Frequently Asked Questions about the Work College Model


What is a Work College?

As defined by the federal government, a Work College:

(1) Is a public or private nonprofit, four-year, degree-granting institution with a commitment to community service;

(2) Has operated a comprehensive work-learning-service program for at least two years;

(3) Requires resident students, including at least one-half of all students who are enrolled on a full-time basis, to participate in a comprehensive work-learning-service program for at least five hours each week, or at least 80 hours during each period of enrollment, except summer school, unless the student is engaged in an institutionally organized or approved study abroad or externship program; and

(4) Provides students participating in the comprehensive work-learning-service program with the opportunity to contribute to their education and to the welfare of the community as a whole.

In other words, an integral part of students’ education is work, in the larger context of community-building and service. In lieu of paychecks, money earned counts directly toward their tuition cost. As a result, students graduate in good financial standing, as well as with valuable work experience.

Is Silver Lake a Work College?

Per federal regulations, Silver Lake will not be an official Work College until it has implemented the Work College model for two years. However, it will still provide all of the benefits of Work Colleges in the interim period; the only missing piece will be its legal status.

Is tuition reimbursement from a Work College based on financial need?

No. Every Work College student earns money toward their tuition based on work. Admission to a Work College is also not dependent on financial need.

What type of work do students participate in?

Jobs vary quite a bit, depending on the campus and community needs. However, they often include ways for students to share responsibility for standard campus maintenance functions, such as landscaping or food service. It’s likewise common for students to be placed in positions with local cooperating nonprofits.

How are students assigned jobs?

Job assignment varies from school to school, but students usually have an opportunity to indicate interests and skill sets that are taken into account in conjunction with their academic areas of study.

As students advance in their work, they are given opportunities with more responsibility, whether a bigger role in the same area of work or the management of younger student teams.

How does it differ from federal work study programs?

Work study programs and Work Colleges are similar in spirit, as they both attempt to reduce students’ education costs.

However, eligibility for federal work study programs is based on financial need, while Work Colleges are open to everyone. Work study is optional, while participation in the work-learning-service program for Work College students is mandatory.

Finally, Work College earnings are counted directly toward tuition, while work study programs award students with paychecks.

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