Requiring students to take part in community service to graduate from high school can actually reduce their later volunteering, new research suggests.
Maryland’s statewide requirement that all students complete 75 hours of service learning by graduation led to significant boosts in 8th grade volunteering—generally in school-organized activities—but it actually decreased volunteering among older students, leading to a potential loss in long-term volunteering, according to a study previewed online by the Economics of Education Review in June.
“If this is for school, how do we know [students] are considering this as community service, rather than just homework for school?” said the study’s author, Sara E. Helms, an assistant professor of economics at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala. “One of the interpretations that is more convincing is, maybe we are substituting this [requirement] for being self-motivated. Does it dilute the signal value of volunteering?”
Service learning—in which students engage in projects and activities to improve their communities or address social problems—has become more popular in the past decade. In 2011, 19 states allowed districts to award credit toward graduation for volunteering or service learning, and seven states allowed districts to require service for graduation, according to data collected by the Education Commission of the States. In 2001, only seven states allowed high school credit for service. <Read more.>