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01/12/93

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Stanford freshmen more religious, cautious on drinking, sex

STANFORD -- Stanford University's current freshmen may be slightly less interested in making money, more religious and more cautious about things like drinking and sex than previous classes, according to a recent survey.

The survey, conducted jointly by the American Council on Education and the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California-Los Angeles, tallied the responses of 213,630 freshmen entering 404 two- and four-year colleges in the fall of 1992.

Stanford had 1,600 freshmen enroll last fall, of whom 1,480 returned questionnaires. The margin of error in responses is plus or minus 1.5 percent.

When asked about their life objectives, 54 percent of the Stanford respondents said it would be essential or very important to be very well off financially, compared with 57 percent last year. The highest proportion, 75 percent, said it would be very important to raise a family; followed by becoming an authority on one's field (74 percent), helping others in difficulty (73 percent) and developing a philosophy of life (72 percent).

About 69 percent of the Stanford respondents said they had some type of religious preference, up from 65 percent last year. Twenty- nine percent listed themselves as Protestant, 22 percent Roman Catholic and 8 percent Jewish; other religions accounted for the remainder. About 14 percent of the respondents said they were born-again Christians, up 2 percent over last year.

Nearly 28 percent said they spent no time partying per week in the previous year, compared with 22 percent last year; 37 percent said they drank beer in the previous year, compared with 42 percent of last year's respondents.

Forty-three percent of the respondents this year agreed strongly or somewhat that "if two people really like each other, it's all right for them to have sex, even if they've known each other for a very short time," compared with 51 percent last year.

The political preferences of Stanford students held relatively steady this year, with 40 percent of respondents describing themselves as liberal and 17 percent conservative.

However, a high percentage of students (50 percent this year versus 45 percent last year) agreed that the government should raise taxes to reduce the federal deficit, and a high proportion (75 percent this year versus 69 percent last year) agreed that the United States needs a national health care plan.

In response to new questions asked this year, 64 percent said they felt high school grading was too easy, 75 percent said the wealthy should pay more taxes, and 43 percent said that colleges should do more to prohibit racist and sexist speech.

Stanford freshmen continued to be more ethnically diverse than their counterparts at similar institutions. Among those who chose to answer the question, 56 percent described their racial background as white, compared with an average of 75 percent of students at other highly selective private universities.

Twenty-three percent of the new Stanford students said they frequently spoke a language other than English at home, compared with 15 percent at similar institutions nationally. Nearly 6 percent of the Stanford freshmen said they had some type of physical or learning disability.

The proportion of Stanford freshmen reporting parental income of less than $30,000 held steady at about 15 percent. However, the proportion of students coming from households with annual incomes of $150,000 or more rose, from 19 percent last year to 23 percent this year. Nearly 80 percent of the Stanford respondents said they come from two- parent homes.

Eighty-nine percent of the Stanford freshmen said they had performed volunteer work in the previous year. Nineteen percent said they worked six or more hours a week for pay in the previous year, compared with 21 percent of last year's respondents.

When asked how they would rate themselves in a long list of categories, the Stanford freshmen displayed academic self-confidence. More than 95 percent rated themselves above average or in the top 10 percent for academic ability and the drive to achieve.

They were apparently less confident about their artistic ability - 42 percent rated themselves above average or in the top 10 percent.

Only 3 percent of the Stanford freshmen said they would stop with a bachelor's degree. Earning a master's degree was the goal of 28 percent; 35 percent planned to seek a doctorate, 24 percent a medical degree, and 9 percent a law degree.

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