BYU sees enrollment bump 2 years after LDS Church changes minimum missionary age

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PROVO, Utah -- A record number of returned missionaries who served The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are attending Brigham Young University this fall, and annual enrollment numbers indicate a 10 percent increase in enrollment compared to 2012.

Chelsey Zortman was 18 years old when she attended the LDS Church’s October 2012 session of General Conference, and it was at that meeting LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson announced that LDS men could serve missions beginning at 18 and young women beginning at 19. The minimum age for each group used to be 19 and 21 respectively.

"It's one of those things I immediately knew I needed to serve a mission," said Zortman, who is now a freshman at BYU.

Zortman said the announcement was her call to serve.

"That never was part of my plan, so I think since the age change dropped, it opened the door for a lot of us to go out and serve," she said.

It did. Schools around the state saw that as their enrollment numbers dropped.

"When that announcement came, the next year afterward we saw a 10 percent drop in our enrollment," said Todd Hollingshead, a BYU spokesperson who organized the statistics.

Now, two years after the announcement, Zortman is back at school.

BYU now has nearly 17,000 students who are returned missionaries, which is a jump from 46 percent to 56 percent.

"We knew it would mean some change for us, so it's been interesting the past couple of years to see those numbers change," Hollingshead said.

The new numbers don't include a large number of students currently serving their missions who are expected to come back in time for the fall semester in 2015.