Author: Samuelson, Scott
Ricks College is a private, two-year accredited college owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Rexburg, Idaho, an agricultural community in the heart of the Upper Snake River Valley (less than 100 miles south of the Yellowstone/Grand Teton National Parks). With approximately 7,500 students and 300 faculty, Ricks is one of the largest private two-year colleges in the United States. It is a liberal arts college with a broad curriculum in the arts and sciences, and it is also noted for its career programs in technology, agriculture, nursing, and other disciplines.
Ricks College grants the associate degree in arts and sciences, emphasizing general education to students who plan to pursue bachelor's degrees at four-year colleges or universities, as well as degrees in specialized programs.
HISTORY. LDS settlers in the Rexburg area were faced with sending their children to public schools where sentiment was strong against them. In November 1888 the settlers established the Bannock Stake Academy, an elementary school with eighty-two students and three teachers, with Thomas E. Ricks, the president of the Bannock Stake, as Chairman of the Bannock Stake Academy Board of Education. In 1898 it was renamed the Fremont Stake Academy and high school courses were added. On October 1, 1903, the school was named Ricks Academy after Thomas E. Ricks. In 1915 college courses were first taught. During the Great Depression it was rumored that the school would be closed. The Church offered to give the college to the state of Idaho, but that offer was rejected, and the Church continued its operation. Under John L. Clarke, president of Ricks from 1944 to 1971, the college expanded from a student body of 200 to 5,150. In the late 1940s the Church Board of Education approved third and fourth college years, and for six years the college graduated students with four-year degrees. However, in 1956 Ricks discontinued its junior and senior years. Since 1984 the college has again experienced rapid growth, and in 1989 the Board of Trustees set the 7,500 enrollment ceiling.
MISSION. The mission of Ricks College is officially declared to (1) build testimonies of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and encourage living its principles; (2) provide a high-quality education for students of diverse interests and abilities; (3) prepare students for further education and employment, and for their roles as citizens and parents; and (4) maintain a wholesome academic, cultural, social, and spiritual environment.
GENERAL EDUCATION. The Ricks College General Education program is designed to help students develop the ability to think and write clearly, maintain lifelong patterns of effective living, appreciate aesthetic and creative expressions of humanity, gain knowledge of the social and natural world, understand themselves and their relationship to God, and cultivate sensitivity to personal relationships, moral responsibilities, and service to society. Students seeking associate degrees study religion, English literature and composition, natural and physical science, social science, and health and physical fitness, and they must demonstrate proficiency in mathematics.
PHYSICAL PLANT, MATERIALS, AND EQUIPMENT. The Ricks College main campus is located on 255 acres at the south edge of Rexburg. In 1990, the main campus had forty-six buildings with about 1.6 million square feet of space and a replacement value of nearly $110 million. These buildings contained equipment valued at over $21 million.
The library, a building of 98,000 square feet, includes a serials collection of 750 titles and contains nearly 141,000 volumes, excluding bound periodicals and government publications.
The college owns a livestock center as part of its agricultural program on 140 acres, including 21 buildings, a few miles west of Rexburg. The college also owns a 160-acre outdoor learning facility on Badger Creek in Teton Valley.
RELATIONSHIP TO THE CHURCH. The Ricks College Board of Trustees is composed of Church leaders and is chaired by the president of the church. The Church provides approximately 70 percent of the operating funds for the college. Student tuition and fees, campus auxiliary income, and gifts to the college provide the remainder of college operating funds.
Currently (1990) thirty-six student wards in four stakes function at Ricks College. Students are required to take religion courses every semester. Graduates of Ricks consistently remark on the unique spirit of the college, the commitment of faculty to the progress of students, and the overall sense of community and caring they experienced there.
STUDENTS. Ricks College has an open admission policy. Selectivity is used only as it applies to the Code of Honor, which each student must promise, in an ecclesiastical interview, to observe. Since Ricks has academic programs spanning a wide range of ability levels, the goal has been to admit any student who could benefit from the Ricks College experience.
Currently the Admissions Office admits 95 percent of those who apply. Of those admitted, approximately 80 percent actually enroll. Students from all fifty states and thirty foreign countries attend Ricks.
The attrition rate at Ricks is higher than at most two-year colleges because many Latter-day Saint students attend Ricks for one year and then serve a Church mission. Once they complete the mission, many desire to move to a university. In 1989-1990, Ricks College graduated 1,557 students.