In the United States students can opt for one of around 600 faith-based colleges – or even universities.
Naomi Riley’s God on the quad: how religious colleges and the missionary generation are changing America (2005) is a study of twenty institutions which aim to educate their students in a strong religious philosophy, whether Baptist, Catholic, Evangelical Protestant, Mormon or Orthodox Jewish. The common features of these institutions throw up some challenging questions:
Could I imagine myself living on an alcohol-free campus?
What would social life be like where dating was not permitted in the first year – or even for the full extent of my degree course?
How would I react to being obliged to commit myself to some form of outreach: assisting on a home-schooling scheme, lending a hand at an inner-city social project, visiting the elderly or sick, helping to run summer camps for youngsters, teaching at Sunday (or Sabbath) schools, mentoring English-as-a-second-language schoolchildren?
Would I mind sacrificing academic prestige for an environment which favours human flourishing?
Would such a college/university allow me to explore and grow in my faith?
Do you find this prospect off-putting? Does it sound too constraining? Doesn’t it sound like a ghetto-like existence? One extraordinary and unexpected fact to emerge from Riley’s survey is that most of students graduating from strong faith colleges are married within three or four years.