Trends in Student Ministry, Culture, & Higher Education



The following trends come from a monthly collegiate journal I subscribe to.  I thought this was an interesting read showing some of the attitudes and shifts that are surrounding collegians these days… It’s a bit lengthy, so feel free to peruse titles that are of interest…

Generation Me:  All that positive self esteem teaching has sunk in among today’s college students.  A study by a group of psychologists shows that college students today exhibit a higher level of narcissism and self-centeredness than those who have gone before them.  The Narcissistic Personality Inventory has now been used by this group of researchers for more than 25 years.  While the current students have a much higher self esteem, they also show tendencies to have romantic relationships that are “short lived, at risk for infidelity, and lack emotional warmth”, one of several indicators exhibited that show a high degree of narcissism.  Lead researcher Jean Twenge has published her findings in “Generation Me:  Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled – and More Miserable Than Ever.”  She has also stated that today’s technology – such as MySpace and YouTube only fuel this unhealthy narcissism.  (AP February 27, 2007)

So Different From Their Parents:  Young people under the age of 25 (Generation Y) have significantly different views from their Baby Boomer parents.  A national survey of 18-25 year olds on politics, social attitudes, and life goals show that while they are more tolerant of immigration and gay marriage, their life goals are much more superficial.  Becoming rich (81%) and famous (51%) are top life goals.  By contrast, in 1967 85% of college freshmen wanted to develop “a meaningful philosophy of life” and only 41% though it important to be “well of financially.”    Other findings indicate that roughly one-third of these young adults attend church once a week (just slightly less than the number who have  at least one tattoo).  84% say their life is at least pretty good.  (USA Today February 5, 2007)

College Freshman 2006:  The Higher Education Research Institute of UCLA has released its summary of the 2006 incoming freshman. Among the findings:  58% of college students say they are working to help cover costs of their first year of college.  64% indicate “some” or “major” concerns over their ability to finance their education.  Finances also play an increasing role in school selection.  Of those who were accepted at their first choice school –  but did not attend, 34% said they could not afford their first choice, and 21% said they did not receive financial aid from their first choice school.  (UCLA HERI Project January 19, 2007)

College Freshman Politically:   More college freshmen consider themselves politically independent than in previous years.   Regardless of orientation, a growing number of students, even those considering themselves “liberal” believe that affirmative action should be eliminated in college admissions  – 53% of “conservative freshman” and 45% of “liberal freshmen” think it should no longer be a part of the admission process.   (UCLA HERI Project January 19, 2007)

Americans to Spend Nearly Half Their Lives Engaged with Media:  According to a prediction by the US Census Bureau, Americans will increase the number of hours spent engaging media – TV, radio, going online, and reading from the 3,333 spent in 2000 to more than 3,500 this next year – equivalent to 5 months of the year spent consuming Media.  Watching TV will represent 1500 of those hours.  The researchers point out that their research shows Americans do a significant amount of multi-tasking – moving through other activities in their with media on in the background.  (USA Today February 5, 2007)

Internet Killed the Video Star – The Next Thing in Youth Culture:  More than 25 years since MTV planted its flag on the moon and made a push to own popular culture, MTV finds itself struggling to be a front runner among young people.  This year’s MTV awards had the lowest ratings in 10 years.  The video and reality show mogul finds its greatest competition with Myspace (spreading the word on new music) and YouTube (video content, stupid male behavior, music videos).  In an effort to regain the front position, MTV has begun the Leapfrog initiative which would provide a computer generated social hangout space where users create digital avatar characters who interact in with MTV characters such as those from Laguna Beach, etc.  Virtual Laguna Beach claims 300,000 members, who pick outfits, flirt with each other and create a virtual social life including dance clubs, new bands, chats, etc.  55% of VLB users are female and 40% of all users are under the age of 17.  MTV hopes that this combination of internet, TV, video game, and social networking will be the next big thing for youth culture.  ( Februaey 1, 2007)

Book Explores the “Hooking Up” College Culture:  In her new book, Unhooked:  How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love and Lose at Both, writer Laura Sessions explores how the current “hooking up” culture on college campuses today leaves so many women broken and unfulfilled.  Sessions first began writing about the sexuality of Gen Y in the late ’90’s when she covered the increase of oral sex among young teens. Now many of those same kids have gone to college – having only further developed a view of relationships in which sex is largely casual and detached from any serious relationship.  When college students “hook up,” both parties understand that whatever happens physically, no further relational implications or obligations are involved.   However, she notes that the freedom to “hook up” and “unhook” as casually as they change songs on their iPod is taking a toll on a generations’ emotional health and their views of relationships in general.  ( March 5, 2007)

Drugs and Drinking on the Rise:  The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse has released a report that shows a significant increase in drug use and frequent binge drinking on college campuses.  Compared with 15 years ago, most forms of drug use have increased.  Of particular note were the increases in prescription pain medications, marijuana, and cocaine.  While the percentage of students who drink has remained flat, the number of people who report frequent binge drinking (three or more times in the previous two weeks) increased to nearly 23%.  In addition addiction rates outpace the general population with 22.9% of college students exhibiting alcohol or drug addiction – compared with just 8.5% of all people age 12 and older.  (USA Today March 15, 2007 3A)

