Lakeland University Blog

LU partners with local employers to benefit students

LU partners with local employers to benefit students


LU partners with local employers to benefit students

When students graduate from high school, they often think they need to choose between work and college. Lakeland University has created a new program with major local employers that lets students do both.

Lakeland’s Learn & Earn Program allows new members at partner companies to complete a full year of college while beginning their career at a company invested in their success. The three initial partner companies are Sargento, Masters Gallery Foods and Johnsonville, LLC.

The program is designed for upcoming or recent high school graduates who may want to earn a four-year degree, but due to a variety of reasons they have decided to enter the local workforce and not continue their education.

Learn & Earn leverages Lakeland’s innovative Cooperative Education program, which allows students to earn academic credit for professional work experience along with their academic courses.

Lakeland will work with the student’s employer to create a schedule that will allow them to balance their academic and career goals. Students in the Learn & Earn program will join a community of like-minded students who will be on the same academic and career journey.

“We want local high school graduates to understand that they don’t have to pick between college or work, they can do both,” said Rachel Carlton, dean of Lakeland’s Kellett School for Undergraduate & Graduate Studies.

“And when individuals realize how affordable their education can be thanks to this partnership, it will truly open doors. Our Co-Op team is able to help individuals navigate the application process and help determine the types of careers individuals may be best suited for, leading to long-term success.”

The program addresses the cost of school, which can be a barrier for many students and their families.

“By pairing Lakeland scholarships with competitive employer wages and tuition benefits, students can start their career and finding an affordable way to complete a college degree,” Carlton said. “Our program puts students in a position to graduate with little to no debt.”

For the employers, the program is a new way to recruit members and expand their skill sets.

Johnsonville Owner Ralph Stayer said, “Other companies use their people to build a business, but at Johnsonville, we use our business to build our people.”


Lakeland will assist students in choosing an employer partner that will be a match for their career goals. Lakeland’s Co-Op team will help students navigate the application and on-boarding process with their chosen employer.

Upon hire, students will have a customized work schedule allowing them to work and take classes with a cohort of students who are on the same academic and career journey. Students will complete a full year of academic coursework, including Cooperative Education courses where students earn credit for their work-based learning.

The program follows a national trend of marrying work and going to school as a way for students to earn a college degree.

“With the cost out of reach for many families, a recent national study found that 74% of all parents of K-12 students would consider a route where their child would be hired directly out of high school by an employer that offers a college degree while working,” Carlton said.

“One thing that has remained consistent is that college graduates on average earn more money during their lifetime and are less likely to be unemployed than those without a degree.”

To learn more, visit the program’s website at or email

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