At Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho, the Presidential Work Scholars program is designed to reduce student loan debt, according to Erin L. Cassetto, work scholars coordinator.
“The program is modeled after the Work College Consortium in which students are incorporated into the community and campus workforces where they gain valuable work experience and professional skills in addition to their degree,” Cassetto said. “Tuition scholarships and stipends are awarded to highly motivated individuals who demonstrate academic success as well as financial need. Additionally, students may earn internship credit for their LC Work Scholars experience.”
Under the Lewis-Clark system, supervisors and worksites, also selected based on extensive criteria, are tasked with providing jobs that are meaningful, necessary, and separate from work-study positions already offered on campus, Cassetto said. The program requires students to work a minimum of 10 hours per week at their assigned positions while fulfilling their regular class schedules. All LC Work Scholars are required to participate in community service projects. By purposefully integrating work experience and community service into the traditional academic environment, the LC Work Scholars program helps students build a pathway to real world success while reducing the financial burden of higher education.
The mission of the program is simple.
“LC Work Scholars provides students the opportunity to acquire professional skills and gain experience while offsetting the need to rely on student loans, reducing tuition costs, and offering a pathway to employment after graduation,” Cassetto said.
A critical component in instituting the Presidential Work Scholars program is to help students by reducing personnel costs, yet facilitating student development and meeting goals of the specific department. According to Cassetto, initial results indicate that LCSC will benefit from greater efficiency (improved student retention and success), better service to under-resourced (or economically-challenged) students and their families, and an augmentation of its lean work force.
“LCSC has the lowest tuition of any of Idaho’s four-year institutions, and runs on the leanest staffing levels of white and blue-collar jobs,” she said. “LC Work Scholars are working meaningful jobs with carefully controlled schedules compatible with their classes. The institution benefits from the addition of the Work Scholars as part-time workers. Professional development is not limited to the students participating in the program, worksites are also using the program to provide staff members with the opportunity to gain supervisory and leadership experience.
“LCSC’s student body is comprised of 68 percent first generation college students, Cassetto added. “As such our students are presented with some unique obstacles, economic barriers are often at the top of this list. Students who previously juggled multiple jobs off campus are frequently at risk for leaving the institution. These same students now solely work for the LC Work Scholar program and are reporting increased engagement with the “whole college experience” and have reported “less stress.” The enhanced oversight and mentoring of students who receive frequent, structured interaction from their supervisors as well as advisors, has led to meaningful career discussions and student retention. Students who felt scattered and stretched between school and multiple part-time jobs, now are able to focus their energy on collegiate life and career goals.”
Students who participate in the Work Scholars program are placed in a variety of auxiliary service areas including:
LCSC Bookstore – (Follett) – hosts a Work Scholar as a “Retail Team Lead”
Campus Security – has openings for Work Scholars as “Campus Security Officers”
Events and Campus Card Services – hosts a Work Scholar as a “Marketing Assistant”
Center for Arts and History – hosts a Work Scholar as an “Exhibit Development Coordinator”
Still in its inaugural year, the LC Work Scholars program received strong support from the Idaho State Board of Education and Idaho State Legislature, and is now receiving rave reviews from both the students and supervisors involved.
“The Work Scholars program is an innovative solution to the age old riddle of ‘how to creatively fund a meaningful education,’” LCSC Technical and Industrial Division professor and position supervisor Rob McDonald said. “It is commendable in that it combines the dual aspects of providing a gratifying work experience for our students, while simultaneously rewarding them with the ability to continue their education.”
To be eligible, LC Work Scholars must maintain a full course load and a 3.0 cumulative GPA. Last semester, 70 percent of the participating students made the honor rolls; 80 percent self-reported reducing or eliminating their reliance on student loans; and 70 percent self-reported that they reduced or eliminated their reliance on additional employment (other than their work with LC Work Scholars).
A Junior at LCSC, Brandon Beeson has been working as a marketing assistant for Events and Campus Card Services (housed in the Student Union Building) under the LC Work Scholars program. Beeson’s supervisor Julie Crea, director of events and campus card services, has been delighted with what he has already accomplished.
“Brandon’s creativity has been an asset to our department,” Crea said. “He hit the ground running with the creation of table tents, flyers, and metal work.” Beeson created manufactured metal pennants sporting LCSC’s logo for the Student Union Building.
Beeson believes the skills he is learning at the SUB through Work Scholars will continue with him well beyond LCSC. He admits that the tuition scholarship and stipend drew him to the program initially, however the program has given him much more than just money.
“The Work Scholars program has made me more marketable to employers,” Beeson said.
Erin Cassetto specializes in the successful development, implementation, and management of programs focused on workforce training, talent retention and organizational development. Erin’s reputation for creativity and innovation has allowed her to lead multi-state corporate teams and lean non-profit crews. As coordinator for the Work Scholars program at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Erin has been charged with the launch and development of a program unique in the state of Idaho.