COOPERATIVE ENGINEERING EDUCATION
An Explanation of the Co-Op Fee
The Office of Professional Practice Program (Co-Op) at Purdue University was instituted in 1954 in the School of Mechanical Engineering. By 1963, the program had been adopted by all the Schools of Engineering and has prospered since that time. When the faculty initiated the program, it insisted that Co-Op be a high-quality, professional, educationally-beneficial venture between the Schools of Engineering and employers which complements and enhances the academic activities. Consequently, the faculty specified that Faculty Coordinators, professors in the respective engineering schools, administer the program rather than "Co-Op Professionals" who have no faculty status.
In May 2013, the fee was reduced significantly from $914 to $400, and this will remain in effect for 2 years and then follow tuition increases. Since this fee reduction, the Office of Professional Practice is working on a project to further reduce the fee burden on the students and increase the number of students that the office serves.
Although the fee has been lowered, the Co-Op Program requires significant resources within the university to assure that these requirements are met. The faculty recognized that need and stipulated that those students participating in the program bear some major responsibility for funding the program. Consequently, a "registration and service" fee was instituted which is charged for each work session. As tuition and fees have increased over the years, the "Co-Op fee" has increased accordingly.
The income from the fees covers only a fraction of the actual cost of operating the program. The balance of the program cost is paid from the general operating funds of the university. The direct costs include the salaries and operating expenses of the Director's office and personnel. The estimate does not include additional expenses incurred by the Registrar, Bursar, Residence Halls, or any other administrative office at Purdue. It also does not include any expense incurred by the schools in offering special courses for Co-Op students or for additional course offerings required to accommodate Co-Op students. The Schools of Engineering have not experienced an increase in funding in line with the increased enrollment. Consequently, each Faculty Coordinator has been asked to do more in less time and with fewer resources.
What do you, the Co-Op student, get for the money you pay? This question has been asked frequently, with many feeling that the value received does not justify the fee. Much of the activity from which you benefit is not readily visible to you - whether on campus or at work. To help you understand just how you benefit from the fees you pay, we will attempt to explain how the program functions, where the money goes, and some of the problems you would encounter if the program were not supported by your fees and Purdue.
The Office of Professional Practice Program has a current budget of approximately $450,000. This budget supports the half-time faculty Director and a full-time Assistant Director, one full-time clerical Program Assistant, one part-time secretary, and a part-time computer programmer. Only $44,500 of this budget is available for the supplies and expenses of the operation. You may occasionally have contact with the Director's office, but much of what happens in our program is initiated or conducted by this office. You may have learned about our Co-Op Program in high school from a booklet or brochure generated in the Director's office. Some of you heard a presentation in Freshmen Engineering Lectures given by the Director. All materials you receive are generated, prepared, and distributed by this office. All inquiries by employers, active or potential, are handled here. Each new employer is guided through the process of becoming an approved employer by this office. The Director and Assistant Director visit many of the active or prospective employers to resolve problems, assist in improving their programs, help with the approval process, or to visit Co-Op students and review their activities. Should there be a problem with an employer, the Director is the one charged with attempting to resolve it. All interfaces with the administration are the responsibility of the Director. The Director's office funds and supports the PPA (Professional Practice Ambassadors) in its efforts to improve our program.
All arrangements for and the operation of the February "Co-Op Days" are the responsibility of this office. The ballrooms, tables, and chairs must be scheduled four years in advance. Each active Co-Op employer is contacted during the fall to determine their recruiting plans for the next year - requiring two separate mailings and at least one phone call to over three hundred employers. All materials given to you at the Callout Meeting were prepared by this office. Your interviews were scheduled by a computer program developed and operated by this office, and your interview schedule was distributed to your Faculty Coordinator. All student resumes were sorted and provided to the interviewing employers, along with their interview schedules. The Workshops on Interviewing were arranged and sponsored by the Director's office. Literature from employers was solicited and distributed to each Faculty Coordinator. An Employer Advisory Board, supported by the Co-Op program, meets during Co-Op Days to advise us on our program, its problems and challenges.
In general, many of the things which assist the Faculty Coordinators and our employers in doing their jobs and maintaining the high quality of our program are the responsibility of the Director and his office. If these activities were not effective, Purdue's Co-Op Program would not be as highly-respected throughout the nation and you would likely not be receiving a quality Co-Op experience.
Many of the activities which directly affect you occur behind the scenes. If we did not spend considerable time screening potential employers, you might not get the high quality work experience that employers value when recruiting graduating Co-Op students. If we did not contact employers and work out problems, you might find your Co-Op employment terminated before you completed five work periods with no opportunity for another job. If we did not work with the Registrar, Bursar, and Residence Halls, you would encounter extreme difficulties in registering and finding on-campus housing, not to mention the extreme aggravation you would encounter in attempting to gain re-entry to Purdue after "dropping out" to go to work. In some cases, you would be treated as a "CODO" or transfer student and might not be able to re-enter your school if your GPA were less than 3.5. If the faculty did not value the Co-Op Program and support it, you would not be able to obtain the courses you need each time you return to campus. If you are not registered for a work session course by paying the fee, your guaranteed student loans would become due when you went to work rather than when you graduate. Many of our efforts are not readily visible to you, but are necessary so you can concentrate on obtaining the best possible experience without having to worry about many of the details. The objective of our operation is to provide you the opportunity for a quality experience which would be unavailable unless we meet our responsibilities. The only additional element required for a successful Co-Op experience is your willingness to accept your responsibilities and pursue the opportunities and challenges of the Co-Op experience.
If you have questions about the operation of the Co-Op Program, you may contact the Director of Professional Practice or your School Co-Op Coordinator.