Working Off The Tab

Richard C. Morais, 03.10.09, 06:00 PM EDT
Programs offering academic credit for paid internships have new appeal.

Drexel is among a subset of major schools in the nation–including Northeastern, the Rochester Institute of Technology, the University of Cincinnati and Kettering–that offer highly sophisticated work-for-credit programs called "co-ops.”

Takach, a communications major who is also an editor at Drexel’s student newspaper, is enrolled in the school’s five-year "co-op" B.A. What this means is that this month, in her sophomore year, Takach begins a six-month stint working at Philadelphia’s Chamber of Commerce for $442.50 a week. She will continue in this way–six months of paid work in an organization related to her field of study, six months of classes–until she graduates in the spring of 2012.

Drexel has 1,600 firms and organizations participating in its work-and-study program, the biggest of which are Microsoft (nasdaq: MSFTnews people ), Siemens (nyse: SInews people ), Comcast (nasdaq: CMCSAnews people ), GlaxoSmithKline (nyse: GSKnews people ), Lockheed Martin (nyse: LMTnews people ), Motorola (nyse: MOTnews people ), Sunoco (nyse: SUNnews people ) and Johnson & Johnson (nyse: JNJnews people ).

Most of the university’s 13,197 undergraduate students, says Peter Franks, executive director of Drexel’s Steinbright Career Development Center, are drawn to the 91-year-old co-op program, covering 73 majors, because they believe the practical, mostly paid internships built into their college degree give them a competitive advantage when they are looking for a job after graduation.

The school offers four- or five-year versions of the B.A./B.S. work program, and claims 50% of its students are offered full-time jobs after graduation by one of their co-op employers. Over a third of Drexel’s alumni take up these offers.

"The co-op allows students to make better career decisions, because they have tried different kinds of jobs while at school," says Franks. It also gives employers a chance to kick the tires of prospects. Drexel has retained 85% of its employer-partners during these hard times.


But in this sobering moment in history, co-op programs like Drexel’s are not just good job-procurement programs for graduating students. They can also be an attractive way for students and their families to defray costs while in college.

A year of room and board (but not food) in Drexel’s five-year program costs Takach $39,437. According to the university, Drexel’s work-study program generates for students, on average, an additional $14,500 per six-month work stint.

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