NASFAA on Tuesday unveiled a report showcasing the components needed to optimize Federal Work-Study (FWS) at the campus level, as well as recommendations to improve the program at the federal and institutional levels.
The project, funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is based on six-month’s worth of research conducted by NASFAA and Public Agenda, including a literature review and policy scan on the administration and impact of FWS. Surveys and focus groups of NASFAA and National Student Employment Association (NSEA) members who administered FWS were also utilized to capture promising practices and innovative ways to administer FWS programs, as well as the challenges schools and administrators face.
The surveys largely showed respondents feel the allotment of funding for FWS is too low, too few students are taking advantage of FWS positions, and not enough data is being collected on the program and its students to determine the best use of resources, Erin Knepler, associate director of higher education and workforce programs at Public Agenda, said at an event hosted by NASFAA for the report’s release.
According to Knepler, the focus groups overwhelmingly expressed a high level of commitment to FWS and were passionate about making the program a good experience for needy students. However, they also expressed concerns about a lack of financial support for the program, as well as a lack of knowledge at their institutions about the benefits of the program.
“I think a lot of this boils down to educating students and parents about the program, the benefit of FWS and student employment as a whole,” which could help reduce the amount a student needs to borrow to pay for college, Ann Wessman, assistant director of the office of student aid at Iowa State University, said.
Overall, the research showed that “optimally functional and innovative” FWS programs incorporate the following seven components:
The report also includes a total of 17 recommendations based on the research that address the project goals for different groups of stakeholders. For policymakers, the report recommends that they revise the campus-based allocation formula and expand the definition of the community service requirement.
The report recommends institutions use FWS to reduce loan borrowing and indebtedness and identify ways those working with FWS can be innovative in addressing the program’s policies and procedures. Additionally, where possible institutions should also have a staff position dedicated to implementing innovative practices for FWS, and should examine best practices and implement peer monitoring for FWS students. The report also recommends that cross-campus relationships be built and leveraged to achieve goals for FWS and the FWS pipeline be streamlined for easier and more-widespread use of the program.
In addition to the recommendations for institutions, the report released yesterday state that the Department of Education (ED) and higher education associations like NASFAA should increase the capability of institutions to gather, examine, share, and utilize data on practices related to FWS and look for innovative ways to increase the effectiveness of FWS in helping students reach their educational or career goals. ED or other groups should also implement a national FWS survey, develop a best practices toolkit to help school improve their programs, and develop a data infrastructure and support for data use, the report says.
Going forward, future research on FWS should be conducted, as well as research on the real-life experiences of students in the program, according to the report. The types of jobs FWS held and the outcomes of those jobs and how FWS is affected when awarded with different combinations of student aid should also be examined in the future.
Head to our NASFAA Research on Federal Work-Study page for more on the research conducted or to download and read the Literature Review and Policy Scan Report, the National Survey Report, and the Focus Group Report.
Publication Date: 6/29/2016