College is a Spiritual Quest for Many Students

(Madison, WI) — A new study by the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) of the University of California, Los Angeles shows an increase in interest in spiritual issues among college students as they move from their freshman to junior years in school. The information released by HERI confirms the experiences of InterVarsity staff working on 580 college campuses around the U.S.

The results of the HERI 2007 study of college juniors, compared with results of a 2004 survey of college freshmen, found 50% of the juniors saying, “integrating spirituality into my life” was an important goal, compared with 42% three years ago. Juniors who said “attaining inner harmony” was an important goal jumped to 63%, up from 49% three years ago.

However, the increase in spirituality doesn’t automatically translate into compliance with traditional religious practices. The proportion of students who believe in God, though high, dropped from 77% of the freshmen to 74% of the juniors. And regular church attendance among freshman, 44%, dropped to 24% among juniors.

“More than a quarter of all students involved with InterVarsity identify themselves as non-Christians,” said InterVarsity president Alec Hill. “So we see the attraction to faith and spirituality, even if some students are not ready to commit to becoming Christians.

Hill also noted that the number of students who actually became Christians through InterVarsity were higher last year than almost any other year in recent memory. “There’s no question that college students are looking for faith in growing numbers,” he said.

Some colleges, particularly private, religious colleges, make it a priority to offer their students opportunities for spiritual growth. Most state universities do not. For more than 65 years InterVarsity has worked on U.S. college and university campuses to give seeking students the opportunity to consider the claims of Jesus Christ.

“InterVarsity exists to offer students and faculty a relevant gospel message that gives meaningful answers to the faith questions that these surveys show are commonly found among students on college campuses” said Alec Hill. “The campus is the strategic point where you can impact the world by connecting with students, because of who the students will become,”

InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA is a national ministry working on 580 U.S. college campuses. Its national office is in Madison, Wisconsin.

For more information:
Gordon Govier

HERI release at