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Campus Recreation participation strengthens student engagement. Studies show participants have higher academic outcomes, as well as health and wellness benefits.

Although the body of research on the benefits of campus recreation for student success is growing, studies lack consistency and are primarily shared within the campus recreation field. Our research seeks to contribute to the growing literature connecting recreation participation with student outcomes. We use data-driven statistical approaches, connecting study findings to implications for professionals and campus leaders across colleges and universities.

Ongoing Research Projects

Relationship between campus recreation facility use, academic outcomes

Authors examine differences between facility users and nonusers by pairing facility swipe card data with student records. Statistical analysis includes logistic regression and matching approaches, controlling for student demographics, academic preparedness, academic goals, family characteristics and various environmental factors.

Vertical bar graph with five bars depicting predicted retention rate on the vertical axis in five bars and left to right, (1) average student (80%) relative to (2) recreation center users (88%) and subsamples of users, including: (3) Pell Grant Recipient (90%), (4) First Generation (91%), and (5) High School GPA less than 3.5 (92%).
Predicted Retention Rate for Rec Center Users Compared to Average Student

Notes: Data from three years of first-year students, 2014-2017. Rec Center Users defined by at least one visit weekly. Data from multivariate regression results of marginal effects of recreation facility use for retention. Results show a positive and significant relationship between recreation facility use and retention. Subsample analyses using matched sample suggest larger impact of facility use (up to 12% points retention) for students at risk for drop out.

Multi-institutional relationship between campus recreation facility use, academic outcomes

The objective of this project is to assess the relationship between academic success and campus recreation participation, controlling for differences in students across multiple institutions.

Previous campus recreation studies lack consistency and robustness, including variable use and statistical design. Also, retention analysis is often either focused on the institutional or student levels. This research compares differences between student users and non-users of campus recreation using a multivariate model of student persistence, controlling for various inputs and environmental conditions. This research specifically seeks to examine the relationship between recreation facility use and first-year student persistence and cumulative GPA. Research can also demonstrate methods to calculate additional revenue from 1-year increase retention and apply a statistical matching approach to move closer to causation and examine the definition of users and non-users. Finally, to increase comparability and reliability of findings, this research focuses on student-level analysis across multiple institutions.

Definition of user/user groups in campus recreation

This project seeks to examine the relationship between different users and use group definitions and estimates of first-year retention, as well as first year cumulative GPA.

Graphic of female running stairs with vertical bar graph with under stair image that shows marginal effects of first year retention and regression coefficients of cumulative GPA by user definition variable. Vertical axes represent marginal effects of retention and GPA in a stairstep pattern from left to right by user definition variable. 
From left to right, horizontal axis represents eight user definitions: one visit with 0.07 GPA and 3% retention, two-three with 0.09 GPA and 4% retention, four-eight with 0.13 GPA and 6% retention, monthly (9-17 visits) with 0.19 GPA and 10% retention, bimonthly (18-34 visits) with 0.27 GPA and 13% retention, weekly (35-69 visits) with 0.35 GPA and 15% retention, biweekly (70-104 visits) with 0.44 GPA and 16% retention, and triweekly (105 +  visits) with 0.53 GPA and 18% retention.
Recreation facility visits and academics - outcomes compared to non-user

Notes: Data from three years of first-year students, 2014-2017. Recreation facility use has significant relationship with GPA and first year retention: 3% points higher retention and .07 points higher GPA at a single visit, with a stair step pattern to 18% points higher retention and .53 points higher GPA at triweekly use. Grade Point Average (GPA) scale is 0.0 to 4.0. All user definition variables report significant relationships with both outcomes; higher magnitudes for both outcomes are evident as use increases.

High school athlete study 

This study seeks to assess the relationship between student persistence, high school sports participation, and collegiate campus recreation participation using multivariate analysis of student level data across multiple institutions to:

  • Connect students with relevant resources and support more directly and earlier to increase institutional retention and better build personal connections between students and institutions, most specifically high school athletes who do not participate in intercollegiate athletics; and
  • Determine to what extent a relationship exists between student persistence and high school athletes who do not participate in intercollegiate athletics and campus recreation

Research coordination projects

  • Transition to College and Substance Use Behaviors: The College Student Transition Study ( Dr. Turiano lab)

For more information, contact research coordinator Sera Janson Zegre: