The Climate for Christians on Campus

Students and Faculty on Campus: In 2007 there were 17,487,500 students enrolled in colleges and universities (Chronicle of Higher Education 2007 Almanac, National Center for Educational Statistics). The vast majority attended secular institutions. In contrast, last year, Christian Church and Church of Christ colleges enrolled only 14,075 students (Christian Standard, March 15, 2009). In 2007, there were 629,000 full time professors in the United States.

International Students: In 2008, there were 623,805 international students studying in the United States (Institute of International Education), an increase of 7% over the previous year. The top 5 countries of origin for these students were India, China, South Korea, Japan, and Canada. Students from the Middle East increased by 11%; Saudi Arabia (9,873 students) led the way with an increase of 25%.

Elite Universities: The nation’s top 50 universities are disproportionally influential. They produce nearly half of all of the PhDs in the United States (Survey of Earned Doctorates).  Eight of the nine current Supreme Court justices have an Ivy League education, and our presidents over the past 20 years have all received degrees from either Harvard or Yale.

Christian Roots of Higher Education: Of our 119 first colleges and universities, 104 were founded to teach Biblical values. The original seal of Harvard read “Truth for the Church and for Christ” and part of its original reason for being founded was to “let every student be plainly instructed…to know God and Jesus Christ, which is eternal life. Even public universities commonly had Christian roots; a prominent building at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio features the motto “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free,” John 8:32.

Few Christians at Top Universities: Christian professors are a minority at virtually every secular university, but the absence of Christian faculty at top universities is truly dramatic.  At the top 50 universities, only 1% of the faculty consider themselves born-again Christians (Neil Gross and Solon Simmons , How Religious are America’s College and University Professors? (PDF)).  Across all colleges and universities, born-again professors account for 18.8% of all faculty.

Unbelief Among Faculty: At these same top universities, 37% of professors consider themselves atheists or agnostics (Gross & Simmons). Nationally, 60% of faculty in psychology and biology consider themselves atheists or agnostics, the highest of any academic discipline. Even though these are just two disciplines out of many, Introduction of Psychology is the most commonly enrolled course in the United States; each year, over 1 million students take this class.

Hostility to Conservative Christians: A survey conducted by the Institute for Jewish and Community Research found that 53% of faculty have negative feelings towards evangelical Christians. Compare this to only 3% who report negative feelings about Jews, 4% with negative feelings towards Buddhists, and 22% with negative feelings toward Muslims.  Evangelical Christians were by far the most disliked religious group.  Seventy-one percent of faculty agreed with the statement “Christian fundamentalists should keep their religious beliefs out of politics.”

Yet Faculty Are Open to God: Despite these trends, faculty are open to spiritual issues. Nationwide, about 70% of faculty report believing in God or some sort of higher power, and 36% report no doubts about God’s existence (Gross & Simmons). Slightly less than half of faculty say they believe that the Bible is either the actual or inspired Word of God.

Changing Trends Among Faculty: The majority of faculty will be retiring over the next ten to fifteen years. Professors age 50 and older, who are the most hostile to Christianity, make up 54% of all faculty (New York Times, July 3, 2008). Younger faculty are much more open to Christianity.

2 thoughts on “The Climate for Christians on Campus

  1. Mike, Thank-you for taking the time to assemble/post this information in an readable format. I’m going to pass this link/material along to members of my prayer team as we enter the fall term. In Christ, Tom

  2. Pingback: Are Christian Professors Politically Conservative? at The Emerging Scholars Blog

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