The California State University, a national leader in community service and service-learning programs, nearly doubled the number of community partners it served this past year. CSU students and faculty set new records for the number of organizations and people they impacted.
Since CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed created the Center for Community Engagement a dozen years ago, the CSU has significantly enhanced the in-class academic experiences of students with real-world, out of class experiences which dovetail with academic service-learning programs.
“The service our students provide to their communities and the support they receive from our faculty and staff is outstanding. These efforts translate into CSU students going out into the workforce upon graduation ready to begin their careers with a firm commitment to serving the economic and social needs of California,” said Reed.
According to the CSU Center for Community Engagement data, the 23 CSU campuses had 5,794 partner sites for student placement in 2008, compared with 3,560 in 2007. Additionally, more than 170 new service learning courses were created in 2008, with the total number across the campuses reaching more than 2,570 courses.
Approximately 63,000 CSU students provided more than 1.2 million hours to their communities through their service-learning courses in 2008. The economic impact of this service totals $24.3 million (based on the accepted national volunteer rate of $20.25 per hour). If service learning, community service and civic engagement hours were totaled for nearly half of CSU's 450,000 students who provide some type of service, the total economic impact approaches $650 million.
“Service learning and community service solidify the students' educational experiences,” said Jeri Echeverria, CSU executive vice chancellor and chief academic officer. “Research has shown that involvement in service programs increases retention, enhances learning and builds skills. In other words, participation in service contributes to student success.”
Survey results also showed that the Chancellor's Office and the campus service offices brought in $3,935,880 in grants and private support in 2008-09, a return on investment of nearly $4 for every dollar invested by the state.
In these economically challenged times, CSU students — often the neediest students, in particular – continue to make a difference across the state of California, and especially in those communities surrounding the 23 CSU campuses. The CSU was the first higher education system in the country to establish a system office supporting service learning and community engagement.