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Q1: What is cooperative education (co-op)?

A:  Co-op is an educational program in which students mix periods of academic study in the classroom with periods of Co-op employment in positions related to their academic and/or career interests. This combination provides an integrated learning experience that enhances both the academic experience and career development.  Students participating in the pilot year of PSU CO-OP can opt to either work full time or part time (this option may vary from employer to employer).  When working part time, students will be required to take up to 9 credits of classes.

Q2: How do I qualify for PSU CO-OP?

A: Students need to review and complete this form. Once the form is completed, students will be contacted by a PSU CO-OP adviser who will help them determine whether they meet the requirements outlined by the respective College, School or Department before approving their placement in the PSU CO-OP prep course all participants are required to complete prior to starting their first co-op experience.

International Students will not be eligible for PSU CO-OP during the pilot year of this program. 

Q3: When do students start Co-op?

A: Students typically start their co-op during the Winter or Spring term of their Junior year.

Q4: How long is a Co-op?

A: The Co-op position is full or part time employment for a period totaling between 1000 and 2000 hrs (6 to 12 months full time equivalent). Actual length of the employment and work hours vary by company. Possible scenarios include 2 co-ops at 2 quarters at full time engagement each, 4 quarters at a part time (20 hr/week) engagement.

Q5: What does PSU do to prepare students for co-op?

A: Students prepare for their co-op experience by taking a mandatory co-op preparation course taught by the PSU CO-OP faculty. This one credit course covers topics such as career exploration, resume writing, interviewing skills, and professional etiquette in the workplace. Students are also encouraged to take advantage of Career Services, which provides workshops, mock interviewing sessions, daily drop-in hours and individual one-hour counseling to graduating seniors, alumni, and students preparing for co-op as well as a variety of other topics (e.g. choosing a major, career/life planning, and interviewing techniques.) 

Q6: How do students get a PSU CO-OP job?

A: Students need to be qualified to participate.  They begin the qualification process by reviewing and completing this form. Once submitted, they will be contacted by a PSU CO-OP adviser who will help determine their eligibility for the pilot year of this program. Students selected for the program will be eligible for job placements, once they have completed the required one credit prep course. Once the course is successfully completed, the student will begin working with their co-op adviser, meeting individually with him/her to review appropriate positions and apply for jobs that are of interest to the student and for which the student is qualified. Similar to any job search, the employers review resumes and select students for interviews. Employers (not the Co-op coordinator) make the final hiring decision.

Q7: When am I eligible to enter the Co-op program?

A: Qualifications may vary depending on your Major.  Typically students are eligible to apply when entering their junior year. Students must have completed one or two terms as a junior in order to be placed with an employer. Eligibility requirements for majors participating in the pilot year of PSU CO-OP can be found here.

Q8: Can I take courses while on a Co-op assignment?

A: That depends on whether you are on a full time or a part time co-op.  During your full time co-op you will maintain matriculation at PSU by paying the requisite fee per term, but you will not be taking any courses. You are expected to be a fulltime employee during your assignment.  Part time co-op students are typically required to work 20 hrs per week and can take classes as they see fit.

Q9: Will I get paid during my PSU CO-OP experience?

A: Yes. Wages for co-op positions are set by the company. Remember, however, the primary reason for obtaining a cooperative education position is to gain valuable experience, training and skills directly related to your field of study.

Q10: What do I do if I'm offered several PSU CO-OP positions?

A: First, congratulations on having options. As with any other job-seeker, choose the job you think is most in line with your interests. But remember, you only have a limited amount of time to make your decision.  Be sure to notify the other companies whose offers you decline. Your PSU CO-OP adviser will help you complete the necessary paperwork to accept a position. You must accept the job as it is described by the hiring company and no salary or other benefit negotiations will be allowed.

Q11: Will my financial aid be affected if I participate in PSU CO-OP?

A: Your financial aid will placed on temporary hold while you are on your co-op assignment. However, when you return to the University as a full-time student your financial aid will resume.

Q12: Can I continue working part-time with my co-op employer after my term ends?

