Decades-Old Work-Study Program Faces Major Cuts

"Hannah Zwick put herself through college by working as a fundraiser for her university under the federal work-study program. She liked the job so much that she decided to pursue a career in education," The Associated Press reports. "But future students may not be so lucky. The Trump administration's 2018 budget seeks to cut funding for work-study nearly in half from $990 million to $500 million, leaving 300,000 students without access to the program. The Education Department says the change will make the program better targeted by focusing on undergraduate students who would benefit most. The reductions are part of a 13 percent funding cut for the department, which involves student aid and K-12 programs." 

"... Judith Scott-Clayton, associate professor of economics and education at Columbia University Teachers' College, said work study has shown to have a positive effect on college persistence and completion, especially for low-income students, according to a recent study. 

Under the program, the federal government gives money to college and universities, which covers up to 75 percent of the salaries of undergraduate and graduate students working on campus. Students typically work 10-15 hours per week for an avearage annual award of some $1,730, according to government figures. Typical jobs include community services and tutoring. The program has benefited more than 40 million students over the years.

... But work-study has a flaw, experts say: its funding mechanism tends to benefit higher-income students attending elite private colleges at the expense of low-income students at public institutions. Due to an archaic formula, some money is distributed among established universities that have already been in the program for decades, while another part is divided among schools based on students' financial need, which may benefit more expensive schools where tuition is higher, according to Justin Draeger, president of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators.

Scott-Clayton said the program does need to be re-evaluated and overhauled to make it more equitable, but not cut.

'Cutting funding in half would be catastrophic for the functioning of work-study programs on campuses nationwide, yet would save the federal government very little money,' Scott Clayton said."

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Publication Date: 6/16/2017

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