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February 8, 2021

From 50 to 50,000

Each student served represents a story of renewed confidence and increased faith

BYU-Pathway Worldwide began in 2009 with just 50 students in three U.S. locations. In 2020, a record-setting 51,583 students participated in 152 countries, with BYU-Pathway providing education in every area of the world where The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints operates. 

“We’re tremendously pleased with the growth of BYU-Pathway, but also recognize that behind every enrollment is an individual commitment and a unique life impacted by the organization,” said BYU-Pathway President Clark G. Gilbert. “I have met and talked with hundreds of students that have shared how their education has changed them.”

Growing to an annual student body of more than 50,000 in just 11 years has pushed BYU-Pathway to constantly innovate. The organization has been able to expand its reach through a novel approach to higher education, by serving an ever-growing Church, and by focusing on returned missionaries.

Novel approach

BYU-Pathway provides online, quality education at a reduced cost, designed to address the concerns potential students report for not pursuing higher education: lack of academic confidence, distance, time restraints, and financial concerns. 

“About 55 percent of Church members in the United States and 85 percent of members internationally have no associate or bachelor’s degree,” President Gilbert said. “We’re trying to make [BYU-Pathway] as affordable as possible for the student while still providing a high-quality education.”1

Additionally, BYU-Pathway’s smooth transition to virtual gatherings during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic opened the doors to education for many students who were previously unable to participate. Adekunle Bakare, a student from Nigeria, said, “It is like virtual gathering was instituted for me. The distance from work to the gathering is far, and there was no way I could have made it there. The virtual gathering helps me in bonding more with my family, maintaining good health, and exploring many opportunities to work virtually.”

This flexible format allows students to balance school and home life — increasing their confidence and improving their job skills from the start of their degree. Through its novel approach, BYU-Pathway has been able to engage students for whom a traditional education was not accessible, affordable, or available previously.

Growth of the Church

Some students join BYU-Pathway to seek spiritual strength, while others discover the spiritual blessings after they join. By developing disciples of Jesus Christ and fostering a spiritual and uplifting learning environment, BYU-Pathway continues to attract new students and play a part in the growth of the Church.

“I am a convert in the Church and was baptized in 2017,” said Patricia Oliveira, a student from Brazil. “Later on, some doubts and questions popped into my mind…. It was during these hard times that I got accepted into BYU-Pathway Worldwide! From that day on, I obtained a perspective that there are people willing and anxious to help me with my education. They showed me that higher education is possible and that my success is a priority for my Heavenly Father.”

BYU-Pathway has seen significant growth in Africa, where The Church of Jesus Christ has gained more than 200,000 new converts since 2014. In total, 7,413 African students enrolled in BYU-Pathway in 2020 — a 94% increase from 2019. Additionally, individuals who are not members of the Church comprise about 19% of total enrollment in Africa, with almost a third joining the Church after participating in BYU-Pathway courses.

As service missionaries in South Africa, Richard and Cristal Gordon saw the converting potential of BYU-Pathway firsthand. “At the first institute class we taught was a young woman named Zama,” Sister Gordon said. “We did not know her and neither did the other students, but she came, participated, took her turn praying, being lead student, everything. When we asked her if she was a member, she said, ‘No! How can I join this church?’ We were present at her joyful baptism.” 

Returned missionary focus

BYU-Pathway is also becoming one of the most valuable education opportunities for returned missionaries.2 In 2019, BYU-Pathway began pre-approving all returned missionaries and, in 2020, added a 25% tuition discount to that initiative.

“After I got back from serving a mission, I received a scholarship from BYU-Pathway. Taking that opportunity was the best decision of my life,” said Gabriel de la Vega, from the Philippines. “BYU-Pathway helped me get back on track, and now I have more strength to achieve my goals!”

Returned missionary enrollment has increased by 49% from 2019 to 2020, with thousands more enrolling than in years past. According to current projections, it is anticipated that more than half of all returned missionaries will enroll in BYU-Pathway at some point in areas like Brazil, the Philippines, West Africa, and Central America.

Continued growth

While serving 50,000 students in one year is an exciting milestone, BYU-Pathway knows there are many more individuals hoping for access to education, as well as opportunities for professional and spiritual growth.

“The most remarkable part of BYU-Pathway has always been its students,” President Gilbert said. “It’s humbling to consider the trust that students and missionaries place in our organization. We look forward to serving many thousands more in the years to come and plan to continue to serve each student as best we can.”

1. ^ Clarissa McIntire, “An Education Show-Stopper,” Marriott Alumni Magazine, Fall 2020, 34
2. ^ See Aubrey Eyre, “How BYU-Pathway Worldwide is becoming one of the most valuable education opportunities for returned missionaries,” Church News, Aug. 30, 2020

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