Experts dispute claim that college erodes faith

February 28, 2012

Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum's claim that U.S.
colleges drive young Christians out of church is facing scrutiny from
Protestant and Catholic experts.

Santorum told talk show host
Glenn Beck on February 23 that "62 percent of kids who go into college
with a faith commitment leave without it." He also has called President
Obama a "snob" for wanting more Americans to attend college.

"There
is no statistical difference in the dropout rate among those who
attended college and those who did not attend college," said Thom
Rainer, president of the Southern Baptists' LifeWay Christian Resources
research firm. "Going to college doesn't make you a religious dropout."

A
2007 LifeWay survey did find that seven in ten Protestants ages 18 to
30 who went to church regularly in high school said they quit attending
by age 23. The real causes: lack of "a robust faith," strongly committed
parents and an essential church connection, Rainer said.

"Higher
education is not the villain," said Catholic University sociologist
William D'Antonio. Since 1986, D'An­tonio's surveys of American
Catholics have asked about mass attendance, the importance of religion
in people's lives and whether they have considered leaving Catholicism.

The
percentage of Catholics who scored low on all three points hovered
between 18 percent in 1993 and 14 percent in 2011. But the percentage of
people who are highly committed fell from 27 percent to 19 percent.
"Blame mortality," D'Antonio said. "The most highly committed Cath­olics
are seniors, and they're dying out." —USA Today

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