Pathway, an international online learning platform offered by BYU-Idaho, has allowed men and women to receive a college education in their own home.
BYU-I introduced Pathway in 2009. It is a one-year program that allows individuals to gather with other Pathway students and combine traditional campus courses with online learning.
“What started as a humble pilot program of three locations in the United States serving 50 students, has emerged into a system of more than 449 worldwide sites, operating in 43 countries and 41 U.S. states,” according to the Pathway website.
Peggy Jolstead is a mother of 12 children and a Pathway student from Newman Lake, Washington.
Jolstead said she had no college background before Pathway, but she had taken a few courses after high school.
Jolstead said her decision to join Pathway started in ward council when her bishop asked council members to consider people in her ward who would benefit from Pathway.
“My bishop looked directly at me and said, “Maybe even you,’” she said. “The Holy Ghost touched my heart, and I started to think about the possibility.”
Jolstead said her mother came over for dinner that night, handed her the ward bulletin and asked if she heard about Pathway.
“Two witnesses,” Jolstead said. “I got the message.”
Jolstead said she prayed about the opportunity to enter the Pathway program, and it felt right. She said she was nervous when she finally pressed the submit button on the admissions page.
“I wanted something I could use should the opportunity or necessity arise if I had to go to work,” she said. “I also wanted to just learn. I had 12 children, and my youngest was 12. It was time for me to grow some more. I also feel like Heavenly Father wants me to be better prepared to serve him in whatever capacity that will be.”
Jolstead said going back to school has caused her to feel many different emotions.
“My favorite part of going to BYU-I is feeling the Spirit as I learn in every class, not just the religion classes,” Jolstead said. “We speak about Jesus Christ and his gospel in all disciplines. Even though the online classes are somewhat limited, the spirit that is felt at BYU-I, even from a distance, makes it worth it.”
Jolstead said she has a new sense of confidence. She said she has found an inner strength that she had never felt before, and she has grown closer to her Heavenly Father.
“I’m not sure where the Lord is leading me, but I have strongly considered going for a master’s later to become a reading specialist,” Jolstead said. “I have told my children throughout the years that if you know how to read, you can do anything.”
Kerri Allen, a Pathway student from Boise, Idaho, started her degree in 1993 at Ricks College. She was married in her sophomore year and spent the next few years working instead of pursuing her degree.
“Then we started our family, and college education took a backseat again,” Allen said.
Allen said she had always wanted to go back to school. She said that while living in Idaho Falls in 2002, she took evening courses and was able to finish her associate’s degree in psychology. She said she wanted to continue her education but had no further opportunities.
“That was until 2013 when I attended an information meeting about the Pathway program,” Allen said. “Here I was, almost 20 years later, returning to finish what I had started, and I was thrilled.”
Allen said she pursued Pathway because it offered her a chance to be a stay-at-home mom to her five children while working toward her educational goals. She said the cost of Pathway was unbelievable, too, and that it was easy to fit tuition into her budget.
“There is nothing out there like Pathway, and it has changed my life and helped me find myself, all the while allowing me flexibility with my schedule so I could take care of my family and home responsibilities,” Allen said.
Allen said Pathway helped her transition back into college life and learn how to work the online systems. She said the Pathway courses taught her life skills, and the religion courses strengthened her love for the Savior and for the scriptures.
“I have built wonderful friendships and grown in confidence and courage,” Allen said. “I know that Heavenly Father is pleased when we put forth effort to learn about things of this world and things of the Spirit. It feels good to be growing in knowledge and understanding.”
Allen said it is good for her children to see the importance of an education. When she is finished, she said she will feel more prepared to care for her family and will be more effective in all that she does.
Allen said she will be graduating from BYU-I with a bachelor’s degree in university studies and a minor in English and plans to transfer to a local university to pursue a master’s degree.
“I would love to teach secondary or post-secondary English someday,” Allen said. “Maybe I will even teach Pathway courses.”
The Pathway program Web page, pathway.lds.org, answers questions about the program, shares others’ experiences and provides the application for individuals to apply.