Sign Up for Our Bi-Weekly Email

Expand your perspective with thought-provoking insights, quotes, and videos hand-picked by our editors—along with the occasional update about the world of EnlightenNext.

Privacy statement

Your email address is kept confidential, and will never be published, sold or given away without your explicit consent. Thank you for joining our mailing list!


Is College Good for the Soul?

Groundbreaking surveys track the higher power in higher education
by Maura R. O'Connor

As any frustrated college-aged seeker could tell you, spiritual sustenance is not often easy to come by in the halls of higher education. But soon, there may be new statistical evidence to prove it. This fall, the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA will be administering a survey to 90,000 first-year college students at 150 American universities. Funded by the John Templeton Foundation, the survey seeks to understand students' spiritual development by asking them questions concerning their spiritual experiences and beliefs, and it will follow up with the same questions two years later, when the students are juniors.

Pilot surveys of nearly 4,000 college students, conducted over the past four years, have already shown some interesting results. For example, fully 77% of students believe that “we are all spiritual beings.” On the other hand, 21% are convinced that “in the future, science will be able to explain everything,” and 31% concede that “it is futile to try to discover the purpose of existence.” Most troubling is evidence showing that the atmosphere of academia appears to leave little room for serious philosophical dialogue concerning spirituality: even though 75% said that they were searching for spiritual meaning and purpose in life, 62% reported that their professors “never” encouraged discussions of religious or spiritual matters in the classroom. Indeed, when asked how they had changed since entering college, a mere 13% reported that their “spirituality” was “much stronger.”

If the results of the larger survey (to be published in the spring of 2005) are anything like these preliminary findings, we can look forward to an extremely provocative study—one that might reveal not only the spiritual yearnings of America's youth but a disturbing lack of soul in our academic institutions. For the full report and upcoming results, go to


Subscribe to What Is Enlightenment? magazine today and get 40% off the cover price.

Subscribe Give a gift Renew

This article is from
Our War vs Peace Issue