Children spend an average of 80% of their days out of school, prompting policymakers to provide more expanded learning opportunities beyond regular school hours. Afterschool programs, also known as OST (Out-of-School Time) programs, have emerged as valuable resources that provide academic support, enrichment activities, workforce development opportunities, mentoring relationships and more. These programs, aim to enhance the overall development and well-being of children of all ages.
What the Research Says
Research consistently demonstrates that high-quality afterschool programs have a positive impact on students' educational outcomes, school attendance and social and emotional learning. Recognizing the diverse needs of children and youth across different age groups, quality afterschool programs cater to their academic, psychological and physical activity requirements. Regular participation in these programs has been linked to lower dropout rates and a narrowing of achievement gaps, particularly among low-income students. Additionally, for older youth, afterschool programs can contribute to a reduction in risky behaviors and the development of college and career-readiness skills.
While afterschool programming has shown to improve social and emotional outcomes for students, research indicates certain key elements are needed for success. These include regular attendance, well-trained staff, and high-quality programming. The Afterschool Alliance has been at the forefront of documenting how children and youth spend their afterschool hours through their comprehensive national and state-specific reports since 2004. Their 2020 America After 3PM report revealed a persistent demand for afterschool programs, with three children waiting for every one enrolled. This translates to approximately 25 million children being unable to access afterschool programs due to barriers such as program cost, availability, and transportation or accessibility challenges.
Afterschool Data Project
Since 2014, with support from the Charles S. Mott Foundation, NCSL has worked with nearly all 50 states on data grant projects. NCSL has provided technical assistance to statewide afterschool networks as they collected new and compiled existing state-specific afterschool and summer learning data and shared this data with state legislators and other key stakeholders via written reports and data release events. Many grantees have gathered information on afterschool programs and gaps in access to afterschool, while others have conducted afterschool return on investment studies. Links to data reports or mapping tools, when applicable, are included below. To learn more about NCSL’s data mapping project, view the Afterschool Data Project webpage.
GIS Map Projects:
Return-On-Investment (ROI) Projects:
Funding for Afterschool
Afterschool activities provide valuable opportunities for children to explore their interests, develop skills and foster social connections outside of the traditional school setting. However, not all parents can easily afford the costs associated with these activities. Financial constraints can pose challenges for families, limiting their ability to enroll their children in extracurricular programs. From enrollment fees to transportation expenses or even the cost of necessary equipment or materials, the cumulative financial burden can become overwhelming. This situation can be particularly difficult for low-income families or those facing financial hardships. According to Afterschool Alliance’s America After 3PM data, for the first time in more than a decade, the number of children in an afterschool program has decreased because of barriers.
The Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program stands as the sole dedicated federal funding source specifically designed for local afterschool, before-school, and summer learning programs. Currently, this program serves nearly 2 million youths through state education-awarded grants. However, research highlights various barriers that hinder access to afterschool programming, with funding being a major concern. Cost and limited availability continue to prevent many parents from enrolling their children in afterschool programs, with approximately 3 in 5 parents citing these reasons. Despite the increased demand, federal funding for the 21st CCLC program has not kept pace with inflation, resulting in a $10 million decrease in inflation-adjusted terms since 2014. Consequently, the responsibility for funding such programs falls heavily on states, communities and families. While there is strong bipartisan parent support for public funding of afterschool programs, allocating additional funding can be challenging due to tight state budgets.