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What is the Work Colleges Consortium (WCC)?

Representing a collective of seven Work Colleges, the WCC helps advance a very pragmatic strategy: Educating promising students, helping build valuable work experience and a service ethic, while graduating with less debt.

Work Colleges are distinctive liberal arts colleges that promote the purposeful integration of Work, Learning, and Service. Currently, there are only seven Work Colleges in the nation that meet the federal definition and guidelines for operation, as overseen by the U.S. Department of Education (available here). These WCC Member Colleges operate autonomously, but all are purpose-driven and take very intentional steps to help students manage and balance the work and service activities with their college studies.

The Work Colleges Consortium helps ensure that Member Colleges are in compliance with the Federal Regulations. To accomplish this, the WCC: (a) conducts research across the institutions to help assess student work-learning and service outcomes; (b) shares best practices; and (c) supports ongoing activities among the colleges in the areas of Work-Learning-Service. The WCC office serves as the liaison to both the U.S. Department of Education and Congressional delegations.

The Work College model provides an unprecedented experiential education that benefits students and the college. It’s practical, proven and should be emulated.

Here are a few key facts:

Many Work College students are the first generation in their family to attend college.

Work College students graduate from college with reduced, little, or no debt.

Students graduate with a valued degree, real work experience and a strong sense of how work and service contribute to their communities. 

Work College graduates show heightened self-awareness, an understanding of their place in the world and the important contributions they can make as individuals. 

The WCC makes every effort to extend expertise to others interested in this exemplary model.   (Back to Top)


What colleges are Members of the WCC?

Currently, there are only seven Work Colleges in the nation that meet the federal definition and guidelines for operation, as overseen by the U.S. Department of Education. These links give more specifics about each Member College: Alice Lloyd College, Berea College, Blackburn College, College of the Ozarks, Ecclesia College, Sterling College and Warren Wilson College

Each Member College manages their Work-Learning-Service programs and directly handles admissions. The WCC serves the Member Colleges through activities and research that promote the integration of Work-Learning-Service.   (Back to Top)


How do Work Colleges differ from other higher ed schools?

The most notable difference is Work Colleges integrate job responsibility and community service activities into every student’s education. All resident students have required work responsibilities. Service to campus and the broader community is also integral to the WCC approach.

The Work-Learning-Service approach is very different from Federal Work Study, though both give students the chance to earn money and learn responsibility. This infograph shows a full comparison.

The work program on each campus is distinctive, designed to meet campus needs and complement relevant coursework. Students gain valuable experience and help offset college expenses before they graduate.

The Work College approach reflects a pragmatic win/win scenario for students and colleges looking to defray costs of higher education and resident campus operations. Students work limited hours, but help power their college, campus, and related social enterprises. Work posts aim to align campus needs with student skills and educational goals, examples include: technology lab assistant, college finance and accounting, hotel/campus kitchen operations, landscaping, child day care, even lifeguard at the campus pool. Work College students do it all.  (Back to Top)

Can other higher ed. institutions become Work Colleges?

The Work Colleges operate under federal guidelines, which are found in the Department of Education, under Federal Work Study (subpart C). This link takes you directly thereInterested institutions should consider these questions to help determine if the Work College model might be right for their campus.  (Back to Top)

Is a Work College a new concept?

No. Member Colleges' work programs have a rich history—some with more than 100 years’ proven track record.

Designed to enhance the collegiate experience and reduce student debt, Work Programs excel at cultivating career-ready qualities like responsibility and work ethic. 

Colleges are able to maintain campus services without increasing labor costs. It’s a win-win proposition.  (Back to Top)

Who is eligible to attend a Work College?

Each Member College has its own admissions office and eligibility requirements. The WCC does not manage any admissions for the colleges. If you or someone you know is interested in attending a Work College, here’s the best place to start.  (Back to Top)

What is the tuition to attend a Work College?

Tuition, and resident/meal expenses, vary among each school. Like most colleges, state residency can affect tuition. All WCC students work to reduce debt upon graduation and are compensated according to hours worked. Student work is evaluated, and along with academic performance and service activities, is required for graduation.