Single Adults Living at Home Not All That New:  Parents may be right when they think that more young people are moving back home in their 20’s than when they were that age.   Currently, 39% of single women ages 20-29 live with at least one parent – as do 46% of single men in that demographic; up from 36% and 42% respectively in 2000.  However, historically the trend is not nearly as uncommon as one might think.  In the 1940’s more than 70% of singles in their 20’s lived at home.  The Baby Boomer generation represents one of the lowest percentages since the census bureau began keeping statistics in 1880.  Economics plays a key role.  Real wages for young people peaked in 1973, about the time many boomers sought their independence.  (USA Today March 14, 2007 7D)

Teens and Social Networking Sites:  According to the Pew Internet Project, more than half of all teens ages 12-17 have created a personal profile on a social networking site.  Of those, 85% use MySpace.  Older girls (ages 15-17) use social networking sites the most, where 70% say they have a profile.   Of those with profiles more than half check and/or update their profile at least once a day.  91% say they use the sites to stay in touch with friends they see frequently – 82% say they use them to stay in touch with friends they rarely see in person.   (Pew Internet Memo January 7, 2007)

The Politics of the MySpace Generation:  As the political machines have already begun gearing up for the next big election cycle, they may find the 18-25 year old demographic a little more challenging to decipher than the current red-blue map that dominates national politics.  On the one hand the “MySpace generation” is the least Republican (35%) generation yet and less religious than their parents’ generation (20% claim to be agnostic or atheist, compared with 11% of the total population).  They are more accepting of gay marriage (nearly half approve of it, compared with just under a third of those 26 and older).  However, when it comes to abortion, they actually stand right of the national average, with half supporting limits on abortions and 15% in favor of an outright ban.    They are also considerably more favorable towards immigration and concern for the environment.  (NY Times Magazine, March 11 2007  pp. 15-17)

Colleges Banning Smoking:  An increasing number of college campuses are passing outright bans on smoking on campus.  According to Americans for Nonsmokers Rights, nearly 50 college campuses have already gone smoke-free, including a number of large state schools such as Indiana, University of North Dakota, and Youngstown State.  The bans have received predictably mixed reviews.  31% of college students smoke, compared with about 25% of the overall population.  (USA Today March 2, 2007 A1)

Getting an ‘F’ in Religion:  Americans are increasingly uniformed about religion.  More than half can’t name five of the Ten Commandments.  50% of high school seniors think that Sodom and Gomorrah were married.  In his book, Religious Literacy:  What Every American Needs to Know – and Doesn’t, Boston University religion professor Stephen Prothero argues that Americans are woefully ignorant of the Bbile – and other religious teachings.  He believes this is a problem because religious literacy helps people understand literature, history, and current events.  Only 8% of high school classes offer any sort of Bible class – a testimony to the interpretation of the separation of church and state.    He argues for all students to take a world religions course to better understand the world today.   For those short on time, Prothero recommends a quick list of readings on Judaism and Christianity (Genesis and Matthew), Mormonism (the “For Dummies” series); Islam (parts of the Quaran) Hinduism (Vsiwantathan’s Am I a Hindu . . ); and Buddhism (Lopez’s The Story of Buddhism)  (USA TODAY March 8, 2007 2D)

Georgia School Sued by Expelled Christian Group:  Savannah State University has joined the ranks of other universities that have found themselves in court.  SSU faces a suit from the Alliance Defense Fund for Academic Freedom and the National Legal Foundation, who both represent the Christian group Commissioned II Love.  The group was expelled from campus last year when the university charged it with “harassment” for sharing the gospel with others on campus and “hazing” for a foot washing ceremony in its worship service.  The group claims the university has denied the group First and Fourteenth amendment rights that are explicitly protected in the student handbook.  (Associated March 5, 2007)

Stopping Illegal Downloads by Students:  The Recording Industry Association of America has sent hundreds of letters to US universities advising the schools of potential copyright infringement by students on their campuses.  The industry has blamed illegal downloads for a substantial drop in music sales.  A University of Richmond study has shown that more than half of college students have illegally downloaded music or movies.  The RIAA has said it will continue to send letters and urge students to settle out of court before it takes legal action.  (Reuters February 28, 2007)

Religion in the Generation Gap:  An increasing number of parents who have remained avowed secularists or atheists, or simply “not into” religion have found themselves confronted with something they never dreamed of – a son or daughter who has become “religious.”  Independent statistics on the conversion rate of young people can be challenging to find, but groups like Young Life have reported a 50% increase in student involvement over the last decade.  One challenge that comes with students’ new found faith can come in career choices.  Parents who had high hopes for a son or daughter to run a business, study medicine, or some other lucrative career find it challenging when their children decide to go into vocational ministry.  This can be especially difficult in immigrant communities, where parents have often placed significant hopes for their own futures and security in the careers of their children.   While the number of “religious” young people has remained fairly consistent, the number of non-religious families has increased, creating a unique challenge for this generation.  (Wall Street Journal March 2, 2007)


~ by Shea Sumlin on April 14, 2007.

One Response to “Trends in Student Ministry, Culture, & Higher Education”

  1. As always, thanks for feeding my inner culture glutton. I love it that you post this stuff.

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