HERI researchers Alexander Astin, Helen Astin, and Jennifer Lindholm have just released their latest book: “Cultivating the Spirit: How College Can Enhance Students’ Inner Lives.” This study followed students who completed the CIRP Freshman Survey (along with a special section on spirituality) and then responded to a follow-up survey three years later as juniors, and is the first research project to examine the spiritual growth of college students longitudinally.
Their findings show that religious engagement among students declines somewhat during college, but their spirituality shows substantial growth. Students become more caring, more tolerant, more connected with others, and more actively engaged in a spiritual quest. They found that spiritual growth enhances other outcomes, such as academic performance, psychological well-being, leadership development, and satisfaction with college. College activities contribute to students’ spiritual growth. Some of these–study abroad, interdisciplinary studies, and service learning–appear to be effective because they expose students to new and diverse people, cultures, and ideas.