College Students Receive Significant Raise

Blackburn College students have received a 108% increase in compensation for their work in the college’s nationally known Work Program. Each student at Blackburn is required to participate in the Work Program, working 10 hours per week in exchange for tuition credit. Formerly receiving $2,640 per year in the program, freshman students will now receive $5,550 per year.

“We looked at the value of Blackburn’s Work Program and the important role played by students here,” noted Blackburn College President John Comerford. “Students provide the backbone of the operational labor to keep the college going, and the college simply couldn’t run without their input. Student compensation had remained at the same level for several years and we felt it was important to recognize the value they provide in their roles as student workers and bring it more in line with today’s economy.”

“With the state’s continued budget struggle and the uncertainty of funding for higher education, helping students achieve their educational dreams is what we need to do. It lies at the heart of Blackburn’s mission.”

John Comerford,
President, Blackburn College

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“With the state’s continued budget struggle and the uncertainty of funding for higher education, helping students achieve their educational dreams is what we need to do. It lies at the heart of Blackburn’s mission.”

Blackburn College’s Work Program was initiated in 1913 by President William Hudson. First started as a self-help program to allow area students to enroll in college and help in the operational needs of the school, the program has grown to be an integral part of the college. Blackburn has the only student-managed Work Program in the U.S. The entire student workforce is spread throughout 12 different departments and completely managed by students.

The origins of Blackburn’s Work Program came at a time when the college was struggling to keep the campus buildings maintained and the entire school functioning at an adequate level. Dr. Hudson proposed and began the Work Program as a way to improve the college and also allow greater educational access for students. Blackburn has the distinction of being a campus where most of the buildings were actually built by students. Over the years, ten buildings have been constructed using student labor.

“The Work Program provides great experience for all students as they learn the importance of individual contribution, teamwork, communication, leadership and management skills, and the personal satisfaction of a job successfully completed,” added Robert Weis, Assistant Dean of Work. “Of course, the Work Program also allows many Blackburn students an opportunity to attend college by providing a significant tuition credit to make it more affordable. Because of the Work Program, Blackburn students carry much less student debt than the national average.”

The objective of the Work Program is to facilitate student learning and development in eight areas: personal responsibility, social responsibility, effective communication, adaptability, interest in learning, leadership, effective problem-solving/analytical skills, and job-specific knowledge. Student work learning and development is accomplished through the student’s active engagement in work, internship, and service experiences both on and off-campus, and guided with the active support and collaboration of college faculty and staff “teaching supervisors,” community partners, and student leaders.

“This unique environment of education and work leads to success,” Comerford continued. “Blackburn graduates have a 99% placement rate into grad school or the workplace, six months after graduation. And, this rate is based on a 98.5% response to the graduate survey. In recent years, 100% of biology majors, who have the recommendation of faculty, have been accepted into graduate school programs, and many computer science majors have job offers before graduation.”

Alumni cite the Work Program as a major influence in their personal lives and careers.  Most immediately recount how the Work Program taught them “how to work” — how to work with and manage other people, time management and communication skills, teamwork, and specific job skills tied to the positions they filled as student workers.

There are a variety of positions filled by students at Blackburn and each job function is important to the daily life and business of the school. While some students work in operational areas like food service, grounds keeping, and building maintenance, others work in areas demanding very specific skill sets such as constructions crews, teaching assistants, lab assistants, peer counselors, admissions workers, graphic designers, writers, technology workers, photographers, theatre production staff, academic department workers, business office workers, athletic department workers, radio station, student newspaper, safety and security, and community service positions in area non-profit organizations.

“The Work Program is a community effort, with student work being relied upon to help provide virtually all services essential to college operations,” said Weis. “By sharing, belonging and contributing through their work, students gain an added sense of community engagement.”

Founded in 1837, Blackburn College is a four-year, Presbyterian-related, co-educational liberal arts college located in Carlinville, Illinois. One of the seven work colleges in the U.S., Blackburn is the only one with a student-managed Work Program. Blackburn was also ranked by US News as one of the Top 50 Midwest Colleges in 2016 and the #5 Best Value in Regional Colleges in the Midwest; and The Washington Monthly ranked the college as the best baccalaureate college in Illinois for 2016 and among the top 50 in the U.S.

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Press Contact:
​Peter Oswald

Source: Blackburn College