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. daendil

    Sweet – thanks Princeton Review! Now I know where I'm NOT sending my kids to school! God bless you!!!

    August 19, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
    • antillary

      II grew up with many religious classmates – Buddhists, Jews, Muslims, Christians. It provided a wonderful education in being open-minded and aware of different perspectives. So, I wouldn't rule a school out just because there are a lot of religious students there. It could mean a lot of different religions, which would be far better for your kids.

      August 19, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
    • XYZA

      @dandil, your right, colleges like Bringham Young are harmful to actually using your head for one. It's good you want to send your kids to a college like Bennington College where they will actually be taught things that actually make sense...great job!

      August 19, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
  2. Rob

    Religion is to education what starvation is to health.

    August 19, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  3. Midwest is full of nuts

    I knew someone who graduated from Wheaton College. She said she'd dress up on Sundays no matter what because she didn't want to stand out as not having gone to church. When you feel the need to pretend you went to church....... Let's just say that I'd prefer that my kids go to a school where they feel accepted for who they are!

    August 19, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • E0F0G0

      I think it is tragic that your daughter did not learn to accept herself enough to wear whatever she pleased.

      August 22, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  4. Robin

    What's the definition of "religious" here. The only question is "How religious are most students at your school?"

    Most Americans idea of "religious" is of the Abrahamic religions.

    Considering what I know about Reed college, if they included Buddhism, Taoism, and Wicca, and Shinto they'd perhaps find a little bit more to report. But it's an opinion survey, nothing more.

    August 19, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
  5. XYZA

    AKA, the five most sensible and most hopeful:
    Bennington College; Reed College in Oregon; Bard College in New York; Vassar College and Sarah Lawrence College, both in New York.

    August 19, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • Capercorn

      Um... Those schools don't do research. Not much hope for private liberal arts colleges.

      August 19, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  6. pulsars

    The students at these religious colleges can have prayer meetings where they all sit around and pray that there will be job openings upon graduation (for all the good that will do).

    August 19, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • dk


      August 19, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
    • Jay

      I have a Master's degree from Brigham Young. In my experience, we had lots of big names recruiting there because the students had a good reputation for hard work, honesty, no drugs, etc. Many Fortune 50 companies draw heavily from BYU across many disciplines.
      Not that a Bennington grad wouldn't be a hard worker too. Just sayin.

      August 22, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
  7. Keller

    I'm a bit surprised that Liberty University (Jerry Farwell's creation) in Lynchburg, VA didn't make the list...

    August 19, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • Jessica

      It may not be one of the top 376 collages. I have hears that Liberty U is a bit of a joke.

      August 19, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
  8. MashaSobaka

    "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."

    This study is based on the assumption that college students know anything about their fellow pupils. ...Seems legit.

    August 19, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • Ryan

      True, but I can tell you when I was in college, only 2 of 10 of my suite mates went to church on a regular basis.

      August 19, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
  9. OvernOut

    Hillsdale College does not accept any state or federal subsidies for any program. If a student qualifies for a Pell grant or a federal loan–too bad, it's not accepted. It's nondenominational (Christian, but not affiliated with a specific church), conservative and expensive.

    August 19, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • emma

      That is just not true. Hillsdale is one of the cheapest private liberal arts schools, much cheaper than the 5 least religious schools named and they are very generous with financial aid. If a student wins a scholarship the school doesn't accept, they match it. Hillsdale also isn't even that religious! Sure, there are religious kids who go to church, but those exist on every floor of every dorm at every state college in the country! Half of the school are cigarette smoking, beer chugging libertarians ready to stick it to the man.

      August 21, 2011 at 2:20 am |
  10. Steve

    Where's Bob Jones University on this list? These guys are insanely religious. Probably lost the accredidation!

    August 19, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • Anti-Moron Crusader

      Bob Jones B L O W S.

      August 19, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
  11. Warren

    I bet you have not investigated Andrews University in Michigan, Union University in Lincoln Nebraska, Southern University in Tennessee, SouthWestern University in Texas, Loma Linda University in California. Try these! I BET your answers will need REVISING!!!!!!

    August 19, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • barberie

      They surveyed students at all the accredited colleges, Warren. Not sure why your belief or hunch should trump their actual data.

