Community engagement in higher education
Simpson, Marcie Ann
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This quantitative study utilized an online survey instrument to examine the frequency, perceived benefits and perceived costs of community-engagement practices. The study population included the 2006 and 2008 higher education institutions receiving the Carnegie Foundation Community Engaged classification. From the population of 196 institutions, 132 responded providing an adjusted response rate of 69.1%. This study identified a comprehensive list of 12 community-engaged practices. These 12 practices were the items for four broad questions related to frequency of practice, perceived benefit to the institution, perceived benefit to the community, and perceived cost to the institution. Overall, the relative perceived costs for community-engagement practices were low and both community and institutional benefits were perceived to be relatively high. The study results identified administrators as providing the highest level of support and faculty the lowest support. Additional analysis generated a benefit-cost ratio for each practice and ranks for institutional benefit and community benefit with the top three and bottom two practices holding identical ratio ranks. Capturing actual monetary figures for costs and benefits was not feasible for this study. Relative costs and relative benefits rates, as identified by the survey participants, were used to calculate benefit-cost ratios based on cost-benefit analysis logic. The four major conclusions for this study were: (a) Prevalence of practice was high among exemplary institutions and these institutions conduct the practice at 100 percent of the time over the year time frame or not at all. (b) Practices that are integrated with the research work of faculty are ranked lowest in frequency of practice. (c) Decisions related to community-engagement practices are not made based on perceived cost and benefit efficiency. (d) The perceived benefits are high and the perceived costs are low for both the institution and the community. The discussion provides insight into how institutional theory might influence the frequency of practice and decision making relative to benefits and costs of community-engagement practices.