A recent report from the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission and the West Virginia Council for Community and Technical College Education noted a number of academic and non-academic reasons why students who start college leave before completing a degree. Included were motivation, academic preparation, financial concerns and institutional commitment. A new co-op program in West Virginia University’s Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources will help remove these barriers in an effort to retain and graduate students the College might ordinarily lose.

The Early Start Co-Op Program would provide students and employers with a win-win situation. Working with small businesses, the College will work to establish a database of available employment opportunities for incoming students. Industries might include construction, engineering, auto repair, manufacturing, oil and gas, information technology and mining. Students would be paired with these companies with the understanding that they would work a semester and then go to school for a semester. Students will not be allowed to work while taking classes. Compensation levels would be decided by the company and the student.

“The Statler College is seeing a growing number of students who are receiving little to no family support,” said Dr. Jack Byrd, executive director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies and Development and professor of industrial engineering. “Many of them are first-generation college students and are from parts of West Virginia with high poverty rates. These students are going heavily into debt and in many cases are working excessive hours to support themselves in college.

“Because they are working too many hours, their grades suffer,” Byrd said. “The Early Start Co-Op Program will not only give us a better chance of retaining and graduating these students but will make these students highly marketable upon graduation because they have hands-on skill.”

According to Byrd, students would enroll in the program for at least three rotations and would provide information on their skills as part of the application process.

A special advisor will be assigned to these students and a financial counseling program would be created to make sure students save enough money to continue their education.

Small businesses interested in partnering with the Statler College are encouraged to contact Lloyd Ford, coordinator of corporate relations and career assistance, at 304-293-4370.



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CONTACT: Mary C. Dillon
304-293-4086; mary.dillon@mail.wvu.edu