Date of Award


Degree Name

Educational Leadership


College of Education

Type of Degree


Document Type


First Advisor

Barbara L. Nicholson

Second Advisor

Michael L. Cunningham

Third Advisor

Ronald Childress

Fourth Advisor

Corley Dennison


An economic downturn beginning in late 2007 has led to decreased funding and greater competition to recruit and retain students in higher education. Service-learning, while demonstrated to be an effective recruiting and retention strategy, could fall victim to budgetary constraints – thus undermining institutions’ historical commitment to service and engagement – unless administrators are convinced of its value. This study examined administrators’ perspectives on the perceived financial benefits, if any, that accrue to the institution from the implementation of service-learning courses and programs, and whether service-learning requirements are perceived to contribute to student learning, recruitment, retention, and fundraising.

The study discussed the various costs and utility – value or satisfaction – of multiple measures of service-learning initiatives as perceived by higher education administrators. A cost-utility (CU) analysis was used because it allowed administrators to weigh the importance of various effects of service learning including student learning, student recruitment, retention, and institutional fundraising. It is in the context of economic instability in higher education that the study examined the cost-utility of service-learning courses and programs in higher education. As it related to service-learning courses, administrators perceived better student learning outcomes; deeper understanding of course concepts; greater appreciation for diversity; better interpersonal skills; and higher levels of motivation. More than 80% of administrators in the sample also 1) perceived service-learning as important to retention of first-generation students, 2) perceived it important for retention of freshmen, and 3) considered it to be associated with student persistence to degree completion. Interestingly, however, only 47% of administrators believed that service-learning activities actually increased student retention on their campuses. Administrators in the sample reported a financial benefit accrued to the institution from the service-learning initiative through 1) improved public relations, 2) improved student retention, 3) increased donor giving, 4) increased student admission, and 5) increased corporate sponsorship.


Educational leadership.

Education, Higher -- Administration.

Service learning.