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Cooperative Education

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Cooperative Education

The first cooperative education program in the U.S. was begun in 1906 by Dean Herman Schneider at the College of Engineering at the University of Cincinnati. Over time, the concept spread to a number of institutions in New York State, including some SUNY campuses, Cornell University, Keuka College, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Rochester Institute of Technology, Bard College and City College of New York.

Program began at NYS Institute of Applied Arts & Sciences at Utica in 1948.

In 1948, one female student was assigned by her employer – a retail store – as a personal shopper to get Christmas presents for bedridden customers, and to select men’s ties for 800 bank employees.

Another student was designated a “comparison shopper,” and went into rival stores incognito to purchase sample bedspreads, coats, writing paper, perfumes, and even men’s pipes. One complication was trying to avoid contact with some of her fellow students on cooperative education assignments at the same store, who would have known her real identity.

A student from New Hartford as a “telephone Santa Claus,” talking with youngsters “direct from the North Pole.” A radio station broadcast the conversations live.

In Rochester, student Marion Barnick of Rome was put behind the “teenage counter,” and was given an extra job of modeling. She ended up 11 inches high in a newspaper ad.

In Watertown, student Arthur Groat of Utica created a “Mother Goose” display to sell everything from Bismarck herrings to Crosley cars, radios, chemical sets, costume jewelry and bowling balls.

In Utica, two students were shown a big pile of cartons and a biggish corner of cleared floor space. It was their job to set up a Christmas toy department, keep it stocked for three months, and run a staff of 10 clerks plus Santa Claus….
(Above information from NYSIAAS NEWS – THE VOICE OF UTICA TECH, DEC 22, 1948.)


In 1950, retail students were placed in cooperative education assignments throughout NY (Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo, Cooperstown, Cortland, Glens Falls, Hamilton, Herkimer, Hudson, Ilion, Ithaca, Jamestown, Johnstown, Little Falls, Lowville, Marcellus, New Hartford, New York City, Oneida, Oneonta, Perry, Rochester, Rome, Schenectady, Syracuse, Troy, Utica and Walton). Out-of-state placements were in Massachusetts, Nebraska, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

As of 1961, students from five technical and business curricula* participated in the “co-op” plan by spending three months of each academic year (a total of six quarters) in a job related to their studies. The program was administered by a coordinator who evaluated student interests and abilities, and matched them with employment opportunities. The coordinator also contacted employers to solicit these employment opportunities. (Advertising Design & Production; Banking, Insurance & Real Estate, Electrical Technology; Mechanical Technology, Retail Business Management, other?)

In November, 1968, 88 students completed 13-week cooperative education work assignments in business and industry throughout New York State. Cooperative education was used in five MVCC career programs: advertising design and production; banking, insurance & real estate; electrical technology; mechanical technology; and retail business management. In the spring of 1969, the civil engineering technology program would add the cooperative education experience.


(Nov 12, 1976, Rome Daily Sentinel) – “MVCC to reassess work-study system – The Mohawk Valley Community College Board of Trustees Tuesday called for a complete re-evaluation of its cooperative work-study program to determine whether or not to continue it as a principal instructional strategy at the community college.
…The work-study program was one of the foundations on which the MVCC educational program was built, and MVCC President Dr. George Robertson emphasized that the study is not aimed at eliminating the work block, but will be objective in determining its future.
Among the questions put to the trustees were ‘if it is to be continued, should it retain its present form, and if it is to be continued in a different form, what should it look like?’
A related question is ‘if cooperative education is discontinued, should the quarter system be discontinued?’
Students in career-oriented programs presently go out on work block during one of the quarters, gaining job experience in their fields.
Officials stated that some employers are still firmly committed to the co-op plan, while other have terminated their affiliation with the college.
In a memorandum to the trustees, temporary research assistant James F. Miller, who is working with the board on the re-evaluation project, commercial that the system presently requires a major commitment of the entire college on behalf of relatively few students.
He called for a determination of community and faculty interest and support for the program and said the program should be sustained on a program-by-program basis, and not simply as an overall blanket commitment.
He recommended that if the program is retained, it should be adopted as part of a comprehensive commitment to field placements for all college programs, with few or no exceptions. Continued financing would be required, he said, though some grants might be available….”



