A new study from UCLA's Higher Education Research Institute finds "that while attendance at religious services decreased dramatically for most students between their freshman and junior years, the students’ overall level of spirituality, as defined by the researchers, increases. On hot-button social issues, such as abortion and gay marriage, the study finds that students become increasingly liberal."
Read an interview with one of the princiapl investigators, Alexander Astin, Allan M. Cartter Professor Emeritus of Higher Education at the University of California, who says:
It's important to realize that we don't equate religiousness with spirituality; there are students who are highly spiritual but not necessarily religious. The finding surprised us, however, because the two measures are related: Spiritual people tend to be religious and visa versa. If one declines, you'd expect the other to decline as well, but that didn't happen. We're looking for explanations of the apparent contradictions in the college experience and we've settled on two likely possibilities.
One is the fact that many of these students are away from home for the first time, and we suspect that, for some students, religious observance before college is influenced by the presence of the family. The second explanation has to do with the academic demands of the college experience: A greater deal of time is invested in studies during college than before college.