Ongoing research by Christian colleges, tracking the development of student values, finds that undergraduates who probe their beliefs may graduate with a deeper commitment to their convictions.

But survey results found that only about 60 percent of Christian college students had actively questioned their values and beliefs by graduation.

The research project, Taking Values Seriously: Assessing the Mission of Church-Related Higher Education, points to several stages of students' intellectual development. On entering college, most students arrive either with a strong commitment to beliefs received from others, or without a firm commitment to a set of values.

During their college years, some students will critically evaluate those received values and may graduate with a renewed and deeper commitment to those same beliefs. "The idea is whether a student has thought about a question and made an informed, rational, reasoned judgment," says project codirector Bayard Baylis, associate dean of Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania. "They may end up exactly in the same place on issues, but they'd be able to explain why." The project is being coordinated by the Coalition for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU).

Debbie Gleichman, a senior at Cedarville (Ohio) College, says she started and ended college with the same values, but in the meantime had an extended period of questioning them.

"My values ended up being the same as the school's, but they're different because they're my values, not those given to me," she says. "Before college, I'd always just been told things instead of being encouraged to question and wonder why."

VALUES SHIFT: When students do change their values, they often become more inclusive and tolerant, according ...

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