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Work colleges are colleges in the United States that require students to work and integrate that work into the college learning experience. They are federally designated institutions that have "comprehensive work-learning-service" programs as an essential and core component of their educational programs. All resident students are required to work including one-half of all students who are enrolled on a full-time basis regardless of their academic program or their financial need. A work college is a public or private non-profit, four-year degree-granting institution with a commitment to community service. The purpose of the Work Colleges program is to recognize, encourage and promote work-learning-service programs as a valuable education approach when it is an integral part of the institution's education program and a part of the financial plan that decreases reliance on (grants and) loans. Unlike Federal Work Study, which is need-based, work colleges do not differentiate between those that can afford to pay for their education from those that must work to cover their educational costs. At work colleges, students are regularly evaluated and assessed on their work performance and can be dismissed from the institution for non-performance in the work program. Students do not have the ability to "buy" their way out of the work requirement. Students perform essential institutional functions in every area imaginable on their campuses and gain a strong sense of ownership and responsibility for their campus community. Students are paid for their work which helps offset the cost of tuition. At some work colleges students receive a full tuition credit for their work, while other receive reduced tuition. Student work can help contribute to lower operational costs and more affordable tuition.
Students typically work 6 to 15 hours per week, jobs run the gamut of campus need from teaching assistant-ships, to accounts payable, to IT, to food services, to grounds keeping, to plumbing, public relations, campus safety etc. Work colleges share the belief that the integration of work-learning-service provides a strong, successful, and relevant model for educating students.
Currently, there are nine federally recognized work colleges in the nation that meet the federal requirements for operation as overseen by the U.S. Department of Education.
- Alice Lloyd College in Pippa Passes, Kentucky
- Berea College in Berea, Kentucky
- Bethany Global University in Bloomington, Minnesota
- Blackburn College in Carlinville, Illinois
- College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Missouri
- Ecclesia College in Springdale, Arkansas
- Paul Quinn College in Dallas, Texas
- Sterling College in Craftsbury Common, Vermont
- Warren Wilson College in Asheville, North Carolina
A predecessor of the work college is the Manual labor college movement of the 1820s up to 1860, approximately. It also combined work, usually agricultural or mechanical, with preparatory or college study, often preparation for the ministry. Although it helped students financially, equally if not more important were the work's perceived healthful effects on the bodies and minds of the students. To see physical work as bodily and psychologically beneficial was at the time a relatively new idea.
- "Title: 34 Education Subpart C-Work Colleges Program". eCFR Electronic Code of Federal Regulations. US Government Publishing Office.
- The United States federal government definition of Work College, Title 34 § 675.41, from GPO Electronic Code of Federal Regulations