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Co-op Program at the University of Waterloo

The University of Waterloo's has a co-op program, whereby students earn an average of $37,000 to $77,000 over the course of their education

Photo of Melanie McDougall
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"Waterloo is a university you may never have heard of, but if you talk to anyone in Silicon Valley they’ll probably tell you the university is a source of some of the best employees and entrepreneurs. The president of Y Combinator, one of the most influential backers of new tech companies, traces the roots of eight successful startups to Waterloo.

Waterloo operates the largest co-op education program in the world, meaning almost half of its 30,000 students alternate between four-month periods on campus and in the workplace. Because of co-ops, Waterloo students are accustomed to toggling between long stretches in the classroom and the work world while constantly refining and reflecting on what they learned in both places." - Washington Post 

The University of Waterloo's co-operative program offers a sustainable method for students to pay for their education. Not only do students earn an average of $37,000 to $77,000 over the course of their education, but graduates from the co-operative program have relevant work-experiences that will increase their chances of finding employment after graduation and repaying their student loans. 

References:

University of Waterloo - Co-operative Education

https://uwaterloo.ca/co-operative-education/about-co-operative-education

University of Waterloo - Paying for your education

https://uwaterloo.ca/find-out-more/financing/paying

Article from the Washington Post: 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/grade-point/wp/2015/09/23/when-students-have-choices-among-top-colleges-which-one-do-they-choose/


What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

We should re-imagine the divide between work and education. How can the two be better integrated so that individuals can gain the skills that they need in order to contribute to the working world.

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Photo of Akshay Hingwe

Hey Melanie,

This was a really great contribution. Interestingly, I conducted two interviews for recent graduates and some common responses involved the fact that they learned more with "real world" work experience as opposed to learning in a classroom. The university I currently attend requires business graduates to get experience through mandatory internships, but it seems that this model is far superior in terms of actual learning value. Moreover, this model actually allows students to pay for themselves through college! I wonder if there is some way for this to be incorporated into existing universities as the norm. Thanks!

-Akshay

Photo of Melanie McDougall

Hey Akshay,

I think that would be great. I guess the only question is are there enough placements in the workplaces for the students, and would the workplaces be able to financially support so many placements. I think in order to incorporate a huge number of placements we would have to do some work with the government and workplaces to make that a sustainable option. 

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