Students' Characteristics, Schools' Religious Affiliation Examined As Aspects Of Campus Identity

  • News Photo 2817
    Richard Franklin, vice president and dean of students at Samford University.
  • News Photo 2790
    Dr. Larry Lyon, dean of Baylor's Graduate School
  • News Photo 2789
    Dr. Larry Lyon addresses a Tuesday morning conference session in Powell Chapel.
April 21, 2005

by Judy Long

Dr. Richard Franklin, vice president and dean of students at Samford University, and Dr. Larry Lyon, dean of Baylor University's Graduate School, opened the second day of "The Future of Baptist Higher Education" conference by focusing on the question, "Who will be our students and faculty members in a post-denominational, multi-cultural, and materialistic age?"

Franklin gave a description of the Millennial Generation, defining them as people born between 1982 and 2002, and characterizing them as diverse, affluent and numerous. Where Generation X-ers are more jaded and cynical, Millennials are more trusting, optimistic, accepting of rules and achievement-oriented, Franklin said. He also characterized them as sheltered, confident but pressured team players.

As a college administrator, Franklin said, "Millennials are well-connected to their parents via technology, and it is not uncommon to receive a phone call from a parent just minutes after a son or daughter leaves an office."

He added that college admissions officers recognize a developing trend that schools must reach parents as well as students, and information pieces promoting the school require a message for parents.

As more of the Millennial Generation enter college, Franklin said campus policies will need to accommodate them in different ways from students of the 1980s and 1990s and should prepare for students who are close to their parents, technologically adept, focused on performance, ethnically diverse and conventional.

Lyon presented the results of a question he researched, "Assessing the Effect of Religious Identity on Faculty Recruitment, Student Recruitment and Academic Reputation."

The study evaluated the notion that nationally ranked universities cannot attain a reputation for academic excellence if they maintain their religious identity. Lyon conceded that the most highly-regarded universities in the U.S. are once-religious schools that abandoned their religious identity in the quest for academic excellence.

For the project, Lyon distinguished the schools in question by identifying church-affiliated private universities with three criteria: a mission statement acknowledging a specific link to a church or religious heritage, an explicit religious goal in the mission statement and a core curriculum requiring religion courses that support their religious identity.

To determine whether church-affiliated colleges seeking a strong academic reputation experience a handicap, Lyons used student SAT scores and faculty salary to quantify where the schools ranked with their peers.

"No statistically significant differences emerge between religious schools predicted and actual reputation, indicating that, overall, religious universities are neither hindered nor helped by their religious identification," he said.

Next, Lyon sought to determine whether religious schools were hindered in the ability to recruit faculty and students. He used figures of the size of endowment per student, donation levels per student and tuition as predictors of SAT scores and found a distinct correlation. His results showed little support for the notion of a recruitment handicap. In fact, he found that well-regarded religious schools such as Baylor and Notre Dame were able to recruit higher-ranked students that their financial base warranted by secular standards.

For faculty, however, he found that, "with a financial base equal to their secular counterparts, religious universities would pay their full professors $8,000 more a year, which is approximately 10 percent more than what they would pay if they did not have a religious affiliation."

Lyon concluded that the religious schools are not faced with a dilemma requiring they choose between academic excellence and religious identity.

"The data suggest that Baylor's dilemma is more apparent than real, and that secularization, while historically common, is not currently necessary in the pursuit of a strong academic reputation."

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