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. You don't pay tuition for the semester that you are out working, but you do pay tuition if you participate in Co-op Summer Session. In that way, you are still paying for 8 semesters at Cornell, but many students find that by applying a portion of their Co-op earnings to tuition, they can reduce the amount of student loans due after graduation. The most up to date information about the Co-op summer courses, tuition, and financial aid is published on the School of Continuing Education website. 


Regardless of whether you are interviewing for a Co-op or an internship, you will need to dress professionally. What “professional dress” means varies among industries and with your personal style preferences. If you’re unsure of what to wear for an interview, consult with an advisor in our office or former Co-op students.

Co-op Summer Session

You pay regular tuition, and financial aid applies to the Co-op Summer Session for students registered with the Engineering Cooperative Education Program. The most up to date information about the Co-op summer courses, tuition, and financial aidis published on our website. Surveyed 2018 Co-op participants estimated that they spent an average of $582/month for housing in the summer in Ithaca and $311/month on other living expenses such as food, transportation, electricity, cable/internet, trash, water, and laundry.

Work Terms

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 recently surveyed 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 Co-op Program 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? We highly encourage employers to do so whenever possible.

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