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College Choice Affects More Than Just Job Prospects, Study Finds

Post-secondary education tied to alumni perceptions of moral obligation, and commitment to common good.  


February 10, 2020 

OTTAWA, ON – A ground-breaking study by think tank Cardus finds the type of university or college Americans choose to attend influences how they think about life after graduation. What Do They Deliver? A Report on American Colleges and Universities surveyed American graduates and found:

  • About two-thirds of private religious school graduates agreed that it is very or extremely important to have a job that “directly helps others.” That’s 10 percentage points higher than the response of graduates from state or private non-religious schools.
  • Around 85 percent of religious school graduates agree it is important to fight “wrongs and injustices in life,” a slightly higher proportion than private non-religious school graduates and about seven percentage points higher than those who graduated from state schools.

“University isn’t just a place you attend to get the job you want,” says Cardus senior fellow and study co-author Dr. Albert Cheng from the University of Arkansas. “It also affects the way you approach life after graduation. Given how polarized America has become, it’s encouraging to see graduates emerging from some schools with a noticeably higher commitment to the common good long after they’ve worn their cap and gown.”

Among the study’s other key findings was a noticeable difference in graduates’ perceptions of their sense of belonging while on campus – a key issue as a growing number of students deal with social isolation and mental health challenges:

  • Graduates of private universities, religious and non-religious, reported the highest sense of belonging to their school. Fewer than one in five state school graduates rated their sense of belonging highly.
  • Around one quarter of private, non-religious school graduates highly rated the support they received from other students – a proportion almost 10 percent higher than state school graduates.

Dr. Albert Cheng co-authored What Do They Deliver? with Dr. David Sikkink from the University of Notre Dame. The study’s full findings are freely available online.

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