In 2008, BYU-Idaho began formulating a plan to offer an affordable, online educational program that would serve Church members throughout the world. After more than a year of research and consideration, Pathway was born with a threefold mission: 1) Get the gospel down into students’ hearts, 2) help students become capable learners, and 3) prepare students to lead and support families.
The new program would do this by making higher education more accessible, without the need for students to come to a university campus. Mixing the flexibility of online academic courses, religious education, and the benefits of weekly face-to-face gatherings with other students, Pathway was designed to build confidence and help students shore up basic skills to benefit them in further education, at work, at home, and at church. Tuition was set to be affordable — originally just $65 per credit in the United States. And as an added benefit, students who completed Pathway’s yearlong curriculum would be able to pursue an online certificate or degree from BYU-Idaho for the same low tuition rate.
With the authorization of the Church Board of Education, Pathway started as a pilot program in fall 2009 in three U.S. locations (Mesa, Arizona; Manhattan, New York; and Nampa, Idaho) serving 50 students.
From fall 2009 to spring 2013, Pathway enrollment blossomed from 50 students to nearly 4,000. Within the same approximate period, BYU-Idaho expanded its portfolio of online courses from three to almost 150. By Fall Semester 2015, Pathway was serving 15,000 students — a 33 percent increase from a year prior, and a number equivalent to roughly 85 percent of BYU-Idaho’s Fall Semester 2015 on-campus enrollment. To date, more than 70,000 students have been served through Pathway.
The Announcement of BYU-Pathway Worldwide
On February 7, 2017, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints made an announcement that would impact Pathway and forever change the face of Church-based higher education.
“The First Presidency and the Church Board of Education announces today the creation of a new Church-wide higher education online organization to be called BYU-Pathway Worldwide. This organization will have responsibility for all online certificates and degree programs offered within the Church Educational System.”
President Uchtdorf went on to say, “Pathway was kind of a hidden treasure within the CES system during the past years. We have felt that now is the right time to give increased focus and direction to Pathway and online higher education in the Church.”6
Throughout 2017, BYU-Pathway Worldwide enrolled 38,297 students in Pathway (now called PathwayConnect) and BYU-Idaho’s online certificate and degree programs. More than 450 PathwayConnect locations dot the globe, which are currently supported by a force of more than 2,400 Church-service missionaries and 400 online adjunct instructors.