Called revolutionary and ahead of their time, Work Colleges have been educating and helping hard-working students pay for tuition, some for over 100 years. According to alumni, four years of purposeful work has a lifetime payoff.

Work Colleges share two fundamental beliefs. First, that a college experience should educate the whole person. Second, earning a college degree shouldn’t require a lifetime of debt. Through an innovative approach of Work-Learning-Service, all Work College students offset college costs by participating in a mandatory work program and performing service in their communities. Most work positions are limited to 8 -15 hours per week and designed to enhance a student’s academic studies. The Work-Learning-Service approach teaches students the critical balance of study, service to others and managed work expectations.

According to alumni, four years of purposeful work has a lifetime payoff. Graduates of Work Colleges enter their careers prepared with real world skills, and owing reduced or no debt. Research confirms that a Work–Learning–Service approach to higher education builds character, work ethic, leadership and competence in critical thinking and time management skills. These attributes are directly transferrable to the workplace and among the characteristics employers say they seek the most. More supporting info from the National Association of Colleges and Employers here.

A Work College experience is very different from just ‘working while in college’. Enhanced work and service at Member Colleges deliberately exposes students to people, places and practices that are new and different. All Work Colleges emphasize the value of community, social equity and teamwork. Nearly 90% of graduates report their Work-Learning-Service experience helped them learn how to work cooperatively in teams. Research shows Work Colleges give students valuable work experience and more. See the full report here.

It may sound revolutionary and ‘ahead of its time’, but Work Colleges have been educating and training hard-working students for over 150 years. Work Colleges may be even more relevant today than in years past. Economic challenges and rising costs of education are shining light on the Work-Learning-Service approach as one of the most promising ideas in higher education today.

The Work Colleges Consortium provides its Member Colleges with networking opportunities, resources, and a unified voice to represent our shared mission to legislative and professional audiences.