Charles "Boss" Kettering no doubt would be delighted today to see nearly 2,200 students attending classes and working for major companies at the school he helped found 89 years ago in an industrial section of Flint, Mich.
Kettering University — its fifth name over the years — was started by Kettering and a group of leading citizens in 1919 as a trade school. Almost from the start, it was distinctive because it offered a mix of learning and work.
That is still its distinction today.
Kettering University is now a partner with 600 corporations to provide students with a specialized mixture of academics and work experience. About 10 percent of the co-op jobs are at General Motors now; 30 years ago, GM employed all of the co-op students.
The partners include Bosch, Chrysler, Dow Automotive, DTE Energy, Texas Instruments, UPS, Timken and Honda.
Students attend the school for 41/2 years, rotating every three months between working and attending classes. More than 70 percent of Kettering graduates are hired by their corporate sponsor.
In addition to providing valuable work experience, the co-op salary accounts for a big chunk of the $25,248 annual tuition, making college possible for many students who might otherwise have a tough time paying their way.
"I think the co-op program is the best way to ever go to college," said Lori Queen, a 1979 graduate of General Motors Institute — the school's name for more than half a century. Queen is now the vehicle line executive for small and mid-sized trucks at GM. She said: "Mixing real life work experiences with solid course work puts everything in perspective."
Mixing work experience with course work allows a student to fine-tune an academic program to fit his or her evolving needs, Queen said. "It gave you the opportunity to be more selective about your course work based on what you would want to do with your career."