PROVO — BYU's 14-year run as the soberest of stone-cold sober schools regularly overshadows an equally impressive run atop another of the Princeton Review's lists.
For the 17th time in 20 years, BYU also was No. 1 on the "Most Religious Students" list in the Princeton Review's annual book "The Best 376 Colleges: 2012 edition."
All of the rankings are the self-referential. The company asked 122,000 students to answer questions about their own schools. For the most-religious students category, they asked "How much do you agree or disagree with the statement, 'Students are religious on my campus?'"
Students indicated their answers by marking a response along a five-point scale with the words "Strongly Disagree" on one end and "Strongly Agree" on the other.
BYU students have so strongly agreed their peers are religious that BYU has been No. 1 every year since the launch of the Princeton Review books in 1992 but for second-place finishes in 2000 and 2001, when Wheaton College in Illinois was first, and 2009, when Thomas Aquinas College in California took the top spot.
This year, BYU was first, followed by Hillsdale College in Michigan, Thomas Aquinas, Wheaton and Grove City College in Pennsylvania.
Operated by the LDS church, BYU requires students to take some 14 credit hours of religious-related coursework in addition to their general education and major-related classes. Students are also required to sign a strict Honor Code which, among other things, commits students to "live a chaste and virtuous life," "obey the law," "use clean language," "abstain from alcoholic beverages, tobacco, tea, coffee" and "participate regularly in church services."
As one reporter at the Sun Sentinel put it, "the most religious (school) is no surprise."
"The Princeton Review results are always fun," said BYU spokesman Todd Hollingshead. "Our students are certainly religious and we believe the spiritual aspect to their education is very important. BYU's academic environment is designed to be both intellectually engaging and spiritually strengthening."
Furthermore, BYU's Mission Statement says, among other things, that "all students at BYU should be taught the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Any education is inadequate which does not emphasize that His is the only name given under heaven whereby mankind can be saved. Certainly all relationships within the BYU community should reflect devout love of God and a loving, genuine concern for the welfare of our neighbor."
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints constitute just under 99 percent of the student body, but are not the only religiously affiliated students represented at BYU — 305 of the 32,947 students enrolled at BYU during 2010 were affiliated with a range of religious traditions including Judaism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Hinduism, Islam and Buddhism.
BYU was named the No. 1 "Stone-cold Sober" school in the nation for the 14th straight year earlier this month — "the longest string any school has had atop any Princeton Review list," according to Tad Walch's article in the Deseret News.
Most Religious Students 2012
The list of the top schools on this years Princeton Review list of Most Religious Students.
1. BYU (Utah) LDS
2. Hillsdale College (Mich.)
3. Thomas Aquinas College (Calif.) Catholic
4. Wheaton College (Ill.) Evangelical
5. Grove City College (Penn.) Evangelical
8. Notre Dame* (Ind.) Catholic
11. Pepperdine U.^ (Calif.) Churches of Christ
18. Gonzaga U.^ (Wash.) Catholic
* Also independent in football, like BYU
^ West Coast Conference member in basketball, like BYU
Most Religious Students
The list of leaders in the annual Princeton Review Most Religious Students category, based on students assessments of the other students on their own campuses. (BYU was No. 2 in the three years it didnt finish first.)
2009 Thomas Aquinas College
2001 Wheaton College
2000 Wheaton College
Least Religious Students 2012
The Princeton Reviews list of the nations Least Religious Schools, based on a survey of 122,000 college students.
1 Bennington College Bennington VT
2 Reed College Portland OR38 comments on this story
3 Bard College (NY) Annandale-on-Hudson NY
4 Vassar College Poughkeepsie NY
5 Sarah Lawrence College Bronxville NY