As BYU-Idaho stays focused on students, it wants students to focus on their education, and not just for two-thirds of the year.
This past February, President’s Council approved the adoption of “flex semester” as the official name for what has become known as a student’s “off-track semester.” University leaders hope this name change encourages more students to consider options for progressing towards their educational goals during their “flex semester.”
Institutional Planning Managing Director Aaron Sanns says BYU-Idaho previously encouraged students to leave Rexburg when they were not enrolled in classes.
“We came up with the term “off-track” on purpose because we didn’t want students to be engaged year-round—we did not have the resources for it,” Sanns said. “Our online program wasn’t built at the time and applied learning opportunities weren’t as plentiful or robust at the time.”
But with more options available through student employment, the Rexburg Business and Development Center, Applied Learning, and online courses, Sanns hopes the terminology change will encourage a cultural shift that encourages students to never take their eyes off of their academic pursuits.
Students receiving their acceptance letters this spring are already receiving their track assignments with the new terminology.
Students will now be assigned tracks with the following terminology:
• Spring/Fall Track with Winter Flex Semester
• Fall/Winter Track with Spring Flex Semester
• Winter/Spring Track with Fall Flex Semester
In 2001, when Ricks College became the four-year university we know today, it could not accommodate the number of students that wanted to be in Rexburg every semester.
“Now we can accommodate more students on campus and online. We don’t want everyone to enroll on campus full-time on their flex semester, but there are more options to stay here,” Sanns said. “We want students to think about flexible options as opposed to just working in unrelated jobs or relaxing.”
It currently takes the average BYU-Idaho student 11.3 on-track semesters to graduate. If the average student takes classes only two semesters a year, it will take them almost six years to earn a bachelor’s degree (also known as a four-year degree).
“We want our students to finish in fewer semesters and in fewer years—in four years instead of five or six,” Sanns said.
“We want to keep students engaged all year, and hopefully they will have a richer experience and graduate faster. They will graduate with more marketable skills if they are engaged during their flex semester.”
The faster a student graduates, the more money is saved too. BYU-Idaho and its biggest donor, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, will find savings, but the biggest financial beneficiary to graduating faster is the student.
“Students don’t just save money and time in their twenties, they start earning for retirement earlier and gain another year or two over their 40-year career. That’s a lot of potential earning in 40 years,” Sanns said.