Princeton Review ranks most and least religious schools
A survey listing the nation's most religious colleges revealed some surprises.
August 19th, 2011
11:53 AM ET

Princeton Review ranks most and least religious schools

By John Blake, CNN

(CNN) - Bennington College students recently learned that their Vermont school had received an honor that some might consider dubious: They attend the least religious college in America, according to an annual educational survey.

Bennington’s selection was part of an intriguing national survey listing the Top 5 colleges in the U.S. for most and least religious students.

The survey is part of a larger study conducted by the Princeton Review, a Massachusetts-based educational services company, for its new book, “The Best 376 Colleges: 2012 edition.”

Princeton Review interviewed 122,000 students at 376 top colleges to rate their schools and describe their campus experiences. Some of the categories included: Top colleges for “Most Conservative/Most Liberal Students,” “Best Professors,” and “Great Financial Aid.”

The survey’s questions about religion, though, caught our attention.

The 5 colleges with "most religious students” were: Brigham Young University, which is Mormon, in Utah; Hillsdale College in Michigan; Thomas Aquinas College, a Catholic school in California; Wheaton College, an evangelical school in Illinois; and Grove City College, an evangelical school in Pennsylvania.

The 5 colleges with “least religious students” were: Bennington College; Reed College in Oregon; Bard College in New York; Vassar College and Sarah Lawrence College, both in New York.

Robert Franek, author of "Best 376 Colleges," says the survey’s method for determining a college’s religiosity was simple: The Princeton Review just talked to students.

“We wanted to hear from whom we consider the college experts - current college students,” he says. “Those are the folks who are the real experts.”

Franek says students were asked if they strongly agreed or strongly disagreed that other students on campus were religious. Students were asked to give their answers on a five-point scale. The results were used to tally the book’s ranking lists of the top 5 finishers in each religious category.

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Christianity • Culture wars • Education

soundoff (1,058 Responses)
  1. grist

    "Bennington College students recently learned that their Vermont school had received an honor that some might consider dubious: "
    Well, I don't know. I think receiving the honor of being the most religious school is dubious.

    August 19, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
    • InFormed

      Absolutely. The word religion and school in the same sentence would appear to be an oxymoron.

      August 19, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • BBoy705

      Religion + education = oxymoron

      August 22, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
  2. TinMt

    Don't forget Jerry Falwell, er Liberty University!

    August 19, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • tekstep1

      They must have only surveyed schools that educate students...

      August 19, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • cl78


      August 21, 2011 at 2:14 am |
  3. DD


    >> MB – How did you graduate from college and not learn the difference between its and it's? In all honesty, you should
    >> request a refund from Liberty University. That's really embarrassing.

    Liberty? Perhaps it was Berkeley, where neither grades nor apostrophes matter.

    August 19, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
    • emtech

      I realize you're trying to make some hazy political point, but you should read for comprehension before posting next time. The individual stated he is a graduate of Liberty.

      August 19, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • The Guy

      you're so right. i mean Berkeley has only turned out prime ministers, chief justices, governors, the co-founder of Apple, AGs and the chairman of Google. i think the list of liberty grads with similar accomplishments is far more robust.

      August 19, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
  4. TheMovieFan

    Before I read the article, I took a guess that Berkeley, Oberlin & Bennington would be on the list. Got one right.

    August 19, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
  5. slm

    as a middlebury alum i'm ashamed that a) middlebury is good enough to be pictured but not good enough to make the list of top 5 least religious schools and b) that the go-to middlebury stock photo is now a picture of kids playing "quidditch". sigh, once upon a time we were known for our language programs...

    August 19, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • JMW


      August 19, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • xjdavid

      I didn't notice they were playing quidditch. lol That is embarrassing.

      August 19, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
  6. Bo

    ======================================= It would be interesting, I think, what an atheist could describe or define what a god should be. I even think it would be interesting if Christians could do the same. I will do mine, but first I'd like to read some others. ====================================

    August 19, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
    • Chris

      Why would an atheist describe what doesn't exist? Think about it....

