Co-op at Northeastern had its start in the College of Engineering, originally dubbed the “Co-operative Engineering School.” Founded in 1909, the program entailed alternating single weeks of classroom study with practical work at jobs, a system that helped students to pay for their schooling. This educational game changer was launched with just eight students, who were known as “apprentices” and earned 10 cents per hour. Employers included the Boston and Maine Railroad, Boston Consolidated Gas Company, and Boston Elevated Railway Company.
By 1930, 36 colleges in the United States had co-op programs, but Northeastern led the pack with an impressive 13.2 percent of all the nation’s co-op posts. In 1930–31, Northeastern boasted 1,033 engineering students and 210 business students participating in its co-op program.
During the Great Depression, co-op programs faced major challenges nationwide. In 1932, just 42 percent of Northeastern students landed co-ops, a low point for the program.
Co-op rebounded with the economy, of course, weathering numerous financial storms. Even in today’s economic downturn, 90 percent of Northeastern students have jobs or are in grad school within nine months of graduation.