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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Benefits of Infusing the Arts in a College Preparatory Program


An extensive body of work has demonstrated the benefits of participating in the arts, including when it is integrated into other disciplines, for young adults. In addition, this work highlights the likely advantages of engagement with the arts for students from low-income backgrounds as they transition into elite postsecondary institutions. Such findings have shaped the organization of the Princeton University Preparatory Program (PUPP), a rigorous academic and cultural enrichment program which supports high-achieving, low-income public high school students, from the communities surrounding campus, prepare for admission to and success at selective colleges and universities. More specifically, PUPP provides its scholars with a studio art course during each of their three summers in the program and school-year trips to performances and museums. During their time in PUPP, scholars attend approximately 21 live performances and visit at least six different art museums.

In this paper, we add to the literature on art integration by examining whether, and how, the views of PUPP scholars on the arts programming they receive change over their time in the program. We also assess the PUPP alumni’s perceptions of the extent to which PUPP’s art and cultural activities influenced them. Taken together, these analyses of survey data help us understand whether there are differences in student views by the amount of art programming they receive (“dosage”) and if there are sustained benefits of the arts integration and programming PUPP students receive (“fade-out”). We supplement this quantitative data with information from focus groups with a variety of stakeholders.

Although our quantitative analyses of survey data revealed no dosage or fade-out effects, our interview data highlighted the cumulative development of art skills and knowledge over time and confirmed that the program’s arts and cultural activities provided contextual information and experiences useful for PUPP alumni in college. Along with prior work that shows PUPP scholars’ overwhelmingly positive views of the arts programing, these  findings point to the benefits of university-led college access programs that provide arts and cultural exposure for students’ social and cultural capital and college preparation.

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