Federal Work Study Experiment opens doors for additional student earning

May 28, 2020Andrea Vasquez
Federal Workstudy Experiment 2020

San Jacinto College is one of 190 colleges and universities that have been selected by the U.S. Department of Education to participate in its Federal Work Study Experiment. The experiment will test how changes to the Federal Work Study Program will increase partnerships between institutions and industry, improve student retention and completion, reduce student debt levels, and yield strong post-graduation employment outcomes.

According to the Department of Education, more than 90% of Federal Work Study wages are paid to students employed in on-campus jobs that frequently do not align with their program of study or future career interests. Additionally, in 2016-2017, at least 3,000 colleges and universities provided more than 600,000 students with Federal Work Study opportunities, but less than one-tenth of 1% supported off-campus employment with private-sector employers. Current regulations require even small-business employers to pay a higher proportion of wages as compared to on-campus employment or off-campus employment at non-profit organizations, further raising barriers to work experience that may be better-aligned to the student's future employment goals.

"This will be a great opportunity for our students to expand their work experience with outside employers that can give them firsthand industry experience in their chosen career pathway," said Robert Merino, San Jacinto College dean of financial aid services. "The Federal Work Study Experiment will also allow students to earn additional wages with increased hours rather than having to stick to the current 19.5 hours per week."

Institutions participating in the experimental site will be granted waivers, which encourage them to expand the use of Federal Work Study 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.

"Financially speaking, employers are able to hire employees without having to fully commit to the amount it would typically cost to employ someone," said Brittany Bonds, San Jacinto College career services coordinator. "They also help students gain that valued experience and build a relationship with the College, which supports workforce development in those industries."

Bonds also added that providing Federal Work Study students with these new work experience opportunities also allows them to build better resumes that will help them land those first full-time jobs after completing their degree or certificate programs.

"Having Federal Work Study funds available for students to work off campus also means that students will have more practical, real-world experience that can support their skills, qualifications, and professional experience on their resumes, which will be a great advantage when they step into the job market," she said.

Due to San Jacinto College moving to altered operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Work Study Experiment will be implemented once the College is able to transition back to normal operations. For more information about work study, financial aid, and other employment resources and opportunities available to San Jacinto College students, visit sanjac.edu/financial-aid and sanjac.edu/career-services.