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

By: Judith Scott-Clayton

Abstract

This Brookings report 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?

Judith Scott-Clayton argues that two recent trends in higher education provide the program with newfound relevance: first, an increasing recognition of behavioral and structural barriers to college persistence and completion (not just financial ones), which on-campus employment might help address; and second, the increasing importance of internships in the post