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While the cost of education continues to soar, some hard-working students are finding that work study programs offer benefits that go beyond the classroom. Students participating in work study programs have a variety of goals regarding the type of job they do, but all aim to earn money and gain practical experience while attending school.

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Work Study has 19th century roots

Unlike internships, work study placements are sourced, coordinated and monitored through the educational institution, which grants academic credit for satisfactory completion. The work study idea which began with engineering, grew throughout the 20th century to embrace partnerships in all fields of study: nursing, teaching, business and eventually liberal arts as well.

An important foundation of work study is strengthening the connection from classroom teaching to learning by doing. “There is an intimate and necessary relation between the process or actual experience and education,” said a leading 19th century proponent of the cooperative system of education newly introduced on a few U.S. campuses shortly after the turn of the century. That statement has stood the test of time.

Northeastern University leads the way

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At Northeastern University in Boston, the work study program known as co-op has been operating for over a century. It provides a structured method of combining classroom-based education with on-the-job learning. Some students say this helps to get a foot in the door in their chosen field, others say it helps them to narrow down possible career paths by having a closer look from the inside. The school says “Co-op works. Experience launches careers.”

Justin McConchie, a finance and marketing major in the class of 2016, says,”Northeastern University’s co-op program gave me a chance to see what worked, what I was good at, what I liked – and maybe more importantly what I didn’t like. It’s a free audition of sorts. I can’t imagine stepping out of class and diving directly into my career with no prior experience, which would be like learning how to swim by jumping off a cliff and hoping you figure it out once you hit the water. Why not practice a couple times first and figure out what you should be doing?”

Employers rate work study experience

Research by NACE, the National Association of Colleges and Employers indicates that, “More than 90 percent of employers say they prefer to hire candidates with work experience.” In proprietary research undertaken at Northeastern University, some 1,001 employers in 25 industries scored preparedness by students with work study experience at 86 percent against 64 percent for college graduates with none.

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This article was written by Laurie Jo Miller Farr via Examiner.com for CBS Local Media