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Baptist Colleges Among ‘Most Religious Campuses’comment (0)

January 5, 2006

By Bob Terry

You have undoubtedly heard that such-and-such Baptist college is not religious enough or conservative enough or strict enough in its student-conduct code. Baptist colleges, including Alabama Baptist-related colleges, have been targets of such criticism for generations. 
Now comes somewhat of a response to these charges from a most unlikely source — The Princeton Review. This is the organization that evaluates colleges and universities for their overall academic excellence. 
It is also the group that always claims secular-press headlines with its list of Top Ten Party Schools in the United States and the list of the Top Ten Stone-Cold Sober Schools. 
New to this year’s evaluation are the categories Most Religious Campuses and Least Religious Campuses.
Alabama Baptists will be glad to know that Samford University in Birmingham was judged fifth in the nation in the Most Religious Campuses category. Auburn University also made the list in the 19th spot.
Five Baptist colleges were ranked among the top 20 most religious campuses in the nation. Samford was the highest rated, followed by Hillsdale College, an American Baptist-related school in Michigan at seventh; Baylor University in Texas — 10th; William Jewell College in Missouri — 12th; and Furman University in South Carolina — 15th. 
Ranked above Samford were Brigham Young University in Utah, Wheaton College in Illinois, Grove City College in Pennsylvania and the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, in that order. 
Three public schools made the list. In addition to Auburn, the University of Utah was listed in ninth place and Texas A&M University in 13th place. 
Geographically 14 of the 20 schools are located in the South or Midwest. That stands in stark contrast to the Least Religious Campuses. Eleven of the least religious campuses are located in the Northeast. However, the No. 1 rated least religious campus, Reed College, is located in Oregon, the home state of two of the top five campuses making this list.
To be sure, The Princeton Review is not a scientific survey. It reflects the answers of 110,000 students at the nation’s top 361 colleges and universities to a 70-question survey. 
From their responses, the researchers drew their conclusions. Obviously the answers only show the students’ perceptions and will change from year to year. 
Still it is important to know that most of the students at Samford feel their school is very religious and their fellow students are very religious. As the motto of the school says, “For God, for learning, forever.” 
What is true of Samford is equally true for the University of Mobile and for Judson College in Marion. All are places dedicated to learning in a Christian environment and to providing students the opportunity to develop as Christians. 
An ongoing $1.9 million study by the University of California-Los Angeles recently found that nationwide, regular church attendance drops from 52 percent of freshmen to 29 percent of juniors. The study also pointed out that most students find few outlets on campus to foster their spiritual development. 
That is not true at Alabama Baptists’ three related institutions of higher learning. Nor is it true at the 17 schools where Alabama Baptists provide campus ministers to encourage students in their Christian walk. 
All three Baptist campuses provide regular worship opportunities, prayer groups, Bible study groups, missions opportunities, Bible classes and Christian faculty members — all with a stated purpose of honoring God as made known in Jesus Christ. 
On campuses such as Auburn, campus ministries offer similar activities as well as a place to find Christian friends who share basic Christian values. 
And every state school in Alabama has Christian faculty members and administrators who care for their students. College years can be a time of Christian growth in such places. 
Alabama Baptists believe in their institutions of higher learning, and we believe in the program of collegiate ministries. That is one of the reasons more than $10 million is channeled to these ministries through the Cooperative Program each year. 
It is good to know that the students taking advantage of the opportunities Baptists help provide through our three related schools and through the collegiate ministry programs conclude that they are attending schools where the students are very religious.
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