Beliefnet
If your family is about to spend $40,000 a year to send yourfreshman off to Reed College in Portland, Ore., you can rest assured that hewill get the nation's top-ranked overall academic experience for undergrads.

The one thing the Reed student won't get, however, is much time withGod, at least according to the newest rankings released Monday (Aug. 22) byThe Princeton Review.

Reed, a private liberal arts and sciences school, placed first inoverall academic excellence in the annual survey of 110,000 collegestudents, but it also topped the category of schools where "students ignoreGod on a regular basis."

"Sometimes perception is a little different than reality," said Reedspokeswoman Beth Sorenson, who downplayed the religion score but happilytrumpeted the academic rating.

Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, the Mecca of Mormon highereducation, was rated the nation's most religious university. Perhaps notsurprisingly, BYU also was dubbed the "most stone-cold sober" campus in thecountry.

The Princeton Review ratings, like the flurry of other annual collegerankings, change from year to year. Colleges usually take them for whatthey're worth -- embracing the good scores while ignoring the ones they'dprefer to forget.

Ratings are based on student responses to a 70-question survey at 361colleges and universities. Results were calculated from a five-point scalebased on students' answers to the statement, "Students are very religious." Students were also surveyed on the best dorms (Loyola College inBaltimore), worst food (St. Bonaventure in St. Bonaventure, N.Y.), biggestparties (University of Wisconsin-Madison) and students most nostalgic forBill Clinton (Mills College in Oakland, Calif.), among other categories.

Lewis & Clark College, also in Portland, came in at No. 5 on the listfor the most secular schools. In between were Bard College inAnnandale-on-Hudson, N.Y. (No. 2); Eugene Lang College/New School Universityin New York (No. 3); and Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass. at No. 4.

Sorenson said Reed takes the ratings in stride -- they don't participatein similar surveys by U.S. News and World Report, for example. "It's asurvey of over 100,000 students, so there's bound to be some categories inthere that are a little irreverent," she said.

Experts say the college experience has a dramatic impact on studentspirituality. An ongoing $1.9 million study at the University ofCalifornia-Los Angeles has shown that most students have found few outletson campus to foster their spiritual development.

The UCLA surveys also found, for example, that regular attendance atworship services drops from 52 percent for freshmen to 29 percent forjuniors.

Following BYU on the most-religious list were Wheaton College inWheaton, Ill. (No. 2), considered the Harvard of evangelicalism; Grove CityCollege in Grove City, Pa. (No. 3), the University of Notre Dame in SouthBend, Ind. (No. 4), perhaps the country's best-known Catholic school; andSamford University, a Baptist school, in Birmingham, Ala., at No. 5.

Carri Jenkins, a spokeswoman for BYU, said the 30,000-student schoolwears its religious image as a badge of honor. In a school where 98 percentof students are Mormon, Jenkins took pride in the "stone-cold sober" rankingfor the eighth consecutive year. "We have always emphasized that we want students to come here becausethey choose the BYU environment, and we think these rankings reflect that,"she said.

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