Certain educational activities, such as learning communities, undergraduate research, study abroad, and service learning, have been identified as high-impact practices (HIPs) because they engage students in active learning that elevates their performance on desired outcomes (NSSE 2007; Kuh 2008). When done well, these practices require students to make their own discoveries and connections, grapple with challenging real-world questions, and address complex problems—all necessary skills if students are to become engaged and effective members of their communities. The strong positive effects of several HIPs are well-documented in extant research about programs that support student learning. Brownell and Swaner conclude that high-impact practices “live up to their name,” noting a wide range of benefits for participants (2009, p. 30).

Participation in HIPs, including those that emphasize civic engagement and have powerful educational benefits for all students. These kinds of educational experiences are especially powerful for students who may be the first in their family to attend college, and those who are historically underserved in post-secondary education.

The high impact practices included in this study all meet the criteria established above by Kuh. Thus, the researchers expect to hear or observe similar benefits of participation outlined in the research for participation in high impact practices. This includes, but is not limited to: improved the quality of students’ experience, learning, retention, and success (Baner & Sawner, 2009; Clayton-Pedersen & Finley, 2010; Kuh, 2008). Moreover, HIPs are associated with outcomes such as improved graduation rates and narrowed achievement gaps between racial–ethnic groups (Kuh, 2008).

More specifically, the researchers are after, what are the long term benefits of participation in high impact practices? Could benefits vary based on the type of high impact practice?

This study includes a Living Learning Program, internship program, undergraduate research, and study abroad programs at Texas A&M University.