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Report Finds Sharp Increase in College Student Volunteering

October 17th, 2006

The “College Students Helping America” report released by the federal Corporation for National and Community Service found that college student volunteering increased by 20 percent between 2002 and 2005, more than doubling the growth in the adult volunteering rate. It found that 3.3 million college students volunteered in 2005 – nearly 600,000 more students than three years ago. The trend is noticeable in Maine as well.

“For the past three years, the Maine Commission for Community Service has seen a noticeable increase in the number of college students participating in community service. This year alone we have nine colleges participating in Operation KeepMEwarm, a volunteer weatherization program for low-income senior citizens,” stated Maryalice Crofton, Executive Director of the Commission.

Students from the following colleges will be participating as volunteers this upcoming weekend (Oct 19-22) for Operation KeepMEwarm: University of Southern Maine, College of the Atlantic, University of Maine Farmington, Bates College, Bowdoin College, Colby College, Northern Maine Community College, University of Maine Presque Isle and Unity College. These students will be visiting with low-incoming senior citizens and installing weatherstripping, polysheeting, energy efficient lightbulbs and pipe insulation in their homes to minimize their home heating fuel use this winter.

“One bright spot coming out of the 9/11 tragedy is a surge of interest by college students in serving their community," said Steve Goldsmith, the Chairman of the Board of the Corporation. “This rise in college student volunteering and the growing campus support for service are hopeful signs for the future of civic involvement in America. Higher education is a powerful engine of civic engagement and we are committed to working with university and student organizations and the larger nonprofit sector to nurture this growing civic generation."

Noticeably, the growth in volunteering over the four-year period was generated primarily by youths who attended high school or were first-year college students during the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The vast majority, or 84 percent, of current college student volunteers in the study were of high-school age during the attacks of 2001. They witnessed the heroic response of police officers, firefighters and other public servants who made tremendous personal sacrifices to guide victims and the nation through the traumatic event.

"The volunteer enthusiasm expressed by today's college students could have long-lasting societal benefits, said Robert Grimm, Jr., Director of Research and Policy Development. “Just as the Greatest Generation was shaped by WWII and the Great Depression, the tragic events of the last few years coupled with growing university and K-12 support for volunteering and service-learning have translated into more college students mentoring, tutoring, and engaging in their community in ways that could produce a lifetime habit."

“We are definitely seeing a trend of colleges promoting volunteer service amongst its student population. Professors are encouraging volunteerism in their classrooms and providing more opportunities for their pupils. Students are welcoming those opportunities with open arms,” remarked Paula Gagnon, Chair of the Maine Commission for Community Service and Dean of York County Technical College.

The Corporation conducted the study of college volunteers analyzing data collected from 2002 to 2005 as part of the Current Population Survey (CPS), a comprehensive and scientifically rigorous survey of 60,000 American households conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It is the largest national study showing trends in college student volunteering and the most comprehensive analysis of volunteering by college students.

The report contains a previously released list of state volunteer rankings for college students that finds that college volunteer rates in the states range from 21.4% to 62.9%. Maine’s college student volunteer rate is 31.4% ranking 25th in the nation.

Among other findings in the report:

• Since September 2001, the overall percent of college students who volunteer has increased from 27.1 percent to 30.2 percent, exceeding the volunteer rate for the general adult population of 28.8 percent.

• Tutoring and mentoring youth (26.6 and 23.8 percent, respectively) are the most common volunteer activities among college student volunteers.

• 39.2 percent of black college students mentor when they volunteer, compared to 22.3 percent of white college students.

• Between 2003 and 2005, college students followed the national trend in volunteering, with females (33 percent) volunteering at a higher rate than males (26.8 percent), and whites (32 percent) volunteering at a higher rate than students of other races and ethnicities (23.6 percent).

• College students were twice as likely to volunteer as individuals of the same age who are not enrolled in an institution of higher education (30.2 percent and 15.1 percent, respectively).

• While 23.4 percent of college student volunteers serve with religious organizations, 34.8 percent of the general adult volunteer population serves through such organizations.

• Students who work 1 to 10 hours per week part-time (46.4 percent) are more likely to volunteer than those who do not work at all (29.8 percent).

• Volunteering rates decline substantially as college students work more hours. Students who work 31 to 35 hours and 36 to 40 hours volunteer at rates of 22.8 percent and 23.2 percent, respectively.

• College student volunteers (27%) are more likely to be episodic volunteers (volunteering fewer than two weeks per year with their main organization) than the general adult volunteer population (23.4%). Nevertheless, 44.1 percent of college student volunteers also engage in regular volunteering (volunteering 12 or more weeks per year with their main organization).

The Maine Commission for Community Service is a 26 member board appointed by the Governor to foster community service and volunteerism to meet the human and environmental needs of Maine’s communities. It also serves as the state liaison for the Corporation for National and Community Service, administering AmeriCorps grants and overseeing AmeriCorps, Senior Corps and Learn and Serve programs in the state. For a complete copy of the report, contact Kim at 207-287-8933. To find a volunteer opportunity near you, visit www.VolunteerMaine.org.

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