How effective is it?
Currently we do not have enough evidence to make a call on the effectiveness of these programmes.
Most of the existing evidence compares outcomes for students who have participated in such programmes with comparator groups of students who have not (Dagley et al, 2016; Grier-Reed, 2016; Cho et al., 2012; Butt & Woods, 2016). Although these studies all suggest a positive correlation between participation and retention/competition, they are not ‘causal’ (in other words, they can’t tell us definitively that the intervention is effective). This is because the students who take part in these activities are likely to be systematically different from those who don’t. So, when we compare their outcomes with those of other students, it’s hard for us to estimate how effective they are, particularly when we are considering programmes that require students to actively opt-in, which demonstrates that they are probably more engaged than the average students.
In the case of programmes designed to improve wellbeing, there are only three small studies and none from the UK. All of these demonstrate an association between participation and short-term survey-based measures of wellbeing, but we are lacking causal evidence or any evidence on longer-term outcomes.
Only two studies produce causal evidence on the efficacy of student support programmes. Both are from the USA. One finds that a student support programme including a needs-based grant, increases the likelihood that students accumulate course credits but has no effect on graduation (Clotfelter et al., 2018). The other study randomly assigned community college students to a programme including a fee-waiver and finds a very large effect on graduation in three years (Scrivener et al. ,2015).
Clotfelter, C. T., Hemelt, S. W., & Ladd, H. F. (2018). Multifaceted Aid for Low‐Income Students and College Outcomes: Evidence from North Carolina. Economic Inquiry, 56(1), 278-303. doi: 10.1111/ecin.12486
Scrivener, S., Weiss, M. J., Ratledge, A., Rudd, T., Sommo, C., & Fresques, H. (2015). Doubling Graduation Rates: Three‐Year Effects of CUNY’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) for Developmental Education Students. SSRN Scholarly Paper No. ID 2571456.
Other studies on programmes of support
Cho, S. W., & Karp, M. M. (2012). Student success courses and educational outcomes at Virginia community colleges. CCRC Assessment of Evidence Series, 1-19.
Dagley, M., Georgiopoulos, M., Reece, A., & Young, C. (2015). Increasing Retention and Graduation Rates through a STEM Learning Community. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory & Practice, 18(2), 167-182. doi: 10.1177/1521025115584746
Grier-Reed, T., Arcinue, F., & Inman, E. (2016). The African American Student Network: An Intervention for Retention. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory & Practice, 18(2), 183-193. doi: 10.1177/1521025115584747
Lambert, L., Passmore, H.-A., & Joshanloo, M. (2018). A Positive Psychology Intervention Program in a Culturally-Diverse University: Boosting Happiness and Reducing Fear. Journal of Happiness Studies, 20(4), 1141–1162. doi: 10.1007/s10902-018-9993-z
Pakrosnis, R., & Cepukiene, V. (2015). Solution-Focused Self-Help for Improving University Students’ Well-Being. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 52(4), 437-447. doi: 10.1080/14703297.2014.930352
Whiteside, M., Bould, E., Tsey, K., Venville, A., Cadet-James, Y., & Morris, M. E. (2017). Promoting Twenty-First-Century Student Competencies: A Wellbeing Approach. Australian Social Work, 70(3), 324-336. doi: 10.1080/0312407x.2016.1263351
Studies on sport and extracurricular activities
Chu, T. L., & Zhang, T. (2018). Sport Club Participation and Health-Related Outcomes in College Students: Comparisons by Sex and Academic Classification. Recreational Sports Journal, 42(1), 33-47. doi: 10.1123/rsj.2016-0030
Danbert, S. J., Pivarnik, J. M., McNeil, R. N., & Washington, I. J. (2014). Academic Success and Retention: The Role of Recreational Rports Fitness Facilities. Recreational Sports Journal, 38(1), 14-22. doi: 10.1123/rsj.2013-0010
Forrester, S. (2015). Benefits of Collegiate Recreational Sports Participation: Results from the 2013 NASPA Assessment and Knowledge Consortium Study. Recreational Sports Journal, 39(1), 2-15. doi: 10.1123/rsj.2015-0005
Forrester, S. A., McAllister-Kenny, K., & Locker, M. (2018). Association between Collegiate Recreational Sports Involvement and Undergraduate Student Retention. Recreational Sports Journal, 42(1), 64-74. doi: 10.1123/rsj.2017-0004
Guilmette, M., Mulvihill, K., Villemaire-Krajden, R., & Barker, E. T. (2019). Past and Present Participation in Extracurricular Activities is Associated with Adaptive Self-Regulation of Goals, Academic Success, and Emotional Wellbeing among University Students. Learning and Individual Differences, 73, 8-15. doi: 10.1016/j.lindif.2019.04.006
Kampf, S., & Teske, E. J. (2013). Collegiate Recreation Participation and Retention. Recreational Sports Journal, 37(2), 85-96. doi: 10.1123/rsj.37.2.85
Kampf, S., Haines, S. G., & Gambino, S. (2018). The Impact of New or Renovated Collegiate Recreation Centers on Recruitment and Retention. Recreational Sports Journal, 42(1), 18-32. doi: 10.1123/rsj.2017-0005
McElveen, M., & Ibele, K. (2019). Retention and Academic Success of First-Year Student-Athletes and Intramural Sports Participants. Recreational Sports Journal, 43(1), 5-11. doi: 10.1177/1558866119840466
Xie, H., Guan, S. S. A., & Boyns, D. (2018). Use of a Student Recreation Center, Self-Determination Needs Satisfaction, and Subjective Vitality: A Structural Model. Recreational Sports Journal, 42(2), 116-129. doi: 10.1123/rsj.2018-0016