Campus Work Programs Could Help Expand Access

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Editor’s note: A version of this post was originally published on Admitted in October 2016. It’s being republished as part of NACAC’s Best of the Blog series.

On-campus jobs aren’t optional at Berea College (KY).

Students at the NACAC member institution work 10 to 15 hours a week in approved positions either at the college or within the surrounding community.

The requirement has been part of the Berea’s formal educational program since 1906, and college president Lyle Roelofs thinks more institutions should consider the model as a way to address the growing challenges of access and affordability.


As a member of the Work Colleges Consortium (WCC) — a group of eight residential colleges that integrate employment, service, and learning — Berea receives additional federal funding to support its programming. A portion of that is used to pay students a nontaxable hourly wage.

“The students’ earnings can be used for general living expenses as well as to help contribute to the cost of attendance,” Roelofs wrote in a 2016 essay published by Inside Higher Education.

Although no students are charged tuition at Berea, students and their families are expected to pay “fees and living expenses” as determined by the FAFSA.

“The compensation earned through the work program thus helps to minimize debt for our students,” Roelofs noted in his piece. “About a third of our students graduate entirely debt-free, with the rest borrowing an average of less than $7,000.”

Students also learn job skills and develop “pride, confidence and respect for all manner of work.”

“Close bonds develop between students and labor supervisors, whether faculty or staff, thus allowing for enhanced mentorship,” Roelofs wrote. “Many alumni credit their work experiences as having been crucial to acquiring work skills, getting first jobs and advancing professionally.”

Read Roelofs’ full essay and learn more about the value of work.

Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at mstegmeir@nacacnet.org.

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