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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah lawmakers are proposing different options to help Utah colleges with funding after the decrease in enrollment due to the increased amount of missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Utah Commissioner of Higher Education Dave Buhler said student revenue often generates 50 percent of a school's finances. With thousands of new missionaries leaving, the enrollment at higher institutions is expected to drop from anywhere between 1 percent and 10 percent. Schools focusing on two-year degrees will be affected the most with a decrease in students.
The LDS Church announced changes to the missionary program during its October 2012 Semiannual General Conference, lowering the age of service from 19 to 18 for males and from 21 to 19 for females. The number of applicants for LDS missionary service doubled in just three months after the announcement, from about 700 a week to about 4,000 a week.
Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, said schools will have to "get creative" to make up for the lost revenue. One proposal was to recruit out-of-state students with associate degrees. Those students could study in Utah for a couple of years to get a higher degree and then graduate before the wave of missionaries return home.
Buhler also said they want to encourage students leaving on missions in the near future to still apply and be admitted to college now, and then defer their enrollment. He said this helps colleges and universities track the students and get the necessary information so the students will be ready for school when they return home.
The decrease in students and revenue also means some colleges may end up cutting some of their programs.