The Attributes of
Cooperative Education Programs
The Attributes of Cooperative Education Programs provide a
conceptual framework that advances cooperative education as a discipline
and are the foundation on which the accreditation process is established.
Programs of cooperative education can now be accredited based on their
adherence to this model. It is recognized, however, that any process
will evolve, and elaboration of this model will be no exception.
College and University representatives participating in the Cooperative
Education Network, the discussion group which founded the Accreditation
Council for Cooperative Education, have subscribed to the following Attributes
of Cooperative Education Programs:
Institutionalizing Cooperative Education
Literature of the educational institution must include:
- Descriptions of the mission and goals for the cooperative education
- Definition of cooperative education as an academic program.
- Identifying information as to the disciplines which provide for cooperative
education in the curriculum.
- Location of the program coordinating office(s).
The institution must have established written criteria defining:
- Student eligibility for the cooperative education program, with policies
for student participation.
- Employer participation in the cooperative education program, with
policies defining the cooperative relationship.
Admission of students to the cooperative education program must be the
responsibility of the educational institution.
A formalized plan should exist for the alternation of campus-based classroom
study with multiple periods of work experience. Time spent in the work
portion of the curriculum should encompass a significant portion of the
overall degree program (minimum guideline - 20% of the total time) to
be an effective augmentation to the curriculum. (No cooperative education
program consists of 100% Summer employment. This is a Summer Employment
The institution will have in place formalized alternation of periods
of full-time classroom study with periods of full-time work experience
approximately equal in length to the classroom periods.
- Baccalaureate programs Curriculum includes at least one academic
year of multiple terms of full-time work experience. (Normally totals
at least 30 weeks, depending on the institution calendar.)
- Two-year academic programs and graduate-level programs. Curriculum
includes a minimum of two work periods , one of which is not a Summer
term. (Normally totals well over 15 weeks due to the "two-work-period" definition.)
The student will be classified by the educational institution as, at
least, a half-time student. The institution will have in place a formalized
plan for a work experience component which will encompass approximately
one-half of a regular work-week in length.
- Baccalaureate programs Curriculum includes four or more work/school
combination periods scheduled over, at least, two academic years .
(Normally totals at least 60 weeks, depending on the institution calendar.)
- Two-year academic programs and graduate-level programs Curriculum
includes two or more work/school combination periods scheduled over,
at least, one academic year . (Normally totals at least 30 weeks, depending
on the institution calendar.)
Combination Alternating / Combination Parallel
Combination Alternating plans meet the defining features of full-time
alternating models, in addition, they include one or more parallel
components. Combination Parallel plans meet the defining features of
parallel models, in addition, they include one or more periods of non-alternating
- Baccalaureate programs Curriculum includes multiple combinations
of parallel and full-time work-experience periods (including non-Summer
terms) that result in the approximate equivalent of 30 full-time workweeks.
- Two-year academic programs and graduate-level programs Curriculum
includes multiple combinations of parallel and full-time work-experience
periods (including non-Summer terms) that result in the approximate
equivalent of 15 full-time workweeks.
In the disciplines which provide for cooperative education in the curriculum,
faculty will have endorsed the fundamental policies for the program and
approved the methods for awarding credit for periods of cooperative work
There should be a productive relationship between the overall faculty
in academic departments including cooperative education in the curriculum
and the faculty and/or administrators who operate the cooperative education
The formalized plan for the cooperative education program must include
a description for students that indicates cooperative education involves
alternating multiple periods of work experience with multiple periods
of classroom study. The work periods are to be integrated with the curriculum,
not occur previous to the initial school term or after the final school
term has been completed. It will also specify that once a student is
enrolled in the program, continuation in the alternation is expected
over a significant portion of the remaining curriculum.
Cooperative education work experience periods are considered as a formal
part of the student’s curriculum. The student must be registered
with the educational institution for the cooperative education work experience.
Prior to employment, participating students are provided with either
an individualized or group orientation to the purposes and policies for
the program and expectations for student involvement.
Efforts should be made to ensure that cooperative education work experiences
are related to student academic and/or career goals. Ideally, a student’s
work scope and/or area(s) of responsibility should broaden and/or involve
progression to increased responsibilities with advanced education.
Evidence of each period of cooperative education participation must
be documented on the official institutional transcript of the student.
Official documentation of participation, progress, employer evaluation
of the student and student evaluation of each work experience must be
The educational institution should have in place a process to monitor
student workplace experiences.
Student performance in each work period must be evaluated. In place,
must be a methodology to assist the student in assessing work experiences
and integrating classroom studies with the practical knowledge obtained.
Students should receive a form of academic credit for the periods of
cooperative work experience. The type of academic credit awarded should
be determined by the faculty in the educational institution. Possible
Student Benefits and Requirements.
An attempt must be made to ensure that employers, as well as students
and the academic institution, equally, meet individual objectives of
the cooperative education program for it to be of maximum value to each
as separate entities.
The educational institution should provide employers with written statements
of the institution’s goals and policies applicable to employer
participation in the cooperative education program.
In place, should be a commitment of cooperation between participating
employers and the academic institution to ensure student workplace learning
as well as an agreed-upon process of evaluating the student’s work
An understanding should exist between the educational institution and
participating employers as to the exchange of information required to
ensure achievement of student, academic and employer goals for program
There should be evidence of commitment on the part of the educational
institution to encourage participating employers to maintain an on-going
employment relationship within the cooperative education framework that
lasts beyond a single student’s participation and/or beyond a single
A fundamental purpose of cooperative education is for students to have
an opportunity to learn under real-work conditions. While on cooperative
work experience periods, students are considered as actual employees
of the hiring organization. These "conditions" of actual employment
- The student will be considered to be an employee of the hiring organization
and subject to the policies and laws that relate to other employees
of the organization.
- The student will receive compensation in the form of wages for work
- The student will be under the supervision of the employer and perform
work assigned by the employer.