Co-op program gives students more options

Manuel Patterson cringes at the idea of a new semester slowly approaching next month. But the senior co-operative computer information systems student said it’s not because finals are around the corner or even the hassle of arranging his schedule for the next semester, but the process of actually being a co-op student.

Co-op students attend classes at both universities, satisfying their major and minor requirements, depending where classes are offered.

The co-op programs, between Florida A&M University and Florida State University were started in the late 1960’s.

“I can’t remember a time when it wasn’t here,” said Greg Beaumont, associate dean and director in the Office of Undergraduate Studies at FSU.

Programs offered through FAMU co-op are engineering, journalism, pharmacy and ROTC. The idea behind the co-op program is the opportunity of taking classes that are not offered at your own institution of study.

“It’s purpose was to provide an avenue to meet degree requirements and self-enrichment desires of select students through enrollment at both schools,” said FAMU

Registrar Michael James.

The now defunct Board of Regents once heavily controlled programs, and FSU and FAMU went through a process of swapping programs in the 1960s. FSU got the law school, and dropped its school of journalism. FAMU obtained the school of journalism in 1983.

The school of engineering co-op especially bonds FAMU with FSU.

“(FSU and FAMU) have a long-term marriage with the school of engineering, ever since it was built in the 1970s,” Beaumont said.

A student could study anything, anywhere and have these opportunities, but there are some conflicts that arise with being a co-op student.

“It’s a hassle,” Patterson said. “Every semester, every year.”

There is a lot of paperwork involved and hours of collecting signatures. A co-op student must be very persistent.

“Every semester I have to fill out paperwork with my adviser, the chairperson of the department, the dean, the co-op rep of FAMU, and then get a signature of whoever is teaching the course at FSU,” Patterson said.

Traditional students enjoy the luxury of signing up for class through online databases, without ever stepping foot into their designated departments or obtaining approval signatures.

Approval signatures are always required for a co-op student.

“Course availability and obtaining appropriate dean/departmental permission presents a challenge to students,” James said. “However, personnel in both schools’ registrar’s offices have always maintained a very good working relationship and problems are worked through quickly and efficiently.”

“They can’t go course shopping,” Beaumont said. “If your course is offered at your home institution, you have to take it there, but there are cases where exceptions are made.”

Such exceptions are conflicts with a work schedule if a class is only offered at one time of day.

“We try to make allowances, these programs aren’t restricted,” Beaumont said.

Patterson, however, has a different view with their selective space.

“FAMU doesn’t want students to take classes at FSU because they want to keep the students here.”

“Both schools, of course, strongly advocate enrollment at the parent school and the students must go through appropriate procedures to enroll in courses. The program was not conceived or designed to accommodate a large number of students,” James said.

The number of FSU co-op undergraduate students is estimated to be only 1 percent of the 37,000 registered undergrads. At FAMU, it is an even smaller number of just 70 students that co-op at FSU.

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