      August 19, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
  12. blah

    what about Bob Jones University? Just look at it's website (BJU)..saw it on the colbert report and it's actually real....

    August 19, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • Scott

      Bob Jones chose several years ago to be a non-accredited university.

      August 19, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • Emmanuel Goldstien

      Scott is correct–Bob Jones backed out of accreditation when they found out that things like banning interracial dating was a no-no with the government.

      August 19, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  13. hahaha

    I'm moving to Norway

    August 19, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
  14. RightTurnClyde

    Actually Princeton did not rank them by religious and non-religious. I just did search... CNN just posted this to provide responses. Princeton did a general college ranking and one category of "major" was religious studies which include everything from sociology and anthropology to philosophy. So CNN is misleading in this post. (what? Would Belief BLOG lie?) .. well look for yourself.

    August 19, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • barberie

      Nope, you're wrong. Princeton Review did this survey. It's listed under "Demographics": http://www.princetonreview.com/college/college-rankings.aspx

      August 19, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
    • Kelly

      Typical of CNN, full of liberal lies, and half-truths!

      August 19, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
    • barberie

      Kelly – Do you find it at all troubling that your level of intellectual curiosity extends no further than reading someone's false comment, never thinking for yourself to investigate its validity, and then simply drawing a conclusion based on the false information provided? Just extrapolate your approach to this small incident into how many other false assumptions you hold by never thinking for yourself.

      August 19, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • faustus


      I think sarcasm doesn't translate well electronically.

      August 19, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
    • barberie

      That wasn't sarcasm. That was ignorance. I've seen it enough to know.

      August 19, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
  15. rawr

    I've been to Vassar – it is a beautiful campus and inanely liberal. Super expensive too.

    August 19, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
  16. EricLr

    Some of the more crazy religious colleges won't even let outsiders on campus. Brigham Young is at least somewhat sane, by comparison.

    August 19, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • E0F0G0

      Cite examples and sources please.

      August 22, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
  17. FedUpwithLA

    I wonder what the value of an education at any of these universities is. Apparently, either "side" will not tolerate the others' education, so what's the point? Money will be exchanged, which will always be important, no matter what "side" one is on.

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

      That isn't true at all for the non-religious. I can't speak for the religious.

      August 19, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
  18. MiDDkiDD

    This picture is from Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont NOT Bennington College

    August 19, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • Callipygian3000

      Agreed. My first thought when I saw the picture was "Oh! That's Middlebury! Are they one of the least religious colleges?"

      August 19, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
  19. GotThumbs

    More useless information about schools. Is this really of significant interest? I didn't go to university for religious reasons. I went for the best education I could get so I would have an edge over all others. Religion has no business in state universities. There are plenty of local churches that can meet those needs. Religion is becoming a business in this country. Just look at the money many of the MEGA churches generate and pay their pastors. Dedicating ones life to god has never been so profitable than it is today.

    August 19, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • FedUpwithLA

      "Edge over all others"? Just like how everyone else wants to get an "edge" over the next person? "Dedicating one's life to God has never been so profitable than it is today." This is bad, somehow?

      August 19, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • Notconvinced

      Would you prefer that Churches be run by un-learned and un-trained? Would you prefer it be without order or strategy. Maybe just a group of volunteerrs that meet occasionally at some place out in the woods where it does not cost? The physical, emotional and spiritual needs of people have always been sophisticated and indiviually complicated. Ministry cannot be off-the-cuff with no purpose. Would you shop at a grocer that was not professionally run or get service from a hospital that run by volunteers who were kind but not trained medical professionals? These people are compensated for their training and skill sets. Why would you expect any less from a Church?

      August 19, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • Jeff

      You've got to be kidding, Notconvinced! My preference would be that they all start paying taxes like any other business or close up shop and be gone forever. A church is not a grocery store or a hospital. A church is a scam.

      And FedUp, yes it is bad to profit off of people's vulnerability.

      August 19, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
    • tallulah13

      So Jesus had it wrong, notconvinced? Wasn't his ministry all about volunteers meeting wherever they could? It took the dedicated work of a lot of bureaucrats and moneychangers to make the church what it is today.

      August 20, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
  20. Lou

    How Oral Roberts didn't get #1 is beyond me.

    August 19, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
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