SALT LAKE CITY – Utah State University has formed a special task force to weigh the impact of the Mormon church’s new lower minimum age requirements for missionaries.
The University of Utah and Brigham Young University also are monitoring how the historic change will affect enrollment, The Deseret News reported.
Thomas S. Monson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, announced at the faith’s 182nd semiannual General Conference on Oct. 6 that the church will lower its minimum age requirements for missionaries from 19 to 18 for men and from 21 to 19 for women.
James Morales, vice president for student services at Utah State and the head of its task force, said the age change represents a potentially major shift in the way Utah high school students apply for college admission and scholarships.
He said the key issue the task force will examine is the short- and long-term effects the change will have on enrollment. The change is expected to have an immediate reduction on freshman enrollment at USU, he said, but student numbers should eventually return to normal as students complete their missions.
“The impact is going to be broad so I suspect the task force membership will also be broad to address the needs of the university,” Morales told The Deseret News.
At BYU, officials embrace the policy change and what it means for BYU students and other young adults in the church. They plan to monitor how students respond, then make necessary adjustments, said university spokeswoman Carri Jenkins.
“Although there are questions we cannot answer immediately, we will be looking closely at how our students and prospective students respond to this change,” she said. “We are confident that we will be able to continue to provide all of our students with a superb educational experience.”
Officials at the University of Utah also are looking into what the new guidelines mean for enrollment.
“We’re having active discussions,” university spokesman Keith Sterling said. “I know that our administration is taking a close look at that.”
LDS officials expect the change to boost the church’s missionary force – currently more than 55,000 worldwide.