Group Pushes for Revamp of Work Study Program

Work study, the program that helps low-income students attend college and work to help pay their tuition at the same time, is not working, according to a report released this week from the group Young Invincibles (YI).

YI calls for changes in the formula that provides work study aid to students, writes Emily Deruy of Fusion, and thinks that the program helps expensive colleges that enroll fewer low-income students.  The group believes that the program should act as a reward to community colleges and other non-traditional schools who enroll a higher number of students who receive Pell Grants and federal subsidies.

The choice seems clear to the YI, that funding the educations of many students at an inexpensive school or a few students at an expensive school is a no-brainer.  The group says work study programs for graduate students should be done away with altogether.

Also, the group would like to see students who are on the work study program placed in jobs that match their majors or career interests.  One solution to having students in work study that do not match their interests is to use part of the federal work study funding to reimburse companies that offer internships related to students’ interests, at least in part.

The federal work study’s government funding has shrunk to the lowest rates since 1999, as evidenced by the $920 million funded in 2013-2014 which is down $60 million from 2012-2013.

The actual study is entitled A Federal Work Study Reform Agenda to Better Serve Low-Income Students.  The program was written by Rory O’Sullivan and Reid Setzer, and the project was supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  The document begins by pointing out that because of recession, its sluggish recovery, and the double-digit unemployment rates, there is dramatic competition for positions.  This means that this generation has to acquire a higher-education degree, but also has to have on-the-job training in order to attain job experience and skills.  About 79% of employers are looking for real-world experience from the graduates who are seeking employment in their businesses.

The report includes specific recommendations for reforming Federal Work Study (FWS) in order to  serve low-income students and provide them the experience and skills they must have to be competitive job applicants. They are: designing a new distribution formula focused on enrolling, serving, and graduating Pell students; promoting FWS as a career-ready program through the growth of Job Location Developmental Programs; joining a Career Internships Program with FWS; mandating that students, institutions, and employers agree on what comprises a “course of study”; create a survey of the FWS program to understand further policy reforms needed.

Who are the Young Invincibles?  The group began in a law school cafeteria in Washington, D.C. when Ari Matusiak, Aaron Smith, and other friends saw that young people were not being heard in the health care debate. Since then, they have done their work in partnership with other organizations and with committed individuals nationwide. Jen Mishory, executive director of Young Invincibles, has conducted research and authored many reports on health, higher education, and economic issues facing the Millennial generation.

On the Packard Foundation website, one of YI’s many supporters, a concise but accurate explanation of the group is included.

Young Invincibles was founded in 2009 to create a powerful movement of young adults focused on issues that matter: health, education, and jobs. Unlike previous attempts to organize young people, which were sporadic and targeted toward university campuses, YI engages low-income working young adults, non-traditional students, and young people of color.

09 29, 2014
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