As the religious makeup of the student body continues to diversify, the university has experienced a steady decline in the enrollment of students with a Church of Christ heritage.
The percentage of students who reported having a background in Churches of Christ has dropped 13 percent from 2006 to 2010, according to the university’s annual report.
Students affiliated with the Church of Christ now make up less than half of the student body, at 49 percent.
Lisa McCarty, assistant director and institutional researcher, manages the statistics, which outline current enrollment and religious stratification among the student body.
“The last five years show that we’ve gone down in Church of Christ students,” McCarty said. “But some of that can be caused by the different terminology. Many kids are going to churches that are now considered community churches, and they don’t know how to file that.”
McCarty said the category of “community” church, or non-denominational, is an addition to the report. The new sub-category has increased in number every year since it began being tracked in 2003.
University representatives ask students to report their religious background during the application process. Although predominately Church of Christ, some students reported membership to the Catholic church, Church of Latter Day Saints and Jehovah’s Witness.
Doug Foster, professor of church history, said he believes this trend reaches beyond Church of Christ members.
“People don’t necessarily think in terms of Church of Christ or Methodist or Presbyterian,” Foster said. “They tend to think in more generic terms as Christians.”
Foster said it is common to see Christians loosening their ties to a particular church, especially when looking at a university.
“For those who not do not have a loyalty to a specific group, they’re looking for a strong school,” Foster said. “A lot of folks are attracted to us because we do have high standards academically.”
Foster saidÂ the university has a very present Christian identity but visitors and prospective students can be unaware of the university’s heritage.
“It’s not particularly negative when students don’t come here with a Church of Christ background,” Foster said. “There are just larger groups of people who are various kinds of Christians. I’m sure we’ll see that trend continue.”