OGDEN -- Weber State University has a new webpage aimed at smoothing the way for students who defer enrollment or who take a break from college for religious missions, military service, work, pregnancies or for other reasons.
The page, Return to Weber, is at www.weber.edu/returntoweber.
"The purpose behind the site is to help individuals know what kind of things they should do before they leave and what kinds of things they can do to facilitate their return to Weber State," said Bruce Bowen, WSU associate provost for enrollment services. "The website has only been up since (Feb. 6), and it's already being used. We're getting positive feedback."
Bowen said that like Weber State, most universities in Utah are seeking ways to ease student transition after the October announcement by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints lowering of the minimum age for serving missions. The minimum age for male missionary service went from 19 to 18. The minimum age for females went from 21 to 19.
"We believe our slight dip in enrollment for spring semester, which started in January, was impacted by those individuals deciding to serve an LDS mission," Bowen said. "We also anticipate a reduction of students this fall as a result of the decision."
But Bowen pointed out that it's impossible to track incoming students who decided not to enroll, so it's impossible to know what percentage of the enrollment decline may have been due to the church's rule changes for missionaries.
Bowen said the biggest unknown is what percentage of female students may choose to leave for a mission, as in the past many completed college before their missionary service.
For students planning a departure, the Return to Weber website contains links to information sources on applying for WSU admission, deferring enrollment, creating an eWeber account, applying for and deferring scholarships, transferring credit from other institutions and completing student paperwork.
For returning students, the site has links to information on registering for classes, reactivating scholarships and getting financial aid in order, and earning foreign language credit for language proficiency gained during time away.
"It's all very hard to predict," Bowen said. "All institutions in the state of Utah are projecting various numbers in terms of how they may be down. We'll have to wait to see what happens to see the full impact."
But the Weber State website will smooth the way, Bowen said. And there are advantages to deferring school.
"The positive side is, many individuals return to us more mature, and generally more serious about their studies," he said. "Having a growth experience tends to make them better students, more focused on pursuing their education."