Student Academic Performance and Compensation: The Impact of Cooperative Education

Article excerpt

Much of the cooperative education research seeks to document the effectiveness of cooperative education programs. One branch of this research considers the impacts of participation on student performance. This study contributes to that literature by examining these impacts in further depth. Specifically, we examine the effect of cooperative education on grade point average, length of time in school, and starting salary. Statistical analyses show that cooperative education programs have significant effects on all three measures. These measurements are useful not only to students deciding whether to participate in cooperative education programs, but also to university administrators seeking to assess program effectiveness.


Many colleges and universities participate in cooperative education (coop) programs in which students enroll in alternating semesters of full-time study and full-time paid employment. Typically, successful completion of the program requires at least twelve months (the equivalent of 3 semesters) of full-time work with the employer in addition to completion of the student's degree requirements.

The potential benefits to students of participating in the coop experience include gaining a real-world perspective that enhances the student's academic experience, becoming a more mature individual as a result of working with professionals, and improving job placement and salary prospects at the time of graduation. In return for these benefits the student potentially delays graduation. For students and university administrators to make informed decisions these costs and benefits of cooperative education need to be quantified.

Stull, Crow, and Braunstein (1997) surveyed cooperative education administrators and members of the Cooperative Education Association (CEA) Research Committee about the relative importance of a variety of research topics relevant to cooperative education. Of the 22 topics provided in the survey, research that "provides quantitative data on the impact of cooperative education participation on recruitment, retention, academic performance, and graduation (time and rate) of students" ranked as the second most important topic, receiving an average score of 4.14 on a 5-point Likert scale. The research presented here is designed specifically to address this research need.

Previous research has found mixed results when measuring the effects of cooperative education. Gardner, Nixon, and Motschenbacker (1992) estimated that the coop experience added nearly $300 to starting salaries. Wessels and Pumphrey (1996) found that coop participation only raised wages for female graduates. Both Gardner, Nixon and Motschenbacker and Van Gyn, Cutt, Loken, and Ricks (1997) found that the grade point averages of coop students were higher than those of noncoop students. However, no differences between groups were found when comparing the scores on the objective form of the College Outcomes Measure Program exam (Van Gyn, Cutt, Loken, and Ricks). Lindermeyer (1967) found that coop students have higher academic averages and retention rates.

Our specific objectives can be grouped into three main areas of inquiry. First, what is the effect of participation in a cooperative education experience on academic performance? Second, what are the market benefits of participating in a cooperative education program? And third, what are the costs associated with the cooperative education experience? To answer these questions we examine three main variables: cumulative grade point average at the time of graduation (GPA), the number of months from first college enrollment until graduation, and reported starting salaries.

The first section of this paper describes the dataset used. The next section outlines the procedures used to perform the analysis and presents the results. To illustrate the effect of cooperative education, we estimate econometric models of GPA, duration of undergraduate enrollment, and starting salaries. …


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