At this past weekend’s 182nd semi-annual Church of Latter-day Saints General Conference in Salt Lake City, Church President Thomas S. Monson announced new age requirements that allow LDS youth to start their missions earlier. While this is good news for young missionaries, some Utah universities could see a dip in enrollment.
The Church is lowering its minimum age requirement for full-time missionaries from 19 to 18 for men and from 21 to 19 for women.
Attending General Conference from San Diego, Jan Troheo notes many young Mormons start college and get involved in sports or academic programs that make it hard for them to leave and go on a mission. She believes the change will increase participation.
“Sometimes they get stuck into scholarships, sports, scholastics or whatever the fact is and they find it harder to go, and so we find many are choosing not to go because of those other agreements or finding out if they can be held for two years while they are on those missions, same with sisters, they get going on different things and they aren’t required to go.”
Young people won’t be required to serve at the earlier ages, but it's an option. Troheo says while she believes the new age requirements will be beneficial for LDS missionaries, some of Utah’s colleges and universities could take a hit.
"The only thing I can see is schools next year are going to have a lot lower enrollment in Utah specifically because there is going to be so many more people going. So I think schools are holding their breaths and see how that’s going to happen."
A statement released by Brigham Young University says, “The change in missionary service age will impact the university, particularly in such areas as housing and enrollment. What specifically that impact will be, however, still needs to be determined." Adding that the university will be looking closely at how students and prospective students respond to this change. And other Utah schools will be doing the same.
“I think its fair to say there will be an impact on our enrollment number for sure," says Keith Sterling, Communications Director for the University of Utah. He says the lower age requirements will most likely have multifaceted impacts on the Universities around the state in areas like enrollment as well as athletics. However he says the U of U wants to ensure that the students flourish and will work with the church to make sure that happens.
"This is a significant large announcement that was made this weekend and I think it’s going to take some time for us to really nail down some specifics on how we are going to address it. But we are obviously positive about working with the church and that the students succeed when ever they do decide on coming to our campus.”
According to the Church, 58,000 missionaries are currently serving. The new age requirements take effect immediately.