Covering tuition via campus work

By Ellie Ashford and Matthew Dembicki

A rural Texas community college is helping students earn money for tuition by paying them for summer work that needs to be done on campus, from landscaping to tutoring other students.

Northeast Texas Community College (NTCC) President Ron Clinton and Jonathan McCullough, executive vice president for advancement, started Work4College (W4C) in 2014 “to give students an opportunity to stay on campus in the summer and work in jobs that pay more than jobs in the community,” Clinton says.

The program is open to first-year college students and high school juniors and seniors who are dual-enrolled at NTCC.

What the work entails

Participating students work 20 hours a week and earn $15 an hour “for jobs that actually need to be done on campus,” says Clinton, who with McCullough will have a session highlighting the program on March 29 at the American Association of Community Colleges’ Annual Convention at National Harbor, Maryland. Students keep half of their earnings, while the balance is banked toward their tuition, fees, books and/or room and board at NTCC.

Students can earn up to $2,250, with half — $1,125 — going toward the scholarship credit. After completing the program, they have up to two years to use those credits at the college. Ninety-five percent of eligible W4C students have taken classes at NTCC after participating in the program, according to the college.

The program has significantly helped students with college costs. Nearly 80 percent of W4C students remain debt-free, with 20 percent of students in the program taking student loans, according to the college.

An evolving and growing effort

Some of the W4C students work on the college’s 275-acre sustainable farm and others build greenhouses, weed flower beds, take inventory at the college bookstore or work in the student service office as peer tutors. Last summer, two students majoring in education worked at a public school, and others collected food for the college’s food bank.

The program launched as a pilot in 2014 with 15 students working on the college’s farm. It has since expanded to include up to 12 different learning areas across the campus. This past summer, NTCC piloted the program at a local school district by providing students with an opportunity to work at the school they attended.

Clinton would like to expand the program, offer more jobs in the community and align jobs with students’ interests. He also would like to grow the number of participants from 76 students last summer to 120 this year, and eventually up to 300.

In addition to the physical work, participating students must take a summer course covering financial planning, soft skills and college-success skills. The program also includes supervisors trained to serve as mentors.

“Students are not just collecting a paycheck. Our supervisors are working with them to make sure they’re learning how to be successful in the workplace,” Clinton says.

Paying for it

The NTCC foundation raised $2.2 million to endow Work4College and aims to increase that to $5 or $6 million, Clinton says. The college also uses other sources to fund the program. After a campus renovation project, NTCC sold naming rights to classrooms and labs, and some of that revenue supports Work4College. The Greater Texas Foundation also contributed funds, along with other organizations.

“As a rural community college, we have limited resources,” Clinton says. “This certainly is something that has helped our college plant, as well as students themselves.”

This article was originally published in CC Daily.

Ellie Ashford

is a contributor to the 21st-Century Center.

Matthew Dembicki

edits Community College Daily and serves as associate vice president of communications for the American Association of Community Colleges.