CIC Launches A Multi-Year Work-Based Learning Initiative for 25 Member Institutions

The Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) WBL Consortium is a national network integrating work-based learning into the curriculum. Powered by Riipen, the leading work-based learning (WBL) platform, the consortium will create more equitable internship and work-based learning opportunities for students at small to midsized independent colleges and universities.

By integrating real-world, employer-designed projects into existing courses, 11k+ students at 25 member institutions will gain valuable skills, real work experiences, and professional connections that will help propel their future careers.

Program Overview

CIC has selected 25 institutions to participate in the inaugural WBL Consortium through a competitive selection process. Each institution is represented by a team of five full-time faculty members, a career services professional, and the chief academic officer.

The five faculty champions will integrate work-based learning projects into new or existing upper-division courses (i.e., primarily for juniors and seniors) for the next three academic years: 2023–2024, 2024–2025, and 2025–2026. The remaining members of the team—the career services professional and the academic officer—play vital supporting roles, helping to assure that the work-based learning projects align with other curricular goals and career preparation activities on campus. All team members will be closely involved in evaluating the success of the WBL Consortium.

To support this campus-based work, each participating institution receives the following resources:

Free access to Riipen’s work-based learning platform (an equivalent value of at least $65,000 over the duration of the project) 

Intensive training in integrating work-based learning into a liberal arts curriculum 

Participation in the virtual community of practice coordinated by CIC

$7,500 in faculty stipends (i.e., $1,500 for each of the five faculty champions)

$1,500 to support work-based learning events for students

$1,600 to support project evaluation

Project Objectives


CIC member institutions will be selected for the project that includes a multi-year partnership with Riipen to train educators, design WBL experiences and collaborate with employer partners.


WBL experiences for learners to foster stronger post-graduation career outcomes and enhance student learning.


Faculty champions will learn best practices for integrating work-based learning projects into their courses.


CIC member institutions can apply to the WBL Consortium to form an active community of practice to integrate work-based learning into the curriculum and access resources to support faculty members to design future courses.

Project Timeline

June 30, 2023: Application deadline.
July 2023: Selection of 25 participating institutions.
August 2023: Launch of the community of practice.
September–November 2023: Intensive training of faculty champions on the Riipen platform and course design.
Spring 2024: First round of work-based learning (WBL) courses.
September–December 2024: Evaluation and review of the first series of courses by the Community of Practice campus teams. Data collection and course control by the external evaluator at the 25 member institutions.
Spring 2025: Second round of WBL courses.
September–December 2025: Evaluation, assessment and review of the second round of courses by the Community of Practice campus teams. Data collection and course control at the 25 member institutions and data collection from alumni who participated in the first series of WBL courses by the external evaluator.
Spring 2026: Third and final round of WBL courses.
Summer 2026: Compilation of course materials for the online library. Final evaluation of the network's impact and documentation of the change in the work-based learning landscape at the 25 participating institutions by the external evaluator.
September–December 2026: Data collection and course control on the final round of WBL courses as well as alumni outcomes assessment from the previous round of WBL courses by the external evaluator.
January–June 2027: Complete data collection assessment and post-course evaluation with faculty on the successes and challenges in offering Riipen-integrated courses by the external evaluator.
December 2027: Release of the WBL Consortium report to all CIC member institutions.

How the WBL Consortium Works

Project Implementation

Webinars and training. Participants will engage in a series of webinars with Riipen staff, learning best practices for using the platform, integrating work-based learning projects with industry partners, and establishing successful collaborations with peers at similar institutions.

Platform setup. Riipen will create a dedicated hub for the network on its marketplace and develop individual landing pages for each participating institution. Faculty members will receive guidance on setting up their course pages and recruiting potential employer partners.

Access to resources. Participants will gain access to Riipen's extensive library of work-based learning resources, templates, and case studies, allowing them to effectively design and implement courses tailored to their specific needs and institutional contexts.

Ongoing support. Throughout the project, Riipen and CIC staff will provide continuous support to the institutional teams, working closely with them to ensure successful course launches and revisions for each academic year.

Collaboration and knowledge sharing. Institutional teams will meet regularly, facilitated by CIC and Riipen staff, to share their experiences, challenges, and successes in integrating work-based learning into undergraduate courses. This collaboration will foster a community of practice focused on the continuous improvement of work-based learning in CIC member institutions. 

Project Funders

Ascendium Education Group is committed to making education and training beyond high school a reality for more people. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, we fund initiatives across the U.S. that help learners from low-income backgrounds achieve upward mobility; provide student and employee success solutions to colleges and businesses; invest in education-focused innovations to improve learner outcomes; and provide information, tools and counseling to help millions of borrowers successfully repay their federal student loans. While we have many roles, we have one goal — elevating opportunity by creating a world where everyone can rise to their highest potential. 

To learn more, visit

Providing access to college degrees isn’t enough. That’s why Strada Education Foundation focuses on stronger connections between postsecondary education and opportunity in the U.S. and focus on helping people whom our systems have failed to serve equitably. We advance this mission through research, grantmaking, social impact investments, and public policy solutions. We collaborate with students, educators, employers, policymakers, and other partners to help create more equitable pathways to prosperity. 

Learn more at

About CIC & Riipen

The Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) is an association of more than 700 nonprofit independent colleges and universities, state-based councils of independent colleges, and other higher education affiliates, that works to support college and university leadership, advance institutional excellence, and enhance public understanding of independent higher education’s contributions to society. CIC is the major national organization that focuses on services to leaders of independent colleges and universities and state-based councils.

Learn more at

Riipen is a work-based learning platform helping educators, organizations, and learners collaborate on real industry projects to bridge the gap between higher education and employment. With a network of 27000+ employers and trusted by 430 academic institutions and training providers, Riipen helps educators integrate real-employer projects into program curriculum leading to improved student engagement and employability outcomes.

Learn more at

The WBL Consortium will:

- Foster stronger post-graduation career outcomes for participating students, including  smoother pathways to a fulfilling career, and a clearer sense of the relationship between academic achievement and workplace skills.

- Empower 125 faculty champions to integrate customized, work-integrated learning projects into their curricula, transforming 375 courses over three years.

- Provide a national community of practice for the integration of WBL into the curriculum at small to midsized independent institutions, generating best practices and resources for faculty members so industry-aligned education can continue to thrive outside of the consortium.

- Adopt a robust evaluation framework collecting insights from students, faculty, and employer partners on the design, implementation, and impact of WBL experiences. Quasi-experimental design through student evaluation will explore the relationship between exposure to work-based learning experiences and learning outcomes, as well as post-graduate outcomes upon entering the workforce.