March 11, 2015

Determining College Service Programs' Value Not Always Easy

The Los Angeles Times looks at college and university community-service programs and their value to students and involved nonprofits. While such programs have become curriculum standards and are incorporated into some college ranking systems, relatively little attention is paid to how the institutions define and measure community benefit, according to the newspaper.

Dan Butin, dean of the School of Education and Social Policy at Merrimack College in Massachusetts, said service programs are well meaning and benefit students but do not always incorporate input from partner groups. "All too often it becomes just about hours," he said. "Some community partners say it actually involves more work to handle all of the student volunteers."

The article also discusses research on whether volunteering helps students develop critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, motivates them to stay in class, or affects grades. The California State University system, which has community-service centers on all 23 of its campuses, is undertaking a three-year pilot project to study the impact of service learning on students.