Student Volunteerism Is Up

Number of participants increased by 20 percent from 2002 to 2005, study finds.
October 17, 2006

More than 3.3 million college students engaged in volunteer activities in 2005, up 20 percent from 2002, according to a report released Monday by the Corporation for National and Community Service.

About 30 percent of students about whom data could be obtained engaged in some volunteer activity, up from 27 percent three years prior, the report found. Both the percentage of students volunteering, and the rate of growth in volunteer ,activities exceed those for the population as a whole. The data in the report are based on surveys by the U.S. Census Bureau.

While it is not entirely clear why more students are volunteering, the report notes that the traditional aged undergraduates in college now were in high school during 9/11 and were influenced by that event. (The data aren't recent enough to track a possible increase many experts on community service have attributed to students watching Hurricane Katrina unfold last year.)

Among the details in the report:

  • Tutoring and mentoring are the most popular volunteer activities.
  • Volunteer rates are higher among students who also work than among those who have no work responsibilities, although volunteer rates decline for students who work more than 30 hours a week.
  • Female students are more likely than male students to volunteer (a gender pattern consistent with adults generally).
  • Asked how many hours they spent volunteering in 2005, the top responses were 15-49 hours (27 percent) and 100-499 hours (24 percent).
  • The top states for student volunteer rates are Utah, Idaho, Oklahoma, Vermont and Nebraska.
  • The bottom states for student volunteer rates are (from the bottom) Georgia, New York, Nevada, Tennessee and Massachusetts.

Mark D. Gearan, president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges and former director of the Peace Corps, said he was pleased with the results of the survey. "I'm very encouraged by this," he said, adding that it was important for people to know that this generation of college students is engaged with the idea of helping their communities -- counter to some stereotypes of this group.

Gearan said he expected the growth to continue. Not only are students expressing more interest, but colleges are creating programs to help match students to volunteer opportunities and to link community work with academic programs.

At the same time, he said that there was a "next wave" of work for college leaders. For example, while Gearan said that the percentage of students voting in the 2004 elections exceeded earlier participation rates, he'd like to see more efforts to show students who care about their communities that they should vote and be informed about the issues.


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