History of Cooperative Education

Herman Schneider and the University of Cincinnati

While at Lehigh University at the beginning of the 20th Century, Herman Schneider (1872-1939), engineer, architect, and educator, concluded that the traditional classroom was insufficient for technical students. Schneider observed that several of the more successful Lehigh graduates had worked to earn money prior to graduation. Gathering data through interviews of employers and graduates, he devised the framework for cooperative education (1901). About that time, Carnegie Technical School, now Carnegie Mellon University, opened and thereby minimized the need for Schneider's co-op plan in the region around Lehigh University. However, in 1903 the University of Cincinnati appointed Schneider to their faculty, and later, 1906, allowed him an experimental year to implement his plan. Following that year, the University of Cincinnati gave him full permission for the co-op program.

Schneider, beginning from the rank of Assistant Professor, would rise through the rank of Dean of Engineering (1906-1928) to become President (1929-32) of the University of Cincinnati, based largely upon the strength of the co-op program. Throughout his career, he was an advocate for the co-op framework. His thirty years of service to the University of Cincinnati are partly credited for that institution's worldwide fame.

In 1965, The Cooperative Education and Internship Association (CEIA) created "The Dean Herman Schneider Award" in honor of the contributions made by Dean Schneider in cooperative education. The award is given annually to an outstanding educator from faculty or administration.

Post-Cincinnati evolutions

In 1909, seeing the possibility of co-op education, Northeastern University began using co-op in their engineering program, becoming only the second institution to do so in this country. By 1919, Antioch College had adapted the co-op practices to their liberal arts curricula, for which reason many called co-op the "Antioch Plan."

In 1922, Northeastern University emphasized its commitment to co-op by extending it to the College of Business Administration. As new colleges opened at Northeastern, such as the College of Liberal Arts (1935) and College of Education (1953), they became co-op schools as well. By the 1980s, Northeastern was the acknowledged leader in co-op education across the world, a distinction that remained throughout the 1990s.

In 1926, Dean Schneider invited those interested in forming an Association of Co-operative Colleges (ACC) to the University of Cincinnati for the first convention. The idea took hold, and was followed by three more annual conventions. In 1929, the Society for the Promotion of Engineering Education, now called American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), formed the Division of Cooperative Engineering Education, incorporating the membership of the ACC.

In 1961, the Ford and Edison Foundations commissioned a study of co-operative education, published as Work-study college programs; appraisal and report of the study of cooperative education. The result of that study resulted in the formation of the National Commission for Cooperative Education (NCCE). NCCE remains today to promote and lobby for co-operative education in the United States. Its membership is comprised of sponsoring corporations and organizations (not individuals) from academia and business.

By 1962, about 150 academic institutions used co-op education, in one form or another, many were outside of engineering. The need for professional support of non-engineering programs became obvious, and the membership of ASEE, in 1963, began the Cooperative Education Association. To reflect its membership more accurately, it was eventually (sometime in the 1990s or early 2000s) named the Cooperative Education and Internship Association, it remains today as the professional association for co-operative education outside of ASEE.

Much of that early efforts of NCCE focused on lobbying and promotion of co-operative education. In 1965, the federal Higher Education Act provided support specifically for co-operative education. Funding continued from the federal government through 1992, when Congress ended its support of co-operative education. In all, a total of over $220 million was appropriated by the federal government toward co-operative education.

In 1979, educators from Australia, Britain, Canada, and the United States (Northeastern's President, Kenneth Ryder), met to discuss work-related programs in their respective countries. In 1981 and 1982, this group, headed by President Ryder, convened an international conference on cooperative education. In 1983, several college and university presidents, educational specialists, and employers from around the world (including Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, the Philippines, the United States and the United Kingdom) formed the World Council and Assembly on Cooperative Education to foster co-operative education around the world. In 1991, it renamed itself the World Association for Cooperative Education (WACE). By 2005, that Association boasted a membership of over 1,000 individuals from 43 different countries.