Friday, August 20, 2010

Southern Virginia University Inundated With 2,500 Student Applications For 2010 Fall Semester, LDS Behavioral Standards An Attraction

There are five universities in the United States where behavioral standards of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are enforced. Three of them, BYU-Provo, BYU-Idaho, and BYU-Hawaii, are owned by the LDS Church.

But the other two, Nauvoo University and Southern Virginia University (SVU), are not owned by the LDS Church. Yet SVU is proving to be a popular attraction, as the Staunton News-Leader (alternate story link HERE) reports that the school has surpassed 2,500 applications for fall semester 2010, representing a 65 percent increase over last year and a 20 percent increase over the all-time high in 2005. Of the projected incoming freshman class, more than 100 have grade point averages above 3.75. To date, the average GPA for incoming freshmen is 3.34, up from last year's 3.2. Only around 700 will ultimately be accepted.

Originally founded in 1867 and renewed as an LDS-oriented school in 1996, Southern Virginia University is the only liberal arts college that embraces the values of the LDS Church, and is dedicated to providing the finest undergraduate education available in letters, arts and sciences in a wholesome Latter-day Saint environment. It is located in Buena Vista, VA.

The LDS-oriented behavioral standards are undoubtedly part of the attraction, particularly for Mormons based in the East who may not want to go to school out West. The school's honor code covers honesty, obedience to the law, chastity and virtue, self-respect, and respect for others. Adherence to the Word of Wisdom health code is required. Missionary standards are prescribed for hair and grooming; mustaches (on men) are the only facial hair allowed. Students, faculty, staff and administration share in the responsibility to personally uphold these standards, so not only do they exhibit the standards, they are also encouraged to make “on the spot” corrections when infractions are observed. The latter practice may be considered oppressive by some.

Naturally, this environment is attractive to Mormons; there are five student LDS wards on campus. However, people from other faiths can attend the school. Just bear in mind that you'll be living in a predominantly Mormon environment (96 percent LDS), and be prepared to accept it in advance. For someone who wants to go to school to get an education rather than to party, it's a good place.

How did SVU become a Mormon school? In 1996, the original Southern Virginia College's board of trustees transferred the school's assets and liabilities to a new board, most of whom were members of LDS Church. They reorganized the school to put forth standards, values, and beliefs of the LDS Church. In 2000 the school was accepted into pre-accreditation status by the American Academy for Liberal Education (AALE), which is separate from regional accreditation bodies and was renamed Southern Virginia University. In 2003 it was granted full accreditation by the AALE.

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