Washington Watch: Work-Study experiment is a real opportunity

The U.S. Education Department (ED) last month announced a new experimental site initiative to significantly expand the potential uses of Federal Work-Study (FWS) funds.

The FWS experiment is designed to increase a variety of “earn-and-learn experiences” for FWS students, and it is particularly relevant to community colleges interested in expanding work-based learning. The deadline for expressing interest in participating is July 8.  

Under the general Experimental Sites Initiative authority, the ED secretary may waive specific statutory and regulatory provisions in student aid programs, with the goal of determining how these changes might affect the student aid programs if applied more broadly. Recently, “ex sites” have included the Second Chance Pell Grant project, funding for short-term training and Pell grants for dual enrollment.   

The Trump administration hopes that the FWS experiment will increase private-sector employment opportunities for students, while improving student performance and post-graduation employment, and reducing student debt. In outlining the experimental program, ED said FWS recipients may be better served if more of them receive off-campus opportunities related to their academic programs.  

Waiver areas

Colleges approved to participate in the FWS project may receive waivers to:

  • Lift the FWS restriction to part-time employment to allow full-time employment related to a student’s program (such as clinical rotations or apprenticeships).
  • Eliminate the limit on the portion of an institution’s FWS funds that may be used to support students employed by for-profit organizations.
  • Reduce to 25 percent the share of wages that private-sector employers must cover.
  • Eliminate the requirement to use at least 7 percent of an institution’s FWS funds to compensate students employed in community service activities.
  • Increase the portion of funds that a college may use to hire staff to expand paid internships.

ED wants FWS students to have opportunities to complete required clinical rotations, internships and relevant apprenticeships at the colleges selected for this experiment. The department also may make additional FWS funds available to participating colleges. 

For more information, see the May 23 Federal Register notice. 

Related articles: ‘Better work experiences for Work-Study students’ and ‘ED to expand Pell for prisoners pilot program’

About the Author

David Baime / Laurie Quarles
David Baime is senior vice president for government relations and policy analysis at the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). Laurie Quarles is a legislative resource associate at AACC.