College students lean toward religion
By Adarsh Bagrodia
A University professor and graduate student have concluded that students who attend college are more likely to maintain religious beliefs than those who choose not to attend higher education.
A paper written by assistant sociology professor Mark Regnerus and sociology graduate student Jeremy Uecker analyzed the idea that college life influences religious faith and practice, based on the findings from The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health.
"We wanted to know if the college experience had a secularizing effect," Regnerus said.
The survey tracks 15,000 students randomly selected from high schools across the country and monitors their religious devotion post-high school.
In general, the survey has shown that "the young-adult years of many Americans are marked by a clear decline in outward religious expression, which is popularly thought to hit bottom during - and perhaps because of - the college experience."
Surprisingly enough though, college graduates reported a 59.2-percent decline in religious service attendance compared to a 76.2-percent decline among those who chose not to attend college, according to the report. Regnerus and Uecker explain that the structure of college life reinforces and provides for a more religion-friendly environment. Through student organizations and various network associations, college students live in an atmosphere that allows them to maintain their religious beliefs.
"There is, in essence, a lack of structure for those students who don't go to college," said Uecker.
Elizabeth Lopez, a second-year graduate student pursuing Russian, east European and Eurasian studies, said that she attends church about twice a month, but that she used to go more as an undergraduate. She said she is just as confident in her faith now as she was then.
This is not to say that people are very religious in college. Both Uecker and Regnerus agree that "in college, to be too religious is a type of kiss of death."
Students who are extreme in their religious beliefs seem to be ostracized when creating new and lasting friendships, the two said. They went on to say that the majority of students can be characterized as lax in their imposition of religion upon others.
"With all the pressures of drinking, smoking and sex, you would think that people might end up less religious than before," said Jacqueline Adair, a psychology and Asian studies senior. "I haven't changed at all since I've been here."
The study supports Adair's theory, showing that students who engage in drinking, marijuana use or sexual activities are less likely to attend religious services.
"In fact, many students find religion and religious organizations to be helpful and enriching aspects of their college and academic life," said Benjie Slaton, campus minister for Reformed University Fellowship, a Presbyterian-affiliated program.