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Colleges with Religious Affiliations

church stain glass windowThe first colleges founded on the North American continent before there even was a United States, were religious institutions designed to train religious leaders. Although they no longer claim any religious affiliation, Harvard, Yale, and Princeton all still maintain Divinity/Theological Schools.

According to the Integrated Postsecondary Educations Data System (IPEDS), there are over 500 colleges and universities that claim some form of religious affiliation. Some of these are well-known, such as Notre Dame, Georgetown, Brigham Young, and Baylor.

Many might be surprised by some other schools with religious affiliations such as Duke, Davidson College, DePauw, and Emory. Many of these affiliations are little more than historic ties and have virtually no influence on current campus academics and culture. Others are tightly integrated into the institution’s mission and goals.

In fact, if you’re trying to determine the influence of affiliation on the institution, you can get a pretty good idea by visiting the college’s webpage and looking under the About section. To get a sense of the differences take a look at Davidson College, affiliated with the Presbyterians, and Wheaton College, an undenominational affiliation.

Davidson’s Statement of Purpose states

The Christian tradition to which Davidson remains committed recognizes God as the source of all truth, and believes that Jesus Christ is the revelation of that God, a God bound by no church or creed. The loyalty of the college thus extends beyond the Christian community to the whole of humanity and necessarily includes openness to and respect for the world’s various religious traditions.

You won’t find the words “biblical” or “covenant” anywhere in the statement.

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You will find it on the Wheaton College website. According to the its Educational Purpose “The curricular approach is designed to combine faith and learning in order to produce a biblical perspective needed to relate Christian experience to the demands of those needs.” Wheaton College also states that “We desire to build this covenant on basic biblical standards for godly Christian character and behavior.”

Although both list religious affiliations, these are two very different institutions.

The 553 colleges with 500 or more undergraduates list 50 different religious affiliations. The largest group by far is Roman Catholic with 170 colleges and universities. The next largest group is United Methodist at 78 followed by the Presbyterian Church with 49.



Roman Catholic


United Methodist


Presbyterian Church (USA)




Evangelical Lutheran Church


Southern Baptist


Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)




Seventh Day Adventists


United Church of Christ


The top ten categories represent 75% of all institutions with religious affiliations.

The overwhelming majority of colleges with religious affiliations do not have a large percentage of students majoring in Philosophy or Religion.?  Only eight institutions had 10 percent or more of their students graduating in such majors.

In some respects, these institutions may provide more financial aid. Of the 129 institutions that provide 100% of freshmen with some form of intuitional grants, 99 have religious affiliations. A total of 567 schools provide 90% or more of freshman with some form of grants and 394 of them have religious affiliations.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean these are great deals for low-income families with financial need. For the 2010-11 school year, 21 institutions with religious affiliations had an average net price of $25,000 or greater for families with incomes of $30,000 or less.?  Not surprisingly, 13 of the schools were Roman Catholic (they are the biggest group). Five were United Methodist and one each from the Baptist, Mennonite Church, and Moravian Church categories.

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A total of 210 of these schools had four-year-graduation rates of 49% or better.?  Of these, 178 qualify as 50-50 colleges with acceptance rates of 49% or better. All of this information is available from the DIY College Rankings College Search Spreadsheet.

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