 100 years at Ricks College.

President Bednar has stated, “The ‘Spirit of Ricks’ is not found in a building, it is not found in a place, it is found in the people, the students, the teachers. The ‘Spirit of Ricks’ will not be diminished or eliminated as we become BYU–Idaho—in fact, if we do this transition properly, it will be greatly enhanced. We will continue to foster a nurturing, spiritual environment, which will continue to be referred to as the ‘Spirit of Ricks.’”

Festivities surrounding the name change are in the planning stages. Homecoming 2001 on September 20-22, for instance, will not only celebrate the name change but will include many other activities such as a parade, concert, fireworks, football game (the last Homecoming game scheduled), and dances.

A two-tiered institution allows students to choose between associate 
or bachelor’s degrees.

The new university will become a two-tiered institution offering both specialized associate degrees and integrated and specialized bachelor degrees.

BYU–Idaho will offer 17 specialized associate degrees along with a carefully selected curriculum of general education. With one of these specialized associate degrees, a student can be ready for employment in about two years.

It is anticipated some 46 bachelor’s degree programs will be developed and phased in over the next five years. While not all programs will be offered immediately, they will be added as time and resources make it feasible. The integrated degree will allow students to link disciplines together—such as math and economics or English and information systems—along with internships in their chosen field.

The specialized bachelor’s degree program will be offered for a “relatively few specific majors,” President Bednar has said. An integrated degree is tailored to fit students’ interests, provide relevant internships, and enhance marketability.

The integrated bachelor’s degrees will give a broader spectrum of educational experience while becoming the backbone of the BYU–Idaho curriculum. By linking creative curriculum, other areas of study, and internships, these degrees will provide unique educational opportunities and greater marketability in the workplace.

An editorial in the Idaho Falls Post Register recently stated, “Rexburg Mayor Bruce Sutherland has it right when he says, ‘How [BYU–Idaho] is planning to develop their degrees is in tune with business needs. The idea of tying the curriculum to internships is just remarkable.’ Businesses both in and out of state are already thinking about locating in Rexburg to take advantage of this growing pool of young talent.” 

The Student Activities Program opens sports, the arts, and service to everyone.
The 2001-2002 season will be the last for intercollegiate athletics at Ricks College/BYU–Idaho. During the coming school year, special events are being planned to honor present and past athletes as each sport is discontinued.

Whereas some 280 students participate in intercollegiate athletics per school year, at least ten times as many students are expected to participate in the new student intra-campus athletics activities program.

There will be several levels of competitive athletic activities that will involve a higher percentage of students than ever before on this or any other campus. This new program goes beyond “intramurals” through which a group of friends play together on teams. The most unique feature of the competitive athletic program will have students trying out for a wide variety of competitive athletic teams. The various teams will then be trained and coached to compete against each other. At the recreational level, students will still be able to participate in a wide range of activities that require little or no training.

When fully operational, the new student activities program will have an array of year-round activities in four areas: Social and Recreational, Visual and Performing Arts, Sports and Fitness, and Humanitarian Service and Leadership. Each area will be structured to give students numerous opportunities for active involvement at various levels of interest—including leisure, instructional, recreational, and competitive.

The faculty is focused on the scholarship of learning and teaching.
Both the faculty and students at BYU–Idaho will be engaged in a wide range of scholarly and research activities. But the primary focus of the faculty will be on the scholarship of learning and teaching. In order to be student-centered, BYU–Idaho will maintain a 25:1 student/faculty ratio and a serious commitment to the continued belief that everyone, whether student, faculty, administrator, or staff employee, is a teacher.

This year 25 new faculty positions will be filled and over the next five years the college expects to hire a total of 100 new faculty members.

Unlike most institutions of higher education, Ricks College has never adopted the distinctions of assistant professor, associate professor, and full professor. This tradition of no faculty rank will continue at BYU–Idaho.

A year-round track system allows more students to attend.
BYU–Idaho will operate on an expanded year-round basis. This innovative academic calendar will allow students to attend two of the three semesters:
*Summer-Fall Track (Students must sit out winter semester.)
*Fall-Winter Track (Students must sit out summer semester.)
*Winter-Summer Track (Students must sit out fall semester.)

A year-round Fast Track program will also be available. Students participating in Fast Track will start the summer after high school graduation and continue year-round until graduating with either an associate or a bachelor degree. This option will be most feasible for those students who have earned some college credit while in high school.
A primary goal of the year-round system is to serve more students at BYU–Idaho. The freshman/sophomore enrollment will remain at approximately 8,600 as it has in the past. As upper level courses are added, the enrollment will increase. Estimated enrollments for the next several years are as follows: 9,200 in 2001; 9,800 in 2002; 9,900 in 2003; 10,600 in 2004; and 11,600 in 2005. These enrollments could be subject to change as faculty, programs, and facilities become available.
BYU–Idaho will maintain the present character of its student body, and its overall philosophy and approach of admitting students will not change. Admission will continue to be based on a combination of factors, including academic achievement, leadership qualities and ecclesiastical involvement.

Rethinking education will bring physical changes to the campus.
The college is exploring several options to provide housing for the anticipated increase in students, especially married students.  Some 655 married students attended the winter semester of 2001. The number of married students could reach 2,000 by 2005.

Off-campus construction is currently underway to provide additional single student housing for approximately 570 students, more than adequate for the anticipated increase in single students.
Ground-breaking ceremonies were held in April for a new multi-use building to serve both ecclesiastical and academic needs. The approximately 54,000-square-foot building will be located in the southeast corner of campus. The building will be patterned after the Church’s new Institute of Religion building design, some of which are located at Idaho State University, Utah Valley State College, and Dixie State College. Because a standard construction plan is available, the building should be ready for use by fall of 2002.

Ground is expected to be broken this summer for the new Jacob Spori Building, situated at the site of the old Spori Building. The new Spori Building, which will be reminiscent of the original Spori Building, will be a three-story classroom building with occupancy slated for the fall of 2003.

Several classroom buildings will be renovated or additions built over the next five years to provide more office and classroom space to service the additional students. Details will be forthcoming as plans are approved.

Concerning the transition process, President Bednar has continously emphasized that decisions made since last fall are projections for the next five years, rather than absolute numbers.

In essence, President Bednar said, “BYU–Idaho is rethinking education to serve more students and prepare graduates to contribute to the Church, community and workplace.” This is the overarching goal of a former rural Idaho junior college that is now preparing to enter the new world of education on the university level. 

Daunting or not, the future is here.
For more information on the transition, see our story entitled ‘Academic Acumen: Implementing four-year course offerings’ in this magazine, or visit our transition site at



Tuition at BYU–Idaho this fall will increase by $150 per semester, bringing the cost of attending the college to $1,240 per semester. Inflation and the cost of offering upper-division courses prompted the increase, according to Jim Smyth, administrative vice president.
By comparison, BYU’s tuition for undergraduates in Provo, Utah, increases to $1,530 this fall. Tuition pays about 30 percent of the operating costs at the school, with the remainder being paid by the Church, Smyth says. 


Ricks College is now an official candidate for full-scale accreditation of its proposed bachelor’s degree programs. Candidacy status was granted by the Commission on Colleges and Universities of the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges on March 21, 2001. “This is a very important step in the transition process,” President David A. Bednar said at an employee meeting announcing candidacy status.