The 10 Most Conservative College Campuses in America

By Elena Novak on October 15, 2013

College Prowler has a ranking of the most conservative schools in America, ranging from most to least. What makes these schools conservative? According to the site, it means “political activity leans more toward the right.”

But what other information can be found explaining what makes a college conservative? Is it just political activity, or are there other factors, such as religious traditions or standards?

Let’s look at the top ten most conservative colleges in America and find out.

10. Grove City College, Grove City, PA

Grove City College, whose motto is “because faith and freedom matter,” boasts itself to be a small Christian college operating outside of federal aid and regulation. The decision to be fed-free led to a Supreme Court case which the college won. According to their site, the college “fosters intellectual, moral, spiritual and social development consistent with a commitment to Christian truth, morals and freedom. Rather than political, ideological, or philosophical agendas, objective truth continues as the goal of liberal learning.” Politically, however, the school leans right – at least according to Nicholas Freiling, a student at GCC who writes for a project called Values & Capitalism. In an article on the rift between conservatives and libertarians at GCC, he observes that the college “has been known as one of the most politically (and culturally) conservative colleges in America.” Like most universities, GCC does sponsor College Republicans, College Democrats, and College Libertarians chapters on campus.

Photo by Paul Hamilton on Flickr

9. Franciscan University of Steubenville, Steubenville, OH

A Catholic university, Franciscan University was founded in 1946 by Franciscan friars of the Third Order Regular, which dates back to St. Francis of Assisi. The university has been the butt of controversy a few times recently, first in 2011 when President Obama’s Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius tried to force the university to cover the cost of abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilizations. The university filed a federal lawsuit against HHS and the Obama administration in 2012, and in March of 2013 U.S. District Court Judge Algenon L. Marbley of Ohio dismissed the lawsuit. In 2012, NPR picked up a story on a social work course offered by the university called “Deviant Behavior.” The course description reads, “The behaviors that are primarily examined are murder, rape, robbery, prostitution, homosexuality, mental illness and drug use.” Gay and lesbian alumni of the university asked for the description to be changed, which caught the attention of the Council on Social Work Education, who did not seem to be pleased.

8. Biola University, La Mirada, CA

Biola is a private Christian college which has roots as a Bible Institute founded in 1908. The university lauds itself as a “a community where all faculty, staff and students are professing Christians,” and biblical teaching permeates the classrooms. Politically, Biola seems to lean right, at least on social issues – a group called The Biola Queer Underground was formed for LGBTQ students and allies at Biola, where, according to an e-mail sent by the group’s co-founder to a blog, “if a student is openly in a same-sex relationship, they’re almost certain to be expelled—and God only knows how the school would handle those who are transgender.”

The university did not have a College Democrats chapter until 2008. Heather Leith, a student at Biola, believes the religious background of the university definitely plays into its conservatism. “It basically comes out of the beliefs that Biola operates out of and it’s kind of the foundation of education, and I know that at some Christian schools it’s not as incorporated into every aspect of their education and for us it’s incorporated in all of your classes and your standards of living,” she said. Students are asked to sign a contract stating that they won’t engage in drinking or gambling or other activities deemed inappropriate, and students must profess to be a Christian when they apply. As far as politics go, students and even faculty or staff may disagree with the university politically but not religiously, according to Leith.

Overall, Leith appreciates the experience offered by attending a conservative university. “My favorite thing would probably be being with like-minded people,” she said. “I think college is a time where it’s really easy to get swayed away from your beliefs and to let go of some of the convictions that you may have had earlier and so I really enjoy being at Biola because for the most part we all hold the same moral code, we believe in the same God, and we believe in the same things.” Her least favorite thing is feeling too safe in her beliefs at times. “I think it can be more challenging to go outside of your comfort zone when you’re at a conservative school because everybody is like-minded and we all hold the same beliefs; you don’t really come across people who challenge your worldview very often especially when you’re at school and so you can more feel like you’re in this bubble where everything is safe and you don’t have to defend your beliefs as much as you would in the real world,” she said.

7. Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX

SMU is a private university founded by the United Methodist Church. Arguments over the university’s political leanings have arisen recently. Laura Bush is a graduate and both she and Dick Cheney are trustees of the university, and SMU was criticized for a conservative bias when it took on the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Institute project on its campus. However, an NBC article contends that liberal student groups on campus outnumber conservative groups five to one, and during the 2008 presidential election, 84 percent of faculty and staff who donated gave to Democratic candidates. Additionally, incoming freshmen were required to read President Obama’s memoir, Dreams From My Father.” ABC News reported yesterday that SMU may start selling beer at sports venues – a possible ‘win’ for liberalism, or frats?

6. Texas A&M University, College Station, TX

Texas A&M is not just the home of Johnny Football; it’s a large public university and the first on this list without direct religious affiliation. Texas A&M’s conservatism tends to come out in the news. For example, last January, student group Texas Aggie Conservatives petitioned to ban ‘radical leftist speakers’ from the campus following a visit by Danny Glover, who said the Second Amendment was designed to protect against slave revolts and keep land out of Native American hands.

