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Work colleges are distinctive liberal arts colleges in the United States that promote the purposeful integration of work, learning, and service. At a work college all students work regardless of their academic program or their financial need. A work college is a public or private non-profit, four-year degree-granting institution of higher learning where student work is an integrated, essential and federally required core component of the educational work-learning-service program. Unlike Federal Work Study, which is solely need-based, work colleges do not differentiate between those that can afford to pay for their education from those that must work to cover their educational costs. At work colleges students are regularly evaluated and assessed on their work performance and can be dismissed from the institution for non-performance in the work program. Students do not have the ability to "buy" their way out of the work requirement. Students perform essential institutional functions in every area imaginable on their campuses and gain a strong sense of ownership and responsibility for their campus community. Student labor enables work colleges to be far more operationally efficient and administratively lean (compared to more traditional colleges). This, in turn, contributes to lower operational costs which results in lower – and more affordable – tuition.
Students typically work 8 to 15 hours per week, jobs run the gamut of campus need from teaching assistant-ships, to accounts payable, to IT, to food services, to grounds keeping, to plumbing, public relations, campus safety etc. Work colleges share the belief that the integration of work-learning-service provides a strong, successful, and relevant model for educating students.
Currently, there are only eight work colleges in the nation that meet the federal definition and guidelines for operation, as overseen by the U.S. Department of Education.
- Alice Lloyd College in Pippa Passes, Kentucky
- Berea College in Berea, Kentucky
- Blackburn College in Carlinville, Illinois
- College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Missouri
- Ecclesia College in Springdale, Arkansas
- Paul Quinn College in Dallas, Texas
- Sterling College in Craftsbury Common, Vermont
- Warren Wilson College in Asheville, North Carolina
- "Title: 34 Education Subpart C-Work Colleges Program". eCFR Electronic Code of Federal Regulations. US Government Publishing Office.
- The United States federal government definition of Work College, Title 34 § 675.41, from GPO Electronic Code of Federal Regulations