Students interact less with peers of different faiths and traditions once they enter college, a new study finds.
Colleges and universities across the U.S., 122 of them, provided data to the Interfaith Youth Core around the 2015-16 academic year about their students’ religious habits and beliefs for the nonprofit’s Interfaith Diversity Experiences and Attitudes Longitudinal Survey (IDEALS). The data were provided at two different points to show change — researchers will follow a national cohort of students until they are rising seniors in spring 2019 to show how the college experience can shape students’ religious and world views.
Per the report, 7,194 college students responded to the survey.
“We know that students enter college with a commitment to religious pluralism,” Eboo Patel, founder and president of the Interfaith Youth Core (and an Inside Higher Ed contributor), said in a statement. “The IDEALS survey shows that a vast majority report respect for people of other religious or nonreligious perspectives. However, it is important that colleges and universities continue to provide opportunities for these ideas to expand and grow.”
Patel said otherwise, student may retreat into their own social groups, which is particularly troubling in “a moment of heightened division” in the country.
About 91 percent of the students indicated in the survey that they respect people who have religious perspectives different from their own — 85 percent said they admire people of other faiths and beliefs.
Despite this, students aren’t discussing or engaging with religion as much after entering college, the survey found.
Nearly half of students — 43 percent — said they had talked about religious or spiritual topics with their teachers before college, but that number dropped by 18 percentage points in their first year on campus.
In high school, 37 percent of students said, they attended a religious service involving views other than their own, but that decreased to 20 percent in college.
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