Link to information about starting and operating a Student Cooperative.
Student cooperatives are established to meet a variety of specific needs related to their student status and lifestyles. Membership includes a share in the establishment which is relinquished when the member is no longer a student. The cooperative is democratically governed by student-members, typically on the basis of one-member, one-vote. However, smaller cooperatives may use consensus or modified consensus to make decisions. Although members are students, the bylaws of student cooperatives sometimes require that the board also include alumni, university officials, or other non-students.
Housing and food cooperatives are the most common types of student cooperatives. Others include child care and bookstore cooperatives. In each case the cooperative addresses a member need, such as lower costs and student-focused services. For example, student housing cooperatives usually offer reduced costs, close proximity to campus, and amenities such as meals, internet services, and utilities. Housing cooperatives may also accommodate lifestyle desires related to social activities, academic pursuits or diet preferences.
Student cooperatives are distinctive because of high membership turnover. For this reason, the infrastructure must be designed to offer needed stability and continuity. Student cooperatives often include a staffing structure and policies that encourage employment longevity. The infrastructure usually also includes established rules and operating practices, mechanisms for ongoing training and education, and an operating system designed for relatively short-term membership and high turnover. Including board members who are former members is another mechanism to address issues created by high turnover. Organizations such as the National Association of Student Cooperatives can be particularly useful in supporting needed stability.
Besides reduced costs for basic needs such as housing and food, student cooperatives provide other important benefits. Students can participate in the management of their cooperative and learn valuable business and organizational skills. In cooperative housing, students may also gain valuable experiences by living with people from different cultural and social backgrounds.