Sheboygan, Wis. — Lakeland University is providing an opportunity for students to gain real-world work experience, earn wages, and earn college credit while pursuing a college degree. The Sheboygan private institution offers this to its students, in the form of Cooperative Education.

“We’ve partnered with hundreds of area employers since we started this four and a half years ago,” said Jessica Lambrecht, Lakeland University’s Associate V.P. of Cooperative Education and Career Planning. “Our students can work for companies year-round at various credit loads, but ultimately be able to land a better than an entry-level job with minimal debt.”

Students can begin earning credit through work-based experiences as early as their freshman year. They have a professional staff member working with them as a mentor, guiding them through the working world. They work with students on everything from how to dress professionally to how to manage their wages to pay down tuition.

“I have substantially decreased my loans this semester,” said Emily Federspiel, who is working for CliftonLarsonAllen as part of this co-op program.  

She recently got offered a full-time position, post-graduation. It’s the first time this company has offered employment to a student this early on in the program.

“I was very surprised because I wasn’t expecting to get an offer so soon, but I was also very excited,” Emily said.

“We see good things in her,” said Ryan Gartman, Tax Principal at the public accounting firm. “Enough to say we want you here next year and even two years from now when her senior year is complete.”

Lambrecht adds that last fall, 90% of Lakeland University’s freshman class enrolled with an interest in cooperative education. Co-op education can include marketing, hospitality, computer science, manufacturing, accounting and beyond.

Lambrecht adds the university partners with certain companies that offer both housing and tuition scholarships to participating students.

“We just graduated our first class after developing the program, but many of them go on to stay in Sheboygan County,” Lambrecht said.

Wisconsin’s Department of Financial Institutions reports more than 700,000 Wisconsinites have federal student loan debt.