Examining the effect of a year of service in AmeriCorps on members' attitudes toward attending college

Jessica Lucky Roberts

Abstract

This study had two purposes. First, this study sought to determine how a year of service in the America Reads-Mississippi (ARM) AmeriCorps program impacted members' perceptions and attitudes toward the non-monetary value of earning a college degree, the importance of earning a college degree in obtaining employment, and the influence of service in the ARM AmeriCorps program on members' motivation to attend college. Second, this study sought to determine if a year of service in the ARM AmeriCorps program impacted members' decisions to use the Segal Education Award they earn upon the successful completion of their year of service. Through the use of a survey instrument, pre-data were collected from the ARM members near the beginning of their program year in August 2009, and post-data were collected from the same ARM members near the end of their program year in May 2010. The data collected from the two survey administrations were compared to determine if there were any significant differences for the variables measured. The largest percentage of respondents were African American (79.6%) or Caucasian (18.4%), and the majority of the participants were female (93.5%). The majority of the respondents indicated they were first-year members (61.3%). The results of the study indicated that members' intentions to use the Segal Education Award were statistically significantly higher at the end of the program year when compared to their intentions to use it at the beginning of the program year. The study also revealed that first-year members' attitudes toward the non-monetary value of a college degree were statistically significantly higher at the end of the program year. The study also revealed that pre-scores for all of the constructs measured for both first- and second-year members were already high at the beginning of the program year. Although there were increases in post-scores, the high pre-scores decreased the likelihood of finding statistically significant differences between pre- and post-scores.