The foundations of BYU-Pathway Worldwide can be clearly traced in the history of Brigham Young University-Idaho, even to the very beginning when the school was known as Bannock Stake Academy. Jacob Spori, the first principal of the new institution, declared in 1888: "The seeds we are planting today will grow and become mighty oaks, and their branches will run all over the earth."1
Some of the seeds planted then and cultivated over many decades were principles of faith, frugality, consecration, a pioneer’s heart, and concern for individuals. Through that environment and culture, a vision to extend the university’s mission beyond the bounds of its Eastern Idaho campus emerged. This vision grew clearer under the leadership of four past BYU-Idaho presidents.
During his 1971 inaugural response as president of Ricks College, Henry B. Eyring declared:
"We must also find ways for this college to serve young people whose needs are shaped by a great variety of cultures and situations, and who may not be able to come to this campus. We will find direct ways to move the blessing of education...from this campus out into the lives of men and women everywhere…. We must serve a world community."2
In 1998, David A. Bednar made a similar charge at his presidential inauguration:
“We must learn how to assist and bless institute students and other LDS youth in Rhode Island and Rome while effectively serving our students on campus in Rexburg.”3
In the 2005 BYU-Idaho inauguration, Kim B. Clark identified technology as a vital tool in serving more students around the world:
"In a day not far from now, we will be able to break down the barriers of time and space and connect our students...to leverage the capacity of the university and reach many more young people."4
Lastly, Clark G. Gilbert continued the focus on online learning in his 2015 inaugural address:
"The university must develop formal and informal capabilities to understand the needs of non-campus students. Finally, as online learning continues to expand, we will need to amplify opportunities for local gathering in centers of strength around the world."5
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.
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.