Co-op Finances

Co-op students speak positively about the financial impact of participating in the Co-op program.

What Expenses Should I Anticipate?

Anticipating and understanding how any new experience might affect your wallet is a wise decision. While you don't pay tuition for the semester that you are out working, your savings will vary based on your living expenses.

During Your Work Term

Expenses can vary significantly depending on the cost of living in a given location and whether a student has the ability to live rent-free with family near their co-op. Additionally, about half of surveyed Class of 2019 co-op participants reported receiving some sort of housing compensation from their co-op employers.

You will be earning a salary while you are out on Co-op, and former students indicate that with planning, you may be able to save quite a bit of your earnings for other purposes.

  • Surveyed students who paid rent reported spending an average of $857/month on housing and estimated an average of $520/month on other living expenses.
  • You don’t pay tuition to Cornell when you are out working, but you do pay $15 to be enrolled in absentia. In absentia is a type of registration that allows you to maintain student status at Cornell while being out on co-op.
  • As you consider companies that you might want to work for, factor in transportation expenses. Does the location have reliable public transportation? Can you ride a bike to work? Can you live within walking distance of the company? Do you have a vehicle? Do you have the means and desire to buy a vehicle and incur the associated maintenance costs? Transportation expenses may influence where you decide to submit applications and how you conduct your co-op job search. If you want to do a targeted job search to keep your expenses low, consult with the Engineering Career Center staff regarding your job search strategy.
  • In terms of housing, factor in whether furniture is available in the accommodations that you consider.
  • Will the company pay for your transportation expenses between Cornell or your U.S.-based home at the beginning and end of the co-op? 

Finally, remember you are in charge of your search, and you are not assigned to work for a specific employer. Employers make offers, and you should weight these financial factors in your decision-making.

image of Tilka Persaud

My advice is to really emphasize who you are as a person when you get the chance to network with employers in person. Show them that you're capable and perfect for the position in the way you interact with them. Another piece of advice would be for career fair: after going to places you want to prioritize, speak to companies that focus on stuff you're interested in beyond the ones that are advertised for Co-ops. People may be open to turning internships into Co-op positions, and if not, you may get a back up plan with an offer for a summer internship. Regardless, there's a very strong chance you'll get a Co-op if you're persistent in the search and persistent in networking.

— Tilka Persaud '21, Chemical Engineering, SiO2