Trend Watching: Why We Go to College

What people are thinking about the purpose of going to college

Barna Trends identified 10 Reasons for Going to College. Here are the top three reasons Christians believe college is important:

  • To prepare for a specific job or career – 70%
  • To increase financial opportunities – 56%
  • To stay competitive in today’s job market – 51%That’s not surprising. But here are the bottom three expectations about college:
  • Learn how to make a difference in the world – 22%
  • Develop moral character – 14%
  • Encourage spiritual growth – 7%

WOW! Does this surprise you or not?

Here is something else. The general population of all U.S. adults were exactly the same on the bottom three expectations about college as were Christians. On this one, Christians are identical to the general population.

Here are a few of my observations.

First: We have little sense of vocation and calling anymore. That is what it means to make a difference. We choose a vocation because we want to make a difference. That has pretty much faded. Now we are basically trying to make a living, not a life. We are mainly interested in meeting our current and future needs, and not in making a contribution to the needs of the world.

Second, we don’t think morality will be developed in college. In fact, we assume that morality will decline in college. At one time, a college education had as a central purpose the shaping of the interior world of the one who would go into the larger world. That no longer matters. When morality, character, and virtue are no longer part of higher education I have two questions:

  1. Are we prepared to live with moral-less leaders in all spheres of life? And we saw what happens when moral-less leaders get into positions of financial power.
  2. If we don’t think the university is where character is formed, and if the home is in such disarray and under such pressure that character formation happens less and less in that sphere, what does that say about the role of the local church in the formation of hearts and souls?

You can read further on the subject of virtue and character in two very good books by David Brooks: The Road to Character and The Second Mountain.

And the final observation, spiritual growth! Does it even matter? How does it happen? Are there places where the spiritual formation and integration of one’s inner world with one’s relational and work world can happen? Of course, I believe the church (and home as well) bear great responsibility for these things, now more than ever.

Where else will vocation, morality, and spirituality be imprinted on the Next Generation if it doesn’t happen in and through the local church?

Pastor Brian

Brian Rice