Some students are able to graduate debt free; But all graduate with reduced education debt—far less than the national average. In addition to a college degree, Work College students graduate with real world work experience through the comprehensive Work, Learning & Service approach. This engages students on multiple levels while making college more accessible and affordable.   (Back to Top)

Is student work mandatory? If so, what is the purpose or intended outcome?

Yes, work is mandatory for all resident students. The expectation is for a student to build workplace-ready skills while providing needed campus services. In turn, this helps to further reduce Member College’s overhead operating costs, which are already leaner than most traditional academic institutions. 

Work Colleges aim to create a work-ready culture, with real work expectations. Evaluation is based on performance, not just attendance.

Many campus services depend on student labor. But the intent is much more than meeting hourly quotas for operational efficiencies. Work Colleges invest heavily in creating a campus environment where an education is foremost, and faculty are able to help integrate classroom learning with work and service. 

Supervisors work directly with students, mentoring the balance of study with work performance, supervisor guidance and service. 

Graduates have job experience, plus they know how to effectively manage their time. There are many benefits for employers who hire WCC graduates—here is an overview.

Coordinating experiential learning with classroom learning requires a dedicated institutional focus. Faculty and staff are trained to helps students integrate Work, Learning and Service.

This comprehensive integration across campus is also a key differentiation between Federal Work Study and a Work Colleges approach. See a comparison infographic here.  (Back to Top)

Who manages the work force?

Each College has a structure for work that parallels the academic structure including a Dean of Work (as required by federal regulations) who oversees the entire work program. Students also have assigned work positions with supervisors, who oversee their day-to-day tasks and help mentor and evaluate performance. Supervisors include faculty, staff and other students who receive specific management training.

Blackburn College’s work program is completely student-managed. Students are fully vested in every aspect of Blackburn College from classroom learning to supervising peers to campus policymaking.  (Back to Top)

How many hours are students required to work?  Are there federal regulations?

Work College students are required to work a minimum of five hours a week, or 80 hours per semester, based on federal requirements. Work assignments average between 8-15 hours a week.

All resident students are required to work.  Job responsibilities are integrated into each student’s schedule. With the help of a supervisor, students learn to effectively manage responsibilities for studies and their work.  (Back to Top)

What or who determines work assignments?

Work assignments are based on the needs of each campus and mission of each Member College. First year students (incoming freshman) are typically assigned work positions. However, there is more flexibility as students gain skills and expertise. Students can apply for positions, and work their way through the ranks to supervisors. Some students even hold positions considered “essential personnel”.

Work assignments can support and complement a student’s field of study.  Work positions also introduce students to new opportunities including student-powered industries involving crafts, hospitality, even sustainable agriculture. Students learn there is value in all types of work.

Each Member College’s Dean of Work/Labor oversees job assignments, working closely with campus administration and operations. Staff, faculty and student managers directly supervise students on a day-today basis. On most campuses, students (especially upperclassmen) have the opportunity to request work posts that best suit their interests and study focus. Work assignments typically change every year.  (Back to Top)

How is work incorporated with service and civic engagement?

There is an expectation of service on all Work College campuses. However, each campus incorporates service activities in different ways. Member Colleges each have a unique expression of mission and related requirements. Generally, all service activities support the campus mission or broader community. Students learn first-hand how their labor and service contribute to the campus and broader community.

Some Member Colleges offer international service programs, which have led to service-focused careers here and abroad. Read what WCC alumni have to say about their experiences here.  (Back to Top)

How is student pay determined?

Work Colleges share the goal of helping students reduce college debt upon graduation, but the arrangement of pay is different on each campus. Wages are considered “self help payments” For example, at Warren Wilson College all students are paid the same wage—supporting the philosophy that all work is equal. Some Work Colleges have graduated pay scales; others provide a set “credit” or grant for work performed Wages may vary, but every Member College complies with appropriate minimum wage laws.  (Back to Top)

I still have questions. Who do I contact? WCC Executive Director, Robin Taffler