DeVos plans a pilot program that will allow colleges to use Federal Work-Study funds for private-sector employment. Department also seeks to expand experiment providing Pell Grants to incarcerated students.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said Monday she will launch a pilot program allowing some colleges to use Federal Work-Study benefits for off-campus employment, including apprenticeships and clinical rotations.
The experiment delivers, if on a limited scale, on repeated proposals by the Trump administration to reform the work-study program and connect student aid more directly to careers.
It also marks DeVos’s first use of the department’s experimental sites authority, which allows the secretary to offer waivers to rules governing student aid programs in order to evaluate new policy ideas.
Her announcement Monday also noted that she would look to expand the number of colleges participating in the Second-Chance Pell experiment, which allows a limited number of incarcerated students to receive Pell Grants to attend college courses. A congressional ban on Pell Grants in prisons has been in place since 1994.
The work-study experiment, though, is the clearest reflection of the Trump administration’s ongoing priorities.
The federal government spends about $1 billion annually on the program, which supports student aid as a form of employment. Recent research has shown that the program has positive impacts on college completion, especially for low-income students. It may also help level the playing field in the professional world for disadvantaged students who can’t afford to take on unpaid internships.
But critics of work-study have said that the program is not well targeted to the students most in need of support and does little to ensure that jobs prepare them for careers after college. The government routes work-study funds directly to institutions using a funding formula that favors colleges based on past allocations. So money is skewed toward wealthy private colleges that have a high cost of attendance.
The Trump administration’s experiment doesn’t address funding allocations for work-study; that would require action from Congress. Instead, it would focus on helping colleges match job opportunities with students’ career goals, in large part by promoting more employment in the private sector. Those employment opportunities could include apprenticeships as well as clinical rotations and student teaching opportunities.
“For decades, the Federal Work-Study 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,” said DeVos in a statement announcing the experiment. “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 experiment would aim to measure the effectiveness of working more closely with private-sector employers and measure the impact of more flexible employment rules on student retention and completion and employment after graduation.
Almost 92 percent of Federal Work-Study funds go to on-campus employment, while another 8 percent goes to employment at local nonprofits. Less than one-tenth of 1 percent of funds go to support jobs for students at private-sector employers — a share of total funds the Trump administration would like to… (continue reading article)