      August 19, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
    • emtech

      Or perhaps you could stick to the topic of the article, which is how religious colleges are.

      August 19, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • BRC

      For an athiest gods are simply non-existant, so it could be kind of tough to give you anything else to work with.

      August 19, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
    • ThatOneDude

      As an atheist, the answer is pretty simple: a god is whatever you choose it to be. The nature of any god is whatever the creator of that god has attributed it with, just like all other fictional characters.

      August 19, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • Jef

      Huh? Atheists believe that there is no god. How exactly would you like me to imagine something that I don't believe exists?

      August 19, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
    • yannaes

      When something can be created out of nothing I will accept the religion of Atheism as being true.
      Under the guise of the scientific notion, I defy science to reproduce the human brain, create DNA that matches with another person, create a universe that has order, make humans with all the complexities all the same with identical DNA factors, and every human with the same finger prints as another, and when an atheistic scientist can do that, I will rethink my level of thoughts in regards to God.
      Historically/Archaeologically: I have traveled the world and lived in the Middle East, specifically Israel. I would walk on the grounds where Jesus, Abraham and numerous other's and would look at the original text, and through my experiences, in particular where the Romans buried Jesus (Romans kept great records along with Flavius Josephus an historian during this time) and saw an empty tomb, it made sense to me.
      Philosophy (which means love of wisdom) I thought it wise to accept the fact that there is someone greater than I that could have made all that has happened in the natural course of events. So, it only be wise of me to accept that there is a Theos, God, Yawheh, and humans just placed a label so He would have a name, just like Bo.

      August 20, 2011 at 3:51 am |
    • Shadow

      yannaes: Humans have been creating gods for hundreds of thousands of years to explain what they don't understand or can't explain. A god is just a theory. We don't know our origins, and that's ok. Science is working on it, but it could take centuries to figure it out. All science has is theories about our origins, too. But, at least science is rational, verifiable thought, not fantasy. We won't know the answer in our lifetime, but someday humans will have the whole picture.

      August 22, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
    • thanksforthelaughs

      "It would be interesting, I think, what an atheist could describe or define what a god should be" LOL...congratulations you win the stupidest post of the day award. I only hope you were kidding.

      August 23, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
  7. Brian

    Basically this article should tell you what schools to basically avoid. Stay away from the ungodly liberal schools were Interpretive Arts Degree is taken by more then twenty people and stay away from the schools where they still teach you that you can pray the gay away.

    August 19, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
    • InFormed

      Excellent points.

      August 19, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • InFormed

      Can I 'pray an F away'?

      August 19, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • John

      I went to Reed and I have friends that went to Bard, Vassar and Bennington. Trust me, academically, all of these schools are very rigorous. Sure, there are some folks that may take unconventional majors, but they take them very seriously. Reed pumps out the highest percentage of graduates that go on to get a Phd. than any other school in the country. So that kid that majors in Interpretative Dance probably knows all there is to know on the subject and will likely teach it at a four-year school.

      August 22, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
  8. MB

    Kind of surprised at which schools didn't make the top five religious list...although I can't really disagree totally with at least two that did. Others I haven't heard of and think there are other more well known, more religious schools, bigger schools than those. Bob Jones, Temple. Moody, and Liberty University to name a few. I graduated from Liberty and know it's rules, required chapel and church services, required mission/charity work, so I was very surprised it didn't make the top five.

    August 19, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
    • emtech

      MB – How did you graduate from college and not learn the difference between its and it's? In all honesty, you should request a refund from Liberty University. That's really embarrassing.

      August 19, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
    • Adam A.

      Did you seriously just call Temple a "religious university"?

      Temple is a state affiliated school of Pennsylvania.

      August 19, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • The Guy

      I know liberty quite well and liberty is probably not on this list because it has had it's national accreditation revoked after refusing to teach evolutionary biology. I think the Princeton Review only ranks schools that have accreditation – as they should.

      August 19, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • heynow

      @emtech – if you're going to nitpick, at least take a stab at acknowledging the post's topic, too. Now you just look like a d!ck. I hate the its-it's thing, too, but geez.

