Public colleges and universities, and most private ones, don't teach spiritual topics unless they come up in a course on established religions. But a new nationwide survey finds campuses are alive with student interest in spirituality.
The survey, conducted by an ongoing project at the University of California at Los Angeles, found 73 percent of students said their religious or spiritual beliefs helped develop their identity, while 78 percent said they'd discussed religion or spirituality with friends. Seventy-seven percent of students surveyed also said that they pray, with 71 percent saying they found religion helpful.
These figures reveal college is more than just about academics, sports, or dating. They show a youthful hunger for deeper meaning in life. The number of those who said it was important to integrate spirituality into their lives climbed 7 points from a similar 2000 survey. And yet, 70 percent of those surveyed said people can grow spiritually without being religious.
Such numbers pose a problem for colleges. A spiritual life is obviously part of a young person's education. Yet 62 percent of students say professors don't encourage discussion of religious or spiritual issues. If today's students are shunning organized religion but seeking more spirituality, perhaps secular schools can find a way to better meet that need without endorsing a particular spiritual path. It's a difficult but essential choice to make.