In August 1990, Pope John Paul II published an apostolic constitution on higher education titled Ex Corde Ecclesia. Among other things, the document calls for renewal in Catholic identity at Catholic higher education institutions. In the 20 years since, noticeable changes in Catholic higher education have taken form. For example, Catholic colleges and universities have seen an increase in student enrollment since 1990 of 24% (Source: U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Science National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Data System, IPEDS Data Center).
Catholic colleges and universities were called to integrate their Catholic identity throughout the university in the document. From Ex Corde Ecclesia:
"In a Catholic University, therefore, Catholic ideals, attitudes and principles penetrate and inform university activities in accordance with the proper nature and autonomy of these activities. In a word, being both a University and Catholic, it must be both a community of scholars representing various branches of human knowledge, and an academic institution in which Catholicism is vitally present and operative.”
Since the publication of the document, the number of incoming freshman citing the importance of the religious orientation/affiliation of the university at Catholic higher education institutions has risen slightly, from 13% in 1990 to almost 16% in 2009 saying the religious orientation/affiliation is “very important” (Source: Higher Education Research Institute Cooperative Institutional Research Program, The Freshman Survey).
Increases in the attraction to the religious orientation/affiliation of Catholic colleges and universities are higher at those schools where it is more difficult to gain admissions. Incoming freshmen at Catholic colleges and universities with high selectivity were more likely than those attending institutions with lower selectivity to say the religious orientation/affiliation of the Catholic institution was “very important” to them.