Experts challenge Santorum’s remarks linking college to faith loss

speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on Februar...

Rick Santorum speaking at CPAC last year. Image via Wikipedia

By CATHY LYNN GROSSMAN
c. 2012 USA Today
Reprinted with permission

WASHINGTON (RNS) 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 Thursday (Feb. 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 that did not attend college,” said Thom Rainer, president of the Southern BaptistsLifeWay Christian Resources research firm. “Going to college doesn’t make you a religious dropout.”

A 2007 LifeWay survey did find seven in 10 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 hovers 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.”

Dennis Prager, a conservative writer on religious and political issues, decried secularism in Western universities in the National Review in April. He concluded, “With all the persecution that Judaism and Christianity have survived over the centuries, an argument that cites America’s Top 310 Colleges as a first order adversary is hard to credit.”

(Cathy Lynn Grossman writes for USA Today.)

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2 responses to “Experts challenge Santorum’s remarks linking college to faith loss

  1. Yes, Mr. Santorum is certainly diving into shark infested waters these days! With regard to his comment about colleges driving young Christians from their faith, I believe there is SOME truth to his opinion. Certainly people, especially young people, are influenced by authority figures (I.E. college professors and TA’s), and the peers that they interact with. But I do agree with the Ms Grossman that if the individual has a strong faith foundation, the college experience is not likely to cause them to walk away from their faith. They may have a few ‘crisis of faith’ experiences, which will be tests of what they truly believe.

    As for his comment about President Obama being a snob for wanting more American student to attend college, I can’t say I agree with that comment either. There is no contesting the fact that people are more successful in life if they have attended college. However I believe that we should be careful and not set the expectation that ALL kids should attend college. Not all kids are good candidates for college. Some will do better in life as carpenters, plumbers, electricians, etc. To take a young man or woman that doesn’t have the aptitude for college, and tell them they “should” go to college is doing a disservice to that person.

    In my honest opinion, what is happening is that Mr Santorum is attempting to draw a distinction between himself and candidate Romney, and is ‘working the crowd’ of the evangelical demographic in order to gain support for the GOP nomination.

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