Blackburn College purposefully melds a nationally acclaimed, student-managed Work Program and a rigorous liberal arts academic curriculum.

For 100 years, Blackburn’s student-managed Work Program has made the dream of a college education accessible by keeping the cost of a private liberal arts education within reach. By incorporating campus job responsibilities with the educational experience, students are fully vested in every aspect of college from learning in the classroom to supervising peers and participating in campus policymaking.

Blackburn College

Over the years, students have built Blackburn—literally brick by brick. In fact, Blackburn is the only college campus in the country built largely by its students. Today, students carry on this tradition by staffing campus jobs as carpenters, painters, landscapers, cooks, servers, administrators, computer technicians, janitors, graphic artists, security officers, assistant coaches, tutors and teaching assistants.

Student-Managed Work Program
At Blackburn students ‘get their hands dirty’—everyone on campus is considered an essential partner in making the College work. All resident students are required to work a minimum of 160 hours each semester (about 10 hours a week) to help provide services essential to college operations. Blackburn is the only nationally recognized Work College with a Work Program managed by students! Student leaders directly supervise peers and contribute to major decisions about resource allocation and campus policies. This type of management experience truly gives Blackburn graduates an earned appreciation for teamwork, cooperation and leadership.

Student responsibilities extend off campus, too. Required community service not only contributes to personal growth, but also creates an opportunity to lead and serve. Many Blackburn graduates consider these interactions, and the skills they garnered, to be as valuable as the monetary savings from the College’s Work Program.

Working together in and out of the classroom prepares students with life skills and builds a sense of belonging. Graduates credit Blackburn’s Work Program with helping them develop lifelong friendships, a sense of community and limitless potential for success.

Academics at Blackburn
Blackburn College offers more than 30 majors ranging from performing arts to sports management to biology, chemistry, leadership and literature. In addition, the College has developed cooperative arrangements in engineering and medical laboratory science with Washington University, University of Missouri and several area hospitals.

Blackburn College aims to provide the best possible educational and developmental experiences for students. It boasts a low student to faculty ratio of 10:1 where all academics are taught by highly qualified full professors, not graduate students or teaching assistants. Students participate equally with faculty and staff on major committees. Blackburn challenges students to perform their best in the classroom and participate in extracurricular activities including NCAA Division III athletics, music, journalism, student government and a host of student clubs and organizations.


Blackburn College features:

  • the most affordable private, four-year residential college in Illinois and among the lowest in cost in the United States;
  • U.S. News ranks Blackburn as a ‘best value’ college;
  • a campus largely built by its students. Ten campus buildings were constructed by Blackburn students as part of the Work Program;
  • a student body where one-third are first generation students; 56% of students are classified as low income;
  • a strong sense of community and collaboration in work, academics and college-wide decision making. Shared governance plays a key role in the College culture;
  • a character building experience that The John Templeton Foundation has recognized as being one of strongest in America among colleges.


“In my current line of work, I am constantly using communication, organizational and mediation skills, plus leadership and working with diverse groups. The Work Program was a huge help in not only securing a job, but being successful in (my chosen) career.”

Aubrey Cunningham
2007 Blackburn College graduate