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Catholic university grads report high levels of fulfillment, moral thinking, survey finds

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Catholic university graduates are more likely to report higher fulfillment and more emphasis on morality in their decision-making than non-Catholic school students, according to a recent study out of St. Mary’s University in San Antonio.

The study found that in areas such as life goals, graduates of Catholic universities and colleges had more of a sense of “direction,” with 9% more responding to that effect.

Catholic university graduates were 10% more likely than graduates of secular universities to report that their life closely matches their ideal. The study also found that Catholic graduates were 14% more likely than secular graduates to report that they are engaged in “a continuous search for purpose.”

Catholic grads were 17% more likely to say that they are searching for something that makes their life feel significant.

Attending a Catholic university has an influence on someone’s values as well, the study suggests: Catholic university graduates were 19% more likely to report that morality is extremely important in their decision-making.

They were also 9% more likely to say that their college’s curriculum and community has majorly influenced their goals and values in life compared with graduates of secular universities.

Graduates of Catholic universities were 15% more likely to feel fulfilled in their social life and 13% more likely to feel fulfilled in their community involvement. They were also 9% more likely to be civilly engaged.

Jason King, the Beirne director of the Center for Catholic Studies and chair in Catholic studies at St. Mary’s University, commissioned the survey to measure the impact of Catholic colleges on graduates’ core values and overall fulfillment.

“I believe that higher education holds immense value beyond just the pursuit of jobs and money,” King said in a statement shared with CNA.

“Through my years of teaching, I have witnessed how it contributes to the cultivation of meaningful lives, fostering care for others and the community, all guided by strong ethics and principles.”

“Motivated by these observations, I decided to measure this impact, focusing on Catholic schools where my experiences have primarily been rooted,” he said.

‘A road map for higher education’

Notably, graduates of Catholic universities were not more likely to report romantic fulfillment in comparison with the average secular university graduate.

Another area with no discernible difference was resilience during and after setbacks in life.

The findings on romantic fulfillment “align with lack of consensus on Catholic campuses on the best practices for approaching relationships,” King said.

“More research is needed to determine if certain schools are making a positive impact and to understand the reasons behind their success,” the researcher said.

Winston Erevelles, the president of St. Mary’s University, said in a statement to CNA that the statistics “reaffirm our commitment to educating the whole person, nurturing intellectual growth, moral and ethical values, social responsibility, and personal development.”

The university president called on higher education institutions to commit to “developing well-rounded individuals” in order to “create a more just, compassionate, and thriving society.”

“Looking ahead, this study provides a road map for higher education,” he said.

“Colleges and universities must ingrain a commitment to a lifelong search for meaning and direction in their students’ lives,” King said.

“People must continually grow and learn. We value education that encourages not just a pursuit of a career but a quest for a fulfilling life aligned with personal values and societal needs.”

“Catholic universities deeply embed the importance of ethics in decision-making into their curricula, emphasizing ethical considerations across all fields of study,” King added.

“This educational focus ensures graduates are not only aware of values but also understand their practical implications in the real world.”

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Catholic university grads report high levels of fulfillment, moral thinking, survey finds