During a recent meeting with Brigham Young University President Rex Lee, American Indian leaders expressed concern that BYU has a smaller number of Indian students than when they themselves attended the school.
The meeting took place during a two-day conference during which 40 Indian men and women, mostly BYU graduates, from coast to coast discussed ways in which they could strengthen the lives of individual Indians, their families and their communities.Lee said that BYU is a different place than it was in the 1960s and '70s, when most of the conference participants attended. People who are highly qualified now have difficulty getting in, he said.
"BYU's admissions requirements include not only GPAs and test scores but also projections on whether or not the student will graduate," Lee said. "We're also working with several two-year colleges on articulation agreements that we hope will facilitate the transition of groups who come from disadvantaged backgrounds."
During a luncheon in the Lion House concluding the conference, Elder Howard M. Hunter, president of the LDS Church's Council of the Twelve, encouraged the Indian leaders to continue working to get more youths prepared for a college education.
Elder Hunter said that encouraging Indian youths to attend college is a way of helping Indian families and communities cope with today's problems.
"We all need a cause within ourselves for doing something that benefits others," he said. "(The LDS Church) is helping minorities as well as assisting the hungry and starving in other parts of the world.
"It's good to see a group of Indians interested in helping others and sharing principles as taught by the master. Continue what you are doing, even though it takes time and effort and seems thankless at times."
Elder Hunter also praised the efforts of Dale Tingey, director of American Indian Services of Provo.
American Indian Services is quickly becoming one of the leading scholarship sources for Indians. "We are especially interested in helping Indians graduate from two-year colleges, and then four-year institutions," Tingey said.
Last year, the tax-exempt foundation funded nearly 300 students, many of whom are single parents. However, the organization was forced to turn away more than 100 scholarship-seekers due to lack of funding, Tingey said. All recipients are required to furnish at least one-half of their school financing.
Also speaking during the conference were William Dyer, national chairman of the American Indian Services Executive Board and former dean of BYU's College of Business; Phil Smith, a medical doctor; Provo psychologist Dave Blackwell and Larry EchoHawk, Idaho attorney general.