WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced the recent creation of a new initiative that allows more students to gain on-the-job experience with employers in their field of study as part of their Federal Work-Study (FWS) program. The initiative, known as an experimental site, expands FWS opportunities for students at 190 institutions.
Institutions participating in the experimental site will be granted waivers, which encourage them to expand the use of FWS funds to support more students working in the private sector and, for the first time, allow them to pay low-income students for work experiences required by their academic programs, such as student teaching and clinical rotations.
“We know that early, meaningful work experience can be an important stepping stone toward students obtaining good jobs and having successful careers,” said Secretary DeVos. “For too long, Federal Work-Study has put up artificial barriers between education and industry and deprived students from gaining useful experience in their field of study. Rather than working the dorm cafeteria line, students–particularly low-income students–will be able to ‘earn and learn’ in ways that will set them up for future success.”
This experiment also provides additional Job Location and Development (JLD) program funds to participating institutions and expands the allowable uses of those funds, including permitting institutions to contract third-party intermediaries to help them build partnerships with businesses. These job development activities can be used to benefit students regardless of whether they participate in FWS.
During award year 2016-2017, more than 3,000 colleges and universities provided over 600,000 students with FWS opportunities, but less than one-tenth of one percent supported off-campus employment with private sector employers. Current regulations also require private-sector employers, including small businesses, to pay a higher portion of wages than on-campus employment or non-profit organizations, further raising barriers to relevant work experience.
This experimental site is designed to assess whether students are better served when they are paid for work-based learning and allowed access to off-campus FWS employment aligned with their program, as measured by student retention, completion and improved job opportunities after graduation. The experiment will provide important data to inform future policy proposals on Federal Work-Study reform.
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