ED Announces New Experimental Site to Expand Federal Work-Study to Private Sector Jobs

By Allie Arcese, Sr. Director of Strategic Communications & Engagement

By Allie Bidwell, NASFAA Senior Reporter

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Monday announced plans outlining a new experimental site focused on the Federal Work-Study (FWS) program, which would give colleges and universities the flexibility to allow students to receive FWS funds in apprenticeships, internships, required clinical rotations, and other situations not currently included in the federal aid program.

The Trump administration has repeatedly stated its intent to bolster apprenticeships as an alternative pathway to higher education, and has expressed an interest in reforming the FWS program in several budget proposals. Still, President Donald Trump's fiscal year 2020 budget proposal would cut funding for the program by 56%. In fiscal year 2019, the program was funded at $1.13 billion, and the House fiscal year 2020 budget proposal would increase funding by $304 million.

"For decades, the [FWS] program has allowed students to support themselves while earning a college degree, but for too long, the majority of the work options students have had access to have been irrelevant to their chosen field of study," DeVos said in a statement. "That will change with this experimental site. We want all students to have access to relevant earn-and-learn experiences that will prepare them for future employment."

The Department of Education (ED) also announced Monday it is planning to expand the Second Chance Pell experiment by opening it up to new cohorts of colleges and universities. Doing so, ED said in the press release, would allow the agency to improve its ability to "evaluate the program's effectiveness."

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) last month released a report that identified several challenges some participating schools faced—such as establishing eligibility and navigating verification for incarcerated individuals—and urged ED to more thoroughly evaluate the Second Chance Pell pilot program.

According to an announcement posted on the Information for Financial Aid Professionals (IFAP)

Website, institutions participating in the FWS experiment would be granted waivers to "remove limits on the portion of an institution's FWS funds that may support students employed by private-sector companies, increase the number of hours per week an FWS student who is enrolled in a work-based learning program may work, reduce the share of wages that must be covered by private-sector employers, and allow institutions to pay low-income students for work experiences required by their program of study."

ED said institutions interested in participating in the FWS experiment must submit letters of interest no later than 45 days after publication of the notice in the Federal Register. A pre-publication copy of the Federal Register notice was published on IFAP Monday.


Publication Date: 5/21/2019

Wes B | 5/23/2019 9:11:31 AM

The intent is to leverage this experiment to increase business participation in offering internships and apprenticeships. Paid internships and apprenticeships offer another option for students to reduce loan debt now and increase loan repayment post-graduation. As I counsel students, the more options my financial aid office and career services office can provide the better chance we have to see them graduate. This attempt to engage businesses is better than our University's current FWS model where we engage internally or with public service sectors where budgets are already stretched thin.

Jon J | 5/21/2019 12:20:33 PM

Since 75% or even 100% FWS students' pay are covered by the federal government, allowing students to work in private sector jobs would be inappropriately using taxpayer dollars to subsidized for-profit private businesses. Not surprising a move like this comes from the Trump administration.

David S | 5/21/2019 9:40:30 AM

If the administration wants to expand the use of FWS and support a corresponding expansion of funding for the program, we can talk. Until then, they've put us in a position where job one is simply to fight to save programs. Federal financial aid is now a target for budget slashing by this administration so they can pay for tax cuts that almost entirely benefit those who don't need any help. Unacceptable.

And think through another angle of this...cut FWS 56% and refocus it towards apprenticeships, internships, etc. Leaves much less, if any, to use on campus. How many financial aid professionals' careers started as Work Study students in their Financial Aid Office?

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