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History of Co-op

  • 1919

    In the wake of WWI, Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry President Hollis Godfrey announces Drexel will support the post-war economy by creating a co-op program. The program has just 152 engineering students.

  • 1922

    The first co-op employers join Drexel’s network. Many are initially industrial companies involved in military defense. Some no longer exist, like American Pulley Co. and Pennsylvania Railroad, and a few are still in the network today, like DuPont.

  • 1923-29

    With the success of its first co-ops, Drexel adds a co-op in chemical engineering, business, and retail management, and expands the engineering co-op schedule to five years.

  • 1929

    Drexel responds to massive economic layoffs by approaching smaller employers and extending the co-op work terms. Throughout the Great Depression, the unemployment rate rises from 3.2 percent in 1929 to 17 percent by 1939.

  • 1933

    Drexel takes a neutral stance on the National Recovery Administration and instructs co-op students not to picket or break union strikes.

  • 1934

    Drexel’s four-year co-op in merchandising becomes a five-year co-op in retail management. The historic Wanamaker’s department store in Center City (now a Macy’s) begins hiring Drexel students, largely women.

  • 1941

    The U.S. enters World War II. In April 1940, about 13 million women make up the country’s total workforce; five years later, that number was increased by more than 6 million women in a huge and historic period of growth.

  • 1943

    The five-year retail management co-op is reduced back down to a four-year co-op. An optional four-year co-op in home economics is introduced.

  • 1950s

    During the Cold War, some scholars argue that cooperative education will help to preserve freedom. One writes that cooperative education could teach students that “only the productive can be strong, and only the strong can be free.”

  • 1956

    There are now 62 U.S. schools with some version of a cooperative model. The concept is spreading beyond engineering to business, architecture and other fields.

  • 1958

    In 1958, a group of nearly 400 firms that hire co-op students recommends a formal study of existing working models of cooperative education. The result is a nationwide survey of students, graduates, faculty, administrators and cooperative firms to assess cooperative education and its implication for national welfare. The benefits of co-op reported by students and institutions are striking:

    It gave students greater meaning in their studies.

    It increased motivation for academic work.

    It improved skills in human interactions.

    It made education more affordable.

    It brought faculty closer to colleagues in industry.

    It freed up facilities for students who were on campus.

    It gave business firms a pipeline of trained talent.

    It gave students and faculty great contacts in the field.

    It brought colleges closer to their communities and vice versa.

  • 1963

    The National Commission for Cooperative Education is established, with a goal of doubling the number of cooperative institutions from 60 to 120 within 10 years.

  • 1968

    As part of the Higher Education Amendments of 1968, Congress makes $10.75 million in grants available to help institutions of higher education establish new co-op plans.

  • 1971

    There are now 178 institutions of higher education with some kind of cooperative program.

  • 1989

    More than 900 U.S. colleges and universities now have cooperative programs.

  • 1996

    Approximately 1,000 cooperative programs exist in the United States with approximately 200,000 students participating.

  • 2005

    More than 1,500 universities in 43 countries have cooperative education programs.

  • 2006

    A U.S. News & World Report article names Drexel one of the best “fully co-op” schools in the country.

  • 2019

    Today, there are many cooperative programs in existence, but only a small number of universities are fully committed to experiential learning, with full-time, long-duration, for-credit alternating work periods and a centralized, formal employer role in curriculum design.

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