Center for Experiential Learning and Career Services

Benefits of Service Learning

The benefits of service-learning reach a wide audience, including the student, faculty, university, and community.

Student Benefits

  • Participation in education-related service enhances the student’s: 
                   - college GPA 1,2,3,4
                   - general knowledge 2,4
                   - knowledge of field or discipline 1,2
                   - aspirations for advanced degrees 2,5,6
  • Service-learning students were more likely to agree that they performed up to their potential in a course. 2
  • Students in service-learning sections report they “learned to apply principles from [the] course to new situations” and “developed a set of overall values in [the] field.”2

Faculty Benefits

  • Service-learning courses engage all learners. 7
  • Service-learning provides authentic assessment opportunities.7
  • Involvement with service-learning identifies new areas for research and publication. 8
  • Service-learning experiences promote awareness of current societal issues as they relate to academic areas of interest.
  • Service-learning enriches and enlivens teaching. 1,8

University Benefits

  • Service-learning correlates positively with increasing student retention.2,6
  • Service-learning provides a unique opportunity for collaboration with the surrounding community. 
  • Service-learning allows the university to be seen as a part of the greater community. 9

Community Benefits

  • Community organizations rated students highly for providing valuable services to the organization and for being important to organizational operations. 10,11
  • Community organizations believe student volunteers can provide as vital a service as their community volunteer counterparts. 10,11 
  • Community organizations feel that the benefits of working with college student volunteers outweigh the costs. 10,11
  • Community organizations’ most common suggestion for improvement was to expand service programs. 10


1.Markus, Howard,  & King. (1993).  Integrating Community Service and Classroom Instruction Enhances Learning: Results From an Experiment. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 15, (4), 410-419.

2.Astin, & Sax. (1998). How Undergraduates are Affected by Service Participation. Journal of College Student Development, 39, (3), 251-263.

3.Astin, Vogelgesang, Ikeda, & Yee. (2000). How Service Learning Affects Students. Los Angeles, CA: UCLA Higher Education Research Institute.

4.Sax, L., Astin, A. (1997). The Benefits of Service: Evidence from Undergraduates.  Educational Record, 38, (3-4), 25-32. 

5.Astin, A., Sax, L., & Avalos, J. (1999). Long-Term Effects of Volunteerism During the Undergraduate Years. The Review of Higher Education, 22, (3), 187-202.

6.Axson, T., & Piland, W. (Summer 1999). Effects of Service Learning on Student Retention and Success. NSEE Quarterly, 15-19.

7.Otterbein College Faculty Service-Learning Resource Manual. Columbus, OH: Otterbein College. p. 13.

8.Miami-Dade Community College, Center for Community Involvement and Civic Literacy. (2001, December 5). [On-line].

9.Wolf, H. (1998). Connection College Students with Service: A Resource Guide for Community Organizations, College Administrators, Faculty, and Students. Washington D.C.: Corporation for National Service.

10. Gray, Ondaatje, & others. (1999). Combining Service and Learning in Higher Education, Evaluation of the Learn and Serve America, Higher Education Program.  Santa Monica, CA: RAND Education, 56-69. 

11. Edwards, Mooney, & Heald. (September 2001). Who is Being Served? The Impact of Student Volunteering on Local Community Organizations. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 3, (3), 444-461.

Last Updated: 6/9/16