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Posted 24 Feb 2001   For week ended June 25, 2000
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News about Mormons, Mormonism,
and the LDS Church
Sent on Mormon-News: 22Jun00

Summarized by Kent Larsen

Changes Ahead for Ricks As It Becomes BYU-Idaho
Salt Lake Tribune 22Jun00 D3
By Bob Mims: Salt Lake Tribune

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- At a news conference yesterday announcing that Ricks College would become a four-year institution and change its name to BYU-Idaho, details of some of the changes at the campus were revealed. Among the changes are plans to drop Ricks' junior college athletic program, which has won several championships, and add several bachelor degree programs to the school.

In the news conference, LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley said that the athletic program in Rexburg would be limited to intramural competition. Explaining why the program was being dropped, he said, "It's too much money."

While the school will add bachelor degrees, it will not offer graduate degree programs, President Hinckley said. Ricks had offered bachelor degrees once before, when it became a four-year college for an eight year period beginning in 1948.

Hinckley added that the changes would happen gradually, "BYU-Idaho's move to four-year status will be phased in over a period of time and accomplished in such a way as to preserve the school's autonomy and identity. Undoubtedly, some changes to the campus will be necessary. However, they will be modest in nature and scope." Ricks has recently undergone extensive new construction and renovation that have prepared it well for its new role. The school currently has 8,600 students.

The LDS Church's commissioner of education, Elder Henry B. Eyring of the Quorum of the Twelve and a former president of Ricks, will continue to supervise current Ricks President David Bednar. Eyring said that in spite of the changes Ricks/BYU-Idaho will continue to have a unique spirit. "Ricks has always been seen as a place where students could come with a little more expectation of nurturing and personal attention than they might have with other institutions," Eyring said. "That spirit has been there and surely will continue."

The change to four-year status will relieve some of the pressure on BYU, the Church's higher-education flagship, which turns away about 27 percent of those that apply. The Church has two other institutions of higher education, BYU-Hawaii and the LDS Business College in Salt Lake City. It also runs several high school level institutions such as the Church College of New Zealand and Benemerito de las Americas in Mexico City.

Ricks was established in 1888 as the Bannock Stake Academy, one of a series of high-school level academies that the Church started to provide education for members. Other academies included Brigham Young Academy in Provo (now BYU), Brigham Young Academy in Logan (now Utah State University), Weber Academy (now Weber State University) and several others. The LDS Church closed or transferred all of the Academies except for BYU and Ricks by the middle of the last century.

Ricks' name changed several times, to the Fremont Stake Academy in 1898 and then Ricks Academy in 1903 to honor Thomas E. Ricks, the LDS pioneer that started Rexburg and who was then president of the Bannock Stake. When the school started offering college-level courses, its name changed to the Ricks Normal College, and in 1923, it became simply Ricks College.

But shortly after the experiment with four-year status ended in 1956, LDS Church officials considered moving Ricks to Idaho Falls or even closing the school. A campaign by local Church leaders and area residents convinced them to keep the school.

The transition schedule is still being worked on. Ricks/BYU-Idaho has made commitments for a 2000-2001 junior college athletics competitions that it will keep. Elder Eyring also indicated that it will take a year or more to move to a four-year operation.


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