On Our Own: A Study of the Religiosity of a Faith-based College's Graduates

Bouchelle, Joseph, Higher Education - Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Pusser, Brian, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

Advisor: Dr. Brian Pusser

Faith-based colleges have seen a shift in the cultural norms of our society and a further resultant shift in the desire to attend some faith-based colleges. The assumption among most families who choose faith-based colleges is that the institution will provide a sort of environment which will protect or minimize the damage to their students’ spirituality and religiosity. This strength in community is described in the work of Sharon Parks, (2004, 2011) as she exhorts, “We all need ‘tribe’” (p.89).
One such institution, known herein as Faith-based College or FBC, was reorganized in 1996 from a two year secular school to a private four year, faith based, liberal arts college. It set as its distinct mission to serve student of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and others with similar beliefs. So for almost twenty years, FBC has marketed itself as the only liberal arts college in the world serving principally LDS students. Of course the LDS church has its well-established and well-funded Brigham Young University system, with three campuses in Provo, Utah; Rexburg, Idaho and Oahu, Hawaii. These institutions are all principally funded by the LDS church, thus providing a relatively low cost option for LDS students of higher education around the nation and world.
Each year, however, in the United States alone, there are approximately 60,000 LDS students graduating from high school. The BYU system can handle at most 10,000-12,000 of these; leaving 48-50,000 students without an LDS oriented option for higher education. Clearly not all LDS high school graduates desire an LDS oriented college or university, but even if 1one in four do, there is a market for these underserved students. FBC has attempted to tap into this market. The vast majority of students (approximately 91%) who attend FBC are members of the LDS church.
This begs the question then, whether or not FBC accomplishing its stated goal and providing an atmosphere wherein LDS students can gain a top notch education and maintain their LDS standards? Do students come out of FBC with increased or decreased levels of religiosity? What happens to that level of religiosity following graduation? Typically, as the following literature will show, college students show a decrease in religiosity or at least question. Does this trend manifest itself at FBC as well? Do FBC graduates regain their religiosity if they do lose it?
Based upon the large turnout of respondents and the data collected, the following five recommendations are being made for faith based educational institutions in the time periods covered by the survey.
Pertaining to Students Before attending a Faith-based Educational Institution (FBEI)
1. Faith-based institutions’ admissions offices should insure that all prospective students are aware of and prepared to participate actively in the unique and challenging environment at their respective institutions. Particular attention should be paid to dress codes and other standards of conduct which may affect the day to day lives of incoming students.
Pertaining to Students While Attending FBEI’s
2. Institutional leaders at Faith-based Educational Institutions should continue to examine the assorted codes of conduct, including dress and grooming standards, residential living policies and other standards of conduct (Appendix C) in order to ensure that they are remaining up to date and are positive and uplifting facets of campus life
3. Faith-based Educational Institutions should be mindful to avoid blurred lines between the sponsoring denomination and the institution of higher education. This should include clarity in roles of religious and educational personnel.
4. FBEI’s should seek to provide an atmosphere where students can feel safe in their beliefs, feel free to express them and be able to join with others in a religious environment. In particular, faith based colleges should continue to encourage and support spiritual growth and increased religiosity, a practice that is consistent with their missions.
Pertaining to Graduates of FBEI’s
5. Faith-based Educational Institutions should conduct alumni events in areas with a large alumni presence, wherein camaraderie can be re-established, speakers and other outside guests could be heard and a renewed spirit of fellowship and religiosity could be felt.

EDD (Doctor of Education)
religiosity, higher education, faith-based college, LDS, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
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