College Students, Graduates Giving More Hours to Volunteer Work

Although the number of college students who volunteered fell between 2009 and 2010, the overall number of volunteer-hours contributed by that demographic rose, as college-age volunteers on average spent more time volunteering, USA Today reports.

According to the paper's survey, volunteering by college-age youth in 2009-10 was up at several large nonprofits. AmeriCorps, for example, saw applications increase from 360,000 in 2008-09 to 536,000 in 2009-10, while Teach for America received a record 48,000 applications in 2010, an increase of 13,000 over 2009. Elsewhere, the American Red Cross reported that the number of volunteers in the 19-24 age group rose by 1 percent as a proportion of the organization's total volunteer force in 2010, while the Peace Corps' Kristina Edmunson said that applications continue to "trend up."

Some experts believe the competitive job market and tough economic climate are causing many recent college graduates to spend more time volunteering. But Elissa Kim, executive vice president for recruitment and admissions at Teach for America, argues that other factors are at work. "I don't think people are just jumping on the bandwagon to do service because the economy is shaky," said Kim. "People are very attuned to what we are asking for and the challenge of the teaching experience. They reflect on [whether] this is the right thing for them before they commit."

Maureen Curley, president of Campus Compact — a national coalition of college and university presidents who promote community service, civic engagement, and service-learning in higher education — told USA Today that she was aware of an increase in youth voluntarism even before the financial crisis hit in 2008. "There seems to be a real longing for students to have a hands-on experience and to take what they are learning in school and delve into things they are passionate about," said Curley. "There has been a dramatic increase in service-learning opportunities on college campuses."

Natalie DiBlasio. "College Students and Graduates Volunteering for Longer Terms." USA Today 11/23/2011.