HANCEVILLE, Ala. – Wallace State Community College is among a select group of colleges and universities in the United States invited by the U.S. Department of Education to participate in a new Federal Work Study (FWS) Experiment.
Wallace State, Birmingham-Southern College, the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the University of South Alabama are the institutions from Alabama selected for the 190-institution experiment.
“This experiment aligns with our goal to establish work-based learning and apprenticeship opportunities for virtually every program of study we offer, which is the focus of our new Center for Career and Workforce Development,” said Dr. Vicki Karolewics, president of Wallace State. “We are honored to have been invited to participate in this important national program, which has the potential to transform the experience of so many students.”
The U.S. Department of Education stated, “Our goal is to determine whether FWS could enrich the academic experiences of students by creating and engaging them in program-related employment that can better prepare students for competitive jobs after graduation,” in a fact sheet on the FWS Experiment.
FWS provides federal financial aid-eligible students with part-time employment to help pay for higher education expenses. Approximately 90% of FWS wages are paid to students employed in on-campus jobs that frequently do not align with their program of study or future career interests. Less than one-tenth of 1% of FWS funds provided to more than 600,000 students served by 3,000 institutions in 2016-17 supported off-campus employment with private-sector employers, according to the U.S. Department of Education, due to restrictive regulations.
This experiment allows more flexibility for colleges in determining student eligibility, the number of hours a student can work, the amount of work that can be performed in the private sector and potentially the wages paid to students in the FWS program. Through the experiment, FWS funds may also be used to pay eligible students who are completing required work-based learning experiences—such as clinical rotations or apprenticeship programs.
The experiment will test how changes to the FWS program will increase partnerships between institutions and industry, reduce the amount of student loans taken out by students and yield strong retention, completion and post-graduation employment outcomes. Through the experiment, institutions will be able to provide students with experiences that are better-aligned to what they are studying and what they hope to do after they graduate.
Section 487A(b) of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, authorizes the Experimental Sites Initiative (ESI). These experiments evaluate the effectiveness of rules for administering the federal student aid programs by allowing a limited number of institutions to test alternative methods.
Additional funding for institutions to use in identifying and cultivating private-sector work-study partners is also available through the FWS experiment.
If successful, the department will learn whether these efforts should be applied more broadly.
This is Wallace State’s second experimental site award. The college was also selected to participate in the Department of Education’s Pell for Dual Enrollment Experiment several years ago.
Click here to view a list of institutions invited to participate in the FWS experiment.