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SAU partners with local manufacturers to create job opportunities for students

"Earn Your Way" site visit

Spring Arbor University has partnered with two manufacturing companies to provide an alternate means for students to help pay for college. Working in partnership with Bill Rayl of the Jackson Area Manufacturing Association, the “Earn Your Way” program was born out of the need to help retain current students that have a desire to graduate from Spring Arbor University, but are lacking the funds to make it a reality. There is also a need in the Jackson area manufacturing industry for individuals who will show up for work, do a good job and pass a drug screen. After meeting with a number of local manufacturers, SAU has selected two companies, Alro Plastics and Hi-Lex Controls, to launch its pilot program.

Beginning this week, eight SAU students will begin working flexible schedules at Hi-Lex, around their classes and other responsibilities, and five more students will begin working at Alro plastics in a couple of weeks. They can work up to 20 hours a week earning significantly more than minimum wage. “A few of the hurdles that needed to be cleared were the willingness of the partners to be flexible around our academic calendar and class schedules, and the lack of transportation to and from the job site,” said Willie Lewis, Director of Academic Support Center and co-chair of this pilot program. “Our trepidation was unwarranted because both Hi-Lex and Alro had a willingness and open mind about catering their schedules to meet the needs of our students.”

Kevin Brown, Chief Diversity Officer and the other co-chair of this program, further explained the program’s challenges: “The transportation hurdle was a real concern for us working with Hi-Lex Controls in particular, because of its distance from campus in Litchfield (21 miles each way). We were able to create a shuttle to the job site at Hi-Lex Controls and they were willing to fund the cost of the shuttle for our students. Despite the distance, our students were excited to participate in a program that would help to alleviate the financial stress of paying for college. This program will potentially give this group of students the opportunity to leave Spring Arbor University with a bachelor’s degree and significantly reduced debt.”

One of the added benefits of the program is the potential for students to move to full-time employment during the summer in order to set themselves up for fiscal security for the next school year. The students in this pilot are aware of the need for a school-work balance, and they have agreed to an extra level of scrutiny and support around their coursework and academic progress.

Earn Your Way is a multi-departmental effort that serves as a network to ensure the long-term success of participating students. The departments include the Business and Financial Aid offices to coordinate and monitor students fiscal stability, the Career Development office which operates as the liaison between corporate partners and Spring Arbor University, the Academic Support Center office which will monitor, assess and assist students in their maintenance of the work/school balance to ensure they have academic success and the Office for Institutional Diversity, which is part of the advisory committee that will manage the overall success of the program and its community connections.

The Earn Your Way program is part of Spring Arbor University’s commitment to affordability and an expression of the desire to serve as a viable community partner in helping to meet the needs of our business community. This pilot is one of many efforts seeking out innovative approaches to provide a liberal arts education to students while also giving them the means to effectively afford it. SAU is hoping to partner with Lo-Mar Machine and Tool, as well as Industrial Steel Treating Company, early next year as it seeks to add a variety of business partners and more students.

If you would like more information about the Earn Your Way Program, please call the Office of Career Development at 517-750-6711, or visit their webpage.