Baylor president Starr: Religion key in higher ed

WACO, Texas (AP) - Christian schools have an increasingly important role in higher education as students seek answers about life during uncertain times, Baylor University president Kenneth Starr said Friday during a ceremony.

"More than ever, the nation and the world need Baylor University and the mighty impact of its enduring principles," Starr said. "Ours is a time of great challenge for higher education in America."

Starr, whose investigation of land deals and the Monica Lewinsky scandal as a special prosecutor led to President Bill Clinton's impeachment, spoke during a two-hour ceremony marking his appointment as Baylor's 14th president.

He was hired to lead the world's largest Baptist university earlier this year after serving as Pepperdine University's law school dean since 2004.

Starr said Americans as a whole are people of faith, but many view universities as "smugly remote and arrogantly aloof" because schools tend to focus only on students' intellectual needs or avoid religion entirely. Baylor has always cared about the spiritual growth of those on campus, he said.

"This commitment to the whole student challenges us to integrate the life of the mind with opportunities for spiritual formation and leadership development," Starr said.

Dwight Stephen, 30, a student at Baylor's Truett Seminary, said he was glad that Starr embraced the university's mission.

"One of the reasons I chose this seminary is because of its strong Christian values," Stephen told The Associated Press on Thursday while walking to class.

Although Baylor has deep Baptist roots, the campus "is no stranger to debate" about various issues, Starr said.

Starr said he was committed to continuing Baylor's success as a research university. He said another priority is to address the "crisis" of rising tuition costs by launching a new scholarship initiative, with a goal of raising $100 million in the next three years.