      August 19, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
    • cathy

      They are qualifying the most and least religious STUDENTS, not necessarily the schools. Just because a school is religious and has strict rules and requirements doesn't mean the students are religious, just following the rules.

      August 19, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
    • emtech

      heynow – I accept your criticism, but firmly believe that we need to stop this decline of educational standards that began at the lower levels and has infiltrated colleges. If an individual has a bachelor's degree and cannot construct a basic sentence, the university has simply failed that individual.

      August 19, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • heynow

      @emtech – the failure started a lot further back than university. Anyone can graduate high school and get a college degree now without being able to construct a coherent sentence in their native language. I hate that, too, but you're not going to fix it by getting grouchy with a well-meaning person on a forum like this; all they'll get out of the exchange is 'hell, I am never posting there again, they're grouchy'.

      If someone's being a jerk here, though, I say no holds barred, because that can be amusing.

      August 19, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • cc

      To "The Guy"..you DON'T know Liberty quite well, they are highly accredited...check the US Dept of Education site. There was another school in VA who had that problem, but it wasn't Liberty. Liberty is a great school. Get your facts straight before you malign.

      August 19, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
    • JPC

      My guess is that they limited themselves to accredited universities. To the best of my recollection, the ones you listed are either non-accredited, have rather dubious accreditation, or only very recently applied for it.

      August 22, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
  9. Johnny

    The headline picture is from Middlebury College. Why would you take a picture from a school that isn't on either list you mentioned in the article? Can't find anything on the web? Seriously?

    August 19, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
  10. TRskier415

    Its funny how the picture for this article is of Middlebury College, yet it is not mentioned once within this article

    August 19, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
  11. Dano

    Reed College? Say it ain't so! I mean, it has a Buddhist Studies major! I know, because that was the first piece of college spam mail I ever received.

    August 19, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
    • jjjj4567

      The fact that it was spam should have clued you in to the fact that there is no such Major at Reed. Reed's list of possible majors is pretty conservative, though the students aren't.

      August 22, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
  12. IZZY7313

    And I'll be damned if the top 5 least religious schools aren't in states regarded among the most politically liberal states in the union meaning Vermont, Oregon, and New York. Regardless of your religion or lack of it, it is what has held this country together for centuries. When it goes, we go.

    August 19, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
    • Qwerty Elemeno

      Held this country together? Bullshit! It's gone through much of Europe, where they have much lower crime rates than we do.

      August 19, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
    • Jim L.

      The religous threads you claim held this country together also acted as the binds of slavery, and it sewed together the fabric of an illiterate school system that rejected the findings of science – in all it's forms. Churches are the most segregated places in this great nation. So if they tend to all go away, it's at least "a wash" in terms of costs and benefits.

      August 19, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • Mike L.

      So much drama in your statement its over blown in valuing religion, over basic rights and common courtesy. Let people live and if there not hurting anyone than the lives shouldn't be judge by you or any god.

      August 19, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
    • dasein

      uhh, many of the founding fathers of this country were actually deists, not portestent, catholics or jews. their deist leanings were definitely influenced by the religious persecution that they experienced in England. they understood firsthand how destructive christianity had been in terms of sheer numbers of deaths caused by religious crusades, and they wanted to try and avoid it. more deaths have occurred from the crusades than

      look it up:

      "One of the many attacks on our country from the Religious Right is the claim that our country is a Christian Nation...not just that the majority of people are Christians, but that the country itself was founded by Christians, for Christians. However, a little research into American history will show that this statement is a lie. Those people who spread this lie are known as Christian Revisionists. They are attempting to rewrite history, in much the same way as holocaust deniers are. The men responsible for building the foundation of the United States were men of The Enlightenment, not men of Christianity. They were Deists who did not believe the bible was true. They were Freethinkers who relied on their reason, not their faith."

      August 19, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
    • luvGeneralizations

      Funny, two of the three evil/liberal states that you mention were founding states of this country. What might that say?

      August 19, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
    • Allison

      dude...seriously?! this country was founded on escaping religious government

      August 19, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
    • tekstep1

      You are 100% right dasein!