A: Normally you need to return to full-time studies at the end of your co-op, so no continued association is expected. However, if a company expresses an interest in having you continue to work for them part-time while you return to full-time student status it would be at your discretion to continue that association.

Q13: Who should I contact for more information about PSU CO-OP?

A: Send an email to co-op@pdx.edu with your questions, and a PSU CO-OP advisers will respond.

Q14: When do I start searching for a PSU CO-OP position?

A: Students work with their PSU CO-OP adviser to begin identifying possible co-op experiences once accepted into the program.  They begin applying and interviewing after they have completed the required one credit prep course, usually at the beginning of their Junior year.

Q15: What steps do I take after being accepted into the pilot cohort of the PSU CO-OP program?

A: First, you will complete the one credit prep course. Then, you will work with your adviser to identify jobs you are interested in and for which you are qualified. Once you have identified appropriate jobs, you will interview and hopefully be selected for the job. If selected, you must inform your PSU CO-OP adviser. PSU wants students to report all offers, and subsequent acceptance within a week of accepting an offer. This is important because it prevents the student's resume from being sent to other employers.  

Q16: What if I am unhappy in my Co-op position?

A: The employment contract is between you and the employer, so contact your manager, mentor or employer HR representative and try to resolve the situation.  If somehow that’s not an option, contact your PSU CO-OP adviser immediately. Discuss your concerns with the adviser and together you will determine an appropriate course of action to resolve any problems you may be experiencing.

Q17: Can an employer fire me from my co-op?

A: With "just cause" an employer can fire you from your co-op. Should this occur, a panel of University representatives will convene to determine the academic disposition and/or resolution of the case. The student will then work with their PSU CO-OP adviser to learn from the situation in order to prevent future problems.

Q18: Do I retain my full-time student status when participating in PSU CO-OP?

A: Yes. The University recognizes that you are involved in a full-time academic experience. This enables students to remain active on their parent's or guardian's insurance policy and avoid loan repayments from being activated. However, students receiving financial aid are required to check with the Office of Financial Aid to confirm the impact of the work experience on their financial aid (since they are not registered in full-time coursework). Generally, scholarships are not available when students are on co-op assignments.

We strongly discourage taking classes during your full-time cooperative education experience. It is imperative that you remain focused on your co-op experience with the company and not be distracted by class assignments and exams. Taking classes could be detrimental to both your grades and your work experience.

Q19: Do employers assist with housing if the work experience is in a distant location? 

A: It is not the employer's responsibility to locate housing for you. Managing this issue is part of cooperative education learning experience. Some employers offer subsidized housing or provide a housing allowance. Some employers have purchased homes and/or apartments they lease to students. Other employers have housing committees that assist students. Some employers even have housing available at no cost to the students. Many employers have multiple students participating in work assignments, which means that students can share housing in the area. Still, employers may not offer any housing assistance. Make sure to ask the employer during your interview if you have questions about housing issues.

Q20: Will the employer evaluate me during my PSU CO-OP experience?

A: Yes. Your PSU CO-OP adviser will have evaluation forms for both you and your supervisor to complete before the end of the term. Your work supervisor will complete the evaluation, share it with you, and return it to our office. In addition, you need to complete your evaluation of the employer and experience, share it with your supervisor, and return it to our office. NOTE: Employers may substitute their own evaluation forms.

PSU CO-OP will review each evaluation and file them in your student record. All paperwork of this kind must be submitted to your PSU CO-OP adviser. No co-op will be credited toward graduation until such paperwork has been completed and submitted. 

Q21: During my PSU CO-OP, do I observe the university's or the company's schedule and holidays?

A: You will follow your employing organization's policies andprocedures and observe their holiday schedule. The University holiday/break schedule is not applicable to students during their work assignments.

Q22: How far along in my academic program should I be before applying to PSU CO-OP?

A: Most students begin applying in the fall of their junior year in order to begin their co-op in the winter or spring of the junior year.

Q23: Do I have to maintain my health insurance while enrolled in PSU CO-OP?

A: Yes. For additional questions about health insurance, speak to your PSU CO-OP Adviser.