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Fewer Positions Available For Co Op Students

By CityTownInfo.com Staff

March 24, 2009

Students enrolled in co-operative education programs, which combine college classes with jobs in related fields, are having more trouble securing placements.

Cincinnati's The Enquirer [from an article originally located at http://news.cincinnati.com/article/20090322/NEWS0102/903220324] reports that at the University of Cincinnati, the school has deferred 8 percent of its co-ops - about 120 students - until next quarter. The school will also allow students to substitute alternatives this spring, such as study abroad or working for a nonprofit.

Much like the difficulty students are facing obtaining internships, co-op positions are becoming harder to arrange as well. Unlike internships, virtually all co-ops are paid and the vast majority involves some sort of academic credit.

Martin Rittenhouse, a UC business major from Detroit, lost his co-op assignment after a real estate company pulled out at the last minute.

"I don't think it's UC's fault," he told The Enquirer. "I just think with the way the economy's going, it's difficult for companies to see value in co-op."

Not everyone agrees. The New York Times suggests precisely the opposite: In this recession, co-operative education may be bolstered by cautious employers intent on hiring more experienced workers.

The Times noted that according to the National Commission for Cooperative Education, 95 percent of co-op students have a job when they graduate, with more than 60 percent accepting permanent jobs from the employers for whom they worked while in school.

About 400 colleges offer co-operative programs, with the largest enrollment in approximately two dozen schools.

Peter J. Franks, executive director and associate vice provost of the Steinbright Career Development Center at Drexel University in Philadelphia, told The Times that the school's co-op program draws a significant number of students. Enrollment in the school grew to 21,537 last year, and most Drexel students work in the Philadelphia area.

At UC, the co-op program includes 1,500 employers, making it the largest program by a public university in the country. UC spends more than $2 million a year on staff to help place students, and spends millions more offering double sections of required courses so students on co-ops can return to enroll in the same classes.

Kettil Cedercreutz, director of the division of professional practice at UC, had some optimistic news about co-op job placement. "The big companies are slashing," he told The Enquirer, "but the small companies call and say, 'Do you have a student?' because they have a job that needs to get done."

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