      August 19, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
  13. Bo

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~I took a little time out to research Princeton University. like so many other private schools, it had a religious begining. It still has a school of theology, as well as other religions, but the University is best known for studies in biophysics and sciences (no wonder it is not so religious anymore) as well as being a good liberal arts school. it has no school of law, medicine or political sciences.

    August 19, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
  14. hueygunner

    Well, now, at least, we'll all know where future, unscrupulous American politicians got THEIR college educations at.

    August 19, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
    • Allison


      August 19, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
  15. hueygunner

    Well, now, at least, we'll all know where future, unscrupulous American politicians got they're college educations at.

    August 19, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
    • Sic Semper Tyrannis

      Harvard, Yale, U Penn and Princeton lead the nation in ex-CEO's who have been indicted for fraud, racketeering and insider trading. Just so you know.

      August 19, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
  16. Blaqb0x

    Thought they were going to list colleges I'VE HEARD OF.

    August 19, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
    • hecep

      Quite an admission. You've never heard of Brigham Young, Wheaton, Bard, or Vasser? Really?

      August 19, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
    • blaqgaifeminist

      I'm assuming you are not from the East coast? All of those are pretty well-known and very well-respected liberal-arts schools.
      I am kind of surprised that my alma mater Wesleyan University did not make this list, tbh.

      August 19, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
  17. emtech

    So they asked students whether they thought other students were religious? Only people at the most basic level wear religion on their sleeve to be identified. A more evolved individual has no need for such superficialiites. She recognizes that each religion is simply a path to the inner scientific awareness that all life is unified and that all humans are capable of profound "miracles". Spiritual masters throughout history have taught this, but never demanded worship or servitiude. Very primitive study from people who clearly do not understand how the world actually works.

    August 19, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
    • Geraard

      That is a strange question to base the rankings on. I suspect it also skews the results toward smaller schools.

      It would have been better to use 4 or 5 questions, or some other criteria beside interviews.

      August 19, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • emtech

      Or perhaps just do a survey asking students about themselves, not other students. A person's relationship to a higher presence is deeply personal if it's truly genuine.

      August 19, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
  18. marie

    I wish they had colleges like these here in the south. Most people here will probably vote for Michele Bachmann, the woman who will "put pants on Donald Duck"( I heard this on David Letterman last night).

    August 19, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
  19. MarkMatthews

    CNN doesn't care one way or another about religion. They just want to stir up controversey so a large number people flock to post their feelings, and while on the CNN website, notice and click on ads. Not everyone does, but enough for CNN to keep stirring the pot. It's just about money. If CNN had a god, money would be it.

    August 19, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • lilome

      At least money is real.

      August 19, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • Clay

      @lilome Do you really believe money is real?

      August 20, 2011 at 1:58 am |
  20. Matt

    The 5 colleges with “least religious students” were: Bennington College; Reed College in Oregon; Bard College in New York; Vassar College and Sarah Lawrence College, both in New York.

    I find the author guilty on five counts of semicolon abuse. While semicolon's can be used to separate items on a list, it should be only if there is internal punctuation. It should read, for example, "Bennington College, Vermont; Reed College, Oregon; Bard College, New York".

    August 19, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • scott

      It's a blog. Get over yourself.

      August 19, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
    • Not All Docs Play Golf

      Well, Matt, abusing a semi-colon can't be as bad as abusing a colon !!!! Hee-Hee, I crack myself up.

      August 19, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
    • Qwerty Elemeno

      Anyone can abuse a semi-colon, but you must be a Catholic priest to abuse a colon.

      August 19, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
    • Wordy Woodpicker


      ... and abuse by using the greengrocer's apostrophe in your plural of "semicolon's" is a hoot too 🙂

      August 19, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
    • AK

      Good point, Matt. But you are guilty of a far worse crime: apostrophe abuse. Look at the word "semicolon's" in the second sentence of your second paragraph. Apostrophes are used to indicate possession, not plurals. Unless you are referring to something owned by a semicolon, the word should be "semicolons." Please be careful about this in the future. Thank you.

      August 19, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
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