School activities allow students to broaden their interests,
develop teamwork and leadership skills, and strengthen their connections
with peers and their school community. Many schools offer a variety of activities, including those with low
or no cost.
One in four students from lower-income families did not participate in a single sport, club or art program for the 2015-2016 school year, a new national poll revealed.
‘A substantial portion of students, particularly those in lower income groups, are not fully engaged in a well-rounded school experience that includes activities.’
One contributing factor: school activities cost too much.
Among parents from households earning less than $60,000 a year, 27% say their child was less involved with school activities because
of cost, suggested the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll
on Children's Health at the University of Michigan.
But financial challenges were not limited to lower-income families. 12% of higher-income parents (making more than $60,000) also
cite price as the reason for their child's decline in activities.
"Participation in school
activities has been linked to better grades and lower dropout rates ,"
says Sarah Clark, co-director of the poll.
"However, we found that a substantial portion of students,
particularly those in lower income groups, are not fully engaged in a
well-rounded school experience that includes activities - and too
often, it's because of cost."
The nationally representative household survey included 666 parents
with at least one child in middle or high school. Parents were asked
about their child's participation in school activities for the 2015-2016
Sports were costlier than other types of school activities. The
average, annual cost per student was $302 to play sports, $218 for arts
and $124 for clubs, according to the poll. That includes school-mandated
participation fees and other expenses such as equipment and travel. 10% of lower-income and 3% of higher-income families
received a waiver for activity fees.
"School officials should consider the equity of participation costs
across different activities, so that students interested in sports have
equal access to participation as students interested in music, theater,
or clubs," notes Clark.
Poll results reflected this trend, with 60% of parents reporting no cost for their child's participation in
arts or in clubs. However, only 30% reported zero cost for
"For some families, financial burdens may override a child's
interest in pursuing school activities," Clark says. "No school wants
cost to be the reason for non-participation." Strategies include making
sure students and parents are aware of low- and no-cost activities;
offering waivers, scholarships, and other cost-reducing options; and
addressing non-financial barriers, such as transportation.
Research-based benefits of participating in sports and other activities:
Students who participate in activity programs tend to have higher
grade-point averages, better attendance records, lower dropout rates,
and fewer discipline problems (National Federation of State High School
Participation in school activities is positively associated with
friendship development, a sense of meaning and purpose, and helps
develop life skills such as initiative, respect, teamwork, and
leadership (National Federation of State High School Associations, 2015)
Benefits of school-based sports programs include weight control,
problem-solving skills, self-esteem, social competence, academic
achievement, and reduced rates of juvenile arrests, teen pregnancies and
school dropout (The Foundation for Global Sports Development, 2013)
At-risk students who participate in the arts have an increased
chance of attending college and completing a post-secondary degree.
(National Art Education Association, ArtsEdSearch database, 2015)