The Story: Is college the enemy of faith? Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum has repeatedly claimed that “62 percent of kids who enter college with some kind of faith commitment leave without it.” But Jonathan P. Hill, an assistant professor of sociology at Calvin College, says that research on higher education mostly contradicts the picture that Santorum paints.

The Background: According to Hill’s op-ed in The Chronicle of Higher Education, studies that track the religious trajectories of young people show that the college experience itself doesn’t appear to have much to do with the observed declines in religious commitment:

Studies using comparable data from recent cohorts of young people (for example, the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997, the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, and the National Study of Youth and Religion) have found virtually no overall differences on most measures of identity, practice, and belief between those who head off to college and those who do not. The one exception to this is the consistent finding that college graduates attend religious services more frequently than those who do not graduate from college.

What It Means: Hill notes that unlike in Catholic and mainline Protestant institutions, both evangelical colleges and public institutions tend to curb the decline in church attendance. “Over all, though, this is good news for the faithful,” he adds. “College is clearly not the enemy of religion. Students are not abandoning their faith commitments because of their godless college professors.”

(Via: Gene Veith)