In June of 2012, the same group sued the university for denying their request for funding. An article by The Blaze quoted World on Campus, who said of the incident, “The student body at Texas A&M University has a reputation for its conservative bent…So it came as a surprise when school officials denied the Texas Aggie Conservatives funding from a school account established to help pay for student organizations’ activities. The organization has responded with a lawsuit charging the denial violated its constitutional rights.” Funding was eventually offered following a lawsuit.

Photo by 401st_AFSB on

5. Baylor University, Waco, TX

It should be clear by now that Texas is a highly conservative state, and according to College Prowler, Baylor University is the most so. Baylor is a private university steeped in Christian tradition, though students are not required to be Christian in order to attend. An old CNN article from 1996 shows Baylor’s conservative leanings – the university had a school-sanctioned dance for the first time that year. “Baylor has been a bastion of conservative values since it was founded as a Baptist institution in 1845. Smoking and drinking are not allowed in university facilities, students are expected to dress properly or face disciplinary action, and campus dances are banned,” the article said.

Photo by Alan Levine on Flickr

4. Brigham Young University-Idaho, Rexburg, ID

BYU-Idaho is a satellite campus of the Utah main campus and a private university affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. BYU-Idaho appeared in the news in 2011 for banning skinny jeans and then retracting the decision. In fact, it was the school’s Testing Center which made the decision, posting signs that read “If your pants are tight enough for us to see the shape of your leg, your pants are too tight.” Though the school enforces banning clothing like shorts and flip-flops, the university eventually overturned the Testing Center’s policy.

3. Bob Jones University, Greenville, SC

Bob Jones University is a private Protestant university founded by evangelist Bob Jones in 1927. The University Creed states, “I believe in the inspiration of the Bible (both the Old and the New Testaments); the creation of man by the direct act of God; the incarnation and virgin birth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ; His identification as the Son of God; His vicarious atonement for the sins of mankind by the shedding of His blood on the cross; the resurrection of His body from the tomb; His power to save men from sin; the new birth through the regeneration by the Holy Spirit; and the gift of eternal life by the grace of God.”

The university’s radio station, WMUU, has served as South Carolina’s Christian music station since 1948; WMUU is meant to stand for “World’s Most Unusual University.” According to the student handbook, policies include a ban on listening to rock, pop, country, jazz, electronic/techno, and rap/hip hop; headphones are only allowed as two-way communication devices for phone conversations. Students may not watch movies on campus, may watch G-rated movies in private homes, and may watch PG-rated movies with faculty/staff present. In addition, students in residence halls cannot watch TV or movies on their computers or cellphones and may only play video games rated E10. The university also has strict policies on dating.

2. Liberty University, Lynchburg, VA

According to their website, Liberty is “the largest private, nonprofit university in the nation, the largest university in Virginia, and the largest Christian university in the world.” President Jerry Falwell, Jr. is quoted to have said, “Liberty was a school that wasn’t supposed to happen. Everybody said a conservative Christian school could not survive — but we did,” along with the other conservative Christian schools on this list.

Kevin Roose for New York Magazine wrote an article back in March highlighting Liberty students’ stance on same-sex marriage and the university’s subtle move toward progressivism. According to one student, “The general consensus from Liberty University students regarding the Defense of Marriage Act hearings has been surprisingly progressive. Obviously Liberty catches a lot of heat for being publically opposed to progressive views on gay marriage and abortion…but students at Liberty are free to form their own opinions.” The university also appears to be more focused on growth than ideological unity.

1. Brigham Young University, Provo, UT

Like BYU-Idaho, the BYU main campus is a private university associated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The BYU Honor Code includes conservative standards surrounding grooming, modesty, drinking, smoking, and relations between the opposite sex.

Amy McDonald, a student at BYU, says the Honor Code isn’t harshly enforced but students do uphold it. “It just helps you live a good life,” she said. Most people at the university are politically conservative, but not all. “I am a super devoted member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints…I am as active as they come but I am not conservative politically,” she said. “I would never attend a university because it’s conservative; I attend BYU because it’s a religious institution, because I want to couple my education with faith and I want to learn in an environment where the truth of God is something that we care about.”

McDonald likes attending a conservative university because it holds her accountable. “I appreciate having the Honor Code because it protects me; it protects me from making decisions that I might make and regret,” she said. “Another thing is knowing that you have common ground with someone; because everyone has to abide by it it makes me feel more comfortable in upholding my own standards. That’s a double edged-sword because people say they uphold their standards and then they don’t and so you feel like ‘oh maybe I can too.’” Her least favorite thing is missing out on diversity. “I think because we do have that common ground, and we have so much in common with each other in those standards, it’s difficult not to judge people who don’t have those standards, and I am looking forward to being in an environment where I meet different types of people who have different standards and it’s a challenge for me to appreciate and love and accept them even though I live my life differently than them,” she said.

Photo by Ken Lund on Flickr

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