Work colleges…YEAH! Are the kids still saying thebomb.com? Well they should if discussing work colleges (and they should be discussing work colleges). The concept, while not new, is definitely new to me. We’re constantly reporting how college costs are increasing 8% annually (twice the rate of inflation), student debt averages are skyrocketing ($26,000 in average debt for graduates), and job prospects for recent grads are dismal. Makes one rethink the decision to push college at any cost. Well start rethinking your rethinking.
The Work College Consortium boasts seven member colleges that offer an innovative concept of “working” while in school to dramatically cut costs. Students work 10-15 hours in programs related to their intended career field. There are opportunities to advance, performance evaluations, and some schools even include a grade based evaluation in the student’s official school record. While a few of the schools still report average student debt levels in the 5-figure range, statistics show the majority of graduates from work colleges matriculate with zero debt or a modest amount compared to national averages. For instance, The College of the Ozarks reports students graduate with an average of $5300 in loan debt.
In addition to leaving school with less debt, career field related experience has a number of benefits. Students can “try out” their intended career field earlier before dedicating precious years of study to a field they hate! Students with relevant work experience stand out in a sea of pastel colored resume paper. No or low debt provides students with the option to pursue careers or other interests (grad school, backpacking through Europe, the Peace Corps) they may have otherwise excluded based on a need to repay student loans. Work colleges are definitely a bright spot in the higher education experience.
If you’ve had any experience with a work college, please chime in.