WVXU: How university co-op programs help reduce student debt
UC students, administrators discuss the benefit of 'earning while learning'
After the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a plan to cancel student loan debt, many borrowers will have to start paying back their loans later this year. On top of rising college tuition costs, that decision has left some incoming college students less optimistic about their chances of graduating with manageable debt. Still, some universities have started taking steps to help more students leave school in a better position.
The University of Cincinnati started its co-op program more than 100 years ago and continues to create more experienced-based learning opportunities for its students, including recent graduate Madalyn O'Dea.
O'Dea, who earned a degree in communication design and a minor in marketing this spring, says the program helped her finish school with no debt.
"I am debt-free and I am very blessed by that," she told WVXU, 91.7. "I think being able to have a season where you're paid and a season where you spend is really unique. And for many students I know from my peers and friends, they are also debt-free. Everybody's situation is different but done right, you very much could be debt-free."
A co-op is like an internship with a few differences. Those differences depend on the school and program, but at UC, the co-op program allows students to work a full-time job in their area of study while earning course credit. Students can earn credit working a job one semester and take classes on campus the next semester without extending the time required to earn their degree.
UC claims in the 2022-2023 academic year, students in the college's co-op program collectively earned around $76 million with each student making somewhere around $15 an hour on average.
UC's Associate Dean in the College of Cooperative Education Annie Straka says the university is expanding co-op to include tracks in other degree programs, calling this evolution "Co-op 2.0".
Featured photo of Madalyn O'Dea at the Wrigley Building in Chicago, the location for one of her co-op experiences at Perkins & Will. During her time at UC, O'Dea took part in five co-op opportunities. One of which, Deloitte Digital in New York City, is where she will start working as a regular employee this fall. Photo/provided.