Think a college education is out of reach? Think again! High tuition costs, work and family demands, poor study skills and fear are just a few of the common obstacles to higher education that can be overcome through the Pathway program.
Pathway is a one-year program available to Church members worldwide who have a desire to improve their education. In partnership with BYU Idaho, Pathway’s low-cost plan combines online courses with local gatherings to provide the skills, support and confidence students need as they begin pursuing a degree.
“Expanding the blessing of education globally has been a goal of Church leaders for decades,” says Andy Cargal, Pathway Communications Manager. Brother Cargal explains that focus group studies examined common barriers to higher education and Pathway was created to help members overcome those barriers.
The program is generally divided into two age groups: 18-30 and 31+. The Standard Program offers general academic courses along with religion classes to help students fulfill both scholastic and spiritual needs. Non-native English speakers may sign up for the alternate “L” program to receive additional support in English. When the one-year Pathway program is completed, leaders help students select from several options for continuing towards a degree.
Skyrocketing tuition is often a roadblock for students. Tuition for the Pathway program is only $68 per credit hour – an average of $340 per semester for Standard Pathway students in the U.S. and Canada. Compare that to the average $4,447 per semester a student would spend at a public four-year college or the nearly $14,000 per semester at a private university and it’s easy to understand the appeal of Pathway.
A unique feature of Pathway is the weekly site gathering. Generally held on Thursdays, these face-to-face groups provide additional support beyond the online instruction. Gatherings are facilitated by service missionaries and institute teachers at over 371 sites in 42 states and 40 countries. Arizona alone currently has 13 active sites with two more planned for Goodyear and Paradise Valley.
As Elder Edward Eaton, Lead Service Missionary at the Glendale site, explains, “Pathway uses the lead-student learning model. Students are given the opportunity to prepare and lead lessons, connect with group members on social media, celebrate each other’s successes and rally around each other through challenges.” The bond that is developed is further supported by a service missionary couple who remains with the group throughout the year.
Elder Joel Clarine of the Thatcher/Gila Valley site in Eastern Arizona has an unusual perspective on the Pathway program. He began as a Pathway student, and then he and his wife were called to be the Lead Service Missionary Couple. Elder Clarine explains, “I feel this really helped us to better understand what other students were experiencing….There is so much more to Pathway than just the opportunity to earn a degree….People have the potential to learn a lot about themselves, how to be better students, and how to be better disciples of Christ.”
One student from the Glendale site recovering from a traumatic brain injury was concerned about her ability to continue with her schooling. “Pathway was a great program for me,” she says. “It helped me get back into good study habits, it reaffirmed my feelings that I should continue education, and it explained teachings from church leaders.”
Andrea Mussi, of the Asunción Paraguay Stake, came to Pathway with a desire to learn more and to be with people who shared her principles. Sister Mussi explains, “I found many spiritual benefits: remembering the covenants we have made, the importance of prayer and keeping the commandments of God, the testimony of my leaders and all my classmates, including my online classes.”
The Pathway program has experienced phenomenal growth in just six years. As of September 2015, with the efforts of volunteers, service missionaries and local priesthood leaders it has expanded from a small pilot group of 50 students in the US to over 14,000 students worldwide.
Think Pathway might be just what you need to jump-start your education? Simply go to the user-friendly Website at https://pathway.lds.org and search for a location. Pathway requires no application fee, no standardized test scores, and no ecclesiastical endorsement. Your path is clear.