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In recent decades, government, courts, and many individuals have tried to separate public education from religion. That's a sharp shift from most of recorded history where religious values and education were closely linked.
Most of the earliest Western universities were founded by the Catholic Church, such as the University of Paris, which began in 1150. The oldest U.S. university, Harvard, was founded in 1636 to train Puritan clergy and 10 of its first 12 presidents were ministers. Its early motto was Veritas Christo et Ecclesiae, meaning "Truth for Christ and the Church."
Today, even when devout faith is deemed as politically incorrect, many students seek benefits provided by private religious universities that emphasize moral values. "Education without values, as useful as it is," said British author C.S. Lewis, "seems rather to make man a more clever devil."
It is now considered unusual when college students choose to live in accordance with high moral values. Brigham Young University is one religious university that requires its students to live by an honor code. The substance of the BYU honor code includes tenants inherent in Christianity as well as many other religions. Some of the requirements are to live a chaste and virtuous life, to be honest, to use clean language, to respect others, to participate in church services, to be modest in dress and grooming, and to abstain from drinking alcohol, tobacco, tea, coffee and substance abuse.
In spite of what some perceive as onerous restrictions, many religious universities, including BYU, receive far more applicants than they can accommodate. Obviously, many prospective students believe attending a school that emphasizes religious values offers advantages.
Employers value character
Employers want workers with technical skills, but of even more importance for many employers is finding people who will make good, honest employees. An article for glassdoor.com notes some of the traits most valued by employers include integrity, thoughtfulness and kindness.
"[These traits] may not show up on everyone's best traits list, yet they build teamwork, collaboration, loyalty and motivation with your co-workers," the article reads.
A Pew Research Center study found "a clear link between what people see as essential to their faith and their self-reported day-to-day behavior. Simply put, those who believe that behaving in a particular way or performing certain actions are key elements of their faith are much more likely to say they actually perform those actions on a regular basis." While religious individuals or institutions don't have a monopoly on good behavior, a link does exist between a strong dedication to faith and positive daily behavior.
Better learning environment
While some young adults go to college to party, too much play is at odds with the quality of learning. Studies from addiction.com note that college drinking can lead to problems like depression, sexual promiscuity, assault, and poor academic performance.
In contrast, BYU topped The Princeton Review's "stone-cold sober" list for the 18th consecutive year in 2015. The remaining top five included three other religious schools and a military academy: College of the Ozarks in Missouri; Wheaton College in Illinois; Grove City College in Pennsylvania; and the U.S. Military Academy in New York. Schools that adhere to religious values are not completely without problems such as alcoholism, mental and emotional disorders, and assault, but these institutions do experience a better atmosphere for learning.
Support for values
Many people who have strong religious beliefs gain strength and support from being around others who share similar values. A study by the Pew Research Center found that people who identified themselves as highly religious also "are more engaged with their extended families, more likely to volunteer, more involved in their communities and generally happier with the way things are going in their lives." Not only do religious schools offer a community of support for those with similar beliefs, but they also provide an environment for further social connections.
Similar to providing a better learning environment, religious school have a noticeably lower crime rate. The FBI reports crimes at colleges "are one of the most troublesome social problems in the nation today. Not only does it affect those involved in the criminal incident, but it also hinders societal growth and stability." As a general rule, crime rates at religious institutions are lower because of the moral values of attendees and because the environment tends to be more controlled.
While tuition costs are high at some private colleges, other religious schools compare favorably with the cost of public schools. For example, among Utah colleges, collegestats.org reported that the tuition cost for LDS students at BYU was $4,850, significantly less than some of its public university counterparts (compared to Utah State University, $5,118; University of Utah, $6,511; Western Governors University, $5,780; and Southern Utah University, $5,208), even for out-of-state students.
While public education attempts to separate learning from moral values, a connection between the two is exactly what draws many students to religious colleges because they recognize the seemingly paradoxical value in such a connection.
"I wish to express sincere gratitude...for the opportunity to learn with others in a blended setting of faith and scholarship," comments BYU graduate student, Anne Staffieri. "The experience has changed me both mentally and spiritually and left a lasting impression on my heart and soul."
Faith and scholarship are hardly associated anymore, especially not in a positive light, but Staffieri's experience is common among many students attending religious universities. They find themselves intellectually stimulated and engaged while also spiritually inspired. Noah Webster, noted to be the "Father of American Scholarship and Education," stated that, "Education is useless without the Bible," also affirming that secular learning, when connected with religious morals and study, enhances intellect rather than takes away from it.