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Here and Now with Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson
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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Work Colleges Help Students Graduate Without Big Debt

The College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Mo. is one of a handful of work colleges across the country. (AP)

Newt Gingrich has been heckled on the campaign trail for saying the country should do away with child labor laws and that poor children should do school janitorial work.

But our story isn’t about that–it’s about another comment that Gingrich made, when he referred to older college students.

He mentioned the College of the Ozarks in Missouri — which has been dubbed Hard Work U. It requires all students to work on campus to defray the cost of their education. The school consistently ranks as one of the best colleges in the Midwest.

It is one of seven other federally recognized work colleges in the U.S., where students work on campus in exchange for reduced or free tuition.

Robin Taffler, executive director of the Work Colleges Consortium told Here & Now‘s Robin Young that students take on a range of jobs at work colleges.

“Students do everything from faculty research to maintenance to working in an auto shop to running a fire department and the schools evolved because they were looking for ways to educate poor students,” Taffler said.

Other Colleges Incorporate More Work

A number of non-work colleges are developing more opportunities for students to work. The University of Maine at Farmington has created more on-campus jobs because they want students to see the connections between curriculum and work.

And the University of Iowa created a pilot program where working students meet with academic supervisors so they can see the relationship between what they’re learning and their jobs.

Have you ever attended a work college? Would you like to see more across the country? Or are these colleges taking advantage of students for inexpensive labor? Tell us in our comments section or on our Facebook page.

Guests:

  • Robin Taffler, executive director of the Work Colleges Consortium
  • Natalie Crone, who’s studying political science at Berea College in Kentucky, the first interracial and coeducational college in the south
  • Eliza Mutino, who’s studying farming and food justice at Sterling College, an environmentally-focused work college in Vermont

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Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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