Service learning combines community service with classroom instruction, focusing on critical, reflective thinking as well as personal and civic responsibility. Service learning programs involve students in activities that address local needs while developing their academic skills and commitment to their community.
Service learning has a positive impact on student learning outcomes, civic engagement, and retention. Beginning in 1994, the American Association of Community Colleges promoted the value of service learning to the 1,200 associate degree-granting institutions in the U.S. According to three AACC national surveys, two-thirds of all community colleges offer service learning in their curricular programs.
From 1994 to 2012, AACC's national project, Community Colleges Broadening Horizons through Service Learning, integrated service learning into the institutional climate of community colleges and increased the number, quality, and sustainability of service learning programs. Thanks to 18 years of continuous support from Learn and Serve America, the Horizons network grew to 104 colleges that placed 32,000 students providing 496,000 hours of direct community service (a monetary value of $10.8 million); worked with 2,400 community college faculty; and affected more than 5,300 local agencies and schools and more than 600,000 individuals.