Federal Work-Study Fact-Checked

"One of the rare areas of agreement between Democrats and Republicans these days might surprise you: leaders of both parties are critical of a financial aid program that provides jobs to about 600,000 students," Kelly Field writes for the Education Writers Association.

"President Donald Trump  proposed slashing funding to the Federal Work-Study (FWS) program in his 2019 budget proposal. He said the 54-year-old financial aid program was outdated, inefficient and ill-designed 'to advance students' career and training opportunities.' FWS, he added, needs to be dramatically restructured to 'to both improve its targeting and its ability to provide students with career-oriented training.'

This comes after eight years in which the Obama Administration also cut the program (by about 10%), despite inflation and student demand for jobs that far exceeds the currently funded supply.

Why is a program that is popular with students and parents the subject of bipartisan criticism in Washington? Is the political opposition justified? To help journalists covering college affordability issues, here are some fact-checks of the most common criticisms of the work-study program, and resources to help you better dig into impacts of the program (and the proposed cuts) in your community.


Complaint 3: We don't know if work study “works”

Actually, the research is pretty clear: Work-study jobs, overall, do help students.

True, the work-study program has never been subject to a randomized control trial, and the government doesn't track outcomes by student aid program. But some recent quasi-experimental research finds mostly positive effects for students working a part-time job on campus (as long as students don't work more than 20 hours a week).  It found that while participating in federal work-study may dampen students' grades in their freshmen year, it ultimately increases their odds of completing a bachelor's degree and finding employment. Low-income students and students at public colleges saw the biggest gains.

The study's authors say these findings suggest that lawmakers should consider either increasing spending on the public two-year and four-year colleges that educate a majority of low-income students or re-writing the funding formula to put those institutions at less of a disadvantage.

In fact, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators concludes that 'overall, the literature seems to point to positive effects for students participating in FWS.'"

NASFAA's "Headlines" section highlights media coverage of financial aid to help members stay up to date with the latest news. Inclusion in Today's News does not imply endorsement of the material or guarantee the accuracy of information presented.


Publication Date: 2/20/2018

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