(Feb 9, 1977, Utica Newspapers) – “MVCC Studies Cooperative Program Role – The future of the cooperative education program at Mohawk Valley Community College, which permits students to gather experience in the real world while they are learning, will be discussed at a special meeting of the college’s Board of Trustees on Monday.
Russel C. Fielding, chairman of the board, said the trustees would probably make a decision at that time on a proposal to eliminate the program.
The cooperative program allows a student to spend a quarter term as an actual employee in a business related to the student’s field of study.
The college runs programs in accounting, advertising design and production, banking, insurance, real estate, civil technology, electrical technology, mechanical technology, retail business management, science laboratory technology, and secretarial science on a cooperative basis.
Dropping the cooperative program has been related to discussions by the board to switch the college from a quarter to a semester calendar. College President George Robertson said last fall that the cooperative program does not lend itself to the semester calendar….”

On February 14, 1977, Trustees voted 3-2 to eliminate the Cooperative Education program at the beginning of the 1977-78 academic year. The decision to eliminate came after a three-month study by a committee of faculty and a two-hour discussion by the Trustees. President George H. Robertson said the main reason for elimination of the program was to save money in next year’s budget. He estimated that the College would save $218,000 in salaries and other costs….Other reasons he said were that it was becoming harder to find appropriate study-related jobs outside the college and that the college could no longer afford to spend $400 per student for the “co-op” program. The change affected about 450 students in seven academic programs….The change also meant the elimination of five positions, including that of John G. Brereton, director of cooperative education and career placement, and four cooperative education coordinators: Ernest G. Lorenzen, Carmen Scalzo, Eileen K. Wheeler, and Bernard J. Woycik.

(Feb. 20, 1977, Syracuse Herald Journal) – “College to cut cooperative education – The Mohawk Valley Community College Board of Trustees has voted to discontinue the college’s Cooperative Education Program effective Sept. 1.
The trustees said the decision to end the program was taken after a study into other methods of easing budgetary pressure on the college and will mean a net savings of $218,000 annually….
The study report said in part: ‘Budget planning for the next two fiscal years indicates serious financial problems. The college is confronted with increasing costs in salaries, equipment, instructional supplies, contractual expenses and utilities. At the same time, the state is reducing the amount which it provides towards the education of a student. With a limitation on student tuition charges, a reduction in the amount contributed by the state and an overall county budget which indicates little hope for a significant increase in the sponsor’s contribution, it was deemed prudent to examine areas of the college where reductions might be made without seriously damaging the education of the students.
‘The long history of COOP at MVCC and the identification of the program in the community created a natural reluctance to take any precipitous action. Various alternatives were explored, including returning responsibility for COOP to the academic departments.’
The ad hoc committee appointed to study the problem concluded that if a budget constraint could not be avoided, cutting the cooperative education program would cause the least damage.
The report said most colleges do not have such a program, and there is no evidence to indicate graduates of these colleges are less prepared, educated or successful than cooperative education graduates. Thus, the report said, the program is not essential to graduating a ‘qualified, competent student.’
The ad hoc study committee reviewed three other money-saving alternatives:
- Retain COOP in its present form and make reductions in other areas;
- Cut an existing academic program, least productive in terms of cost and student enrollment, and retain COOP
- Retain COOP, but make it elective and for only one quarter instead of the two quarters now required.
‘Realistically,’ said Robertson’s report, ‘none can be carried out without the involuntary termination of personnel. Although COOP has a long tradition at MVCC, it would have the least impact on the academic program if it were disestablished.’
‘Based on a careful review of the four alternatives and a less detailed examination of others, it is considered that disestablishing COOP offers more advantages and fewer disadvantages in achieving the objective than any of the others.’
‘It will mean the fewest number of professional terminations of any of the alternatives. It will be the least disruptive to students, faculty and the community.’ ”