Federal Work-Study: Past Its Prime, or Ripe for Renewal?

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The Brookings Institution

Federal Work-Study (FWS) is on the chopping block: the Trump administration’s recently-released budget summary seeks to cut program funding by nearly 50 percent, from $990 million to $500 million, and to “reform the program to ensure funds go to undergraduate students who would benefit most.” Many observers have expressed surprise that the administration would take aim at the program—which seems well-aligned with conservative ideals around personal responsibility and work-based learning—even as President Trump takes executive action to support and expand apprenticeships. In this research article, the author discusses the theory and evidence relating to work-study to answer the question: is the idea of work-study past its prime? Or might the program have a unique and valuable role to play in a modern “college completion and career readiness” agenda?

Federal Work-Study Program, social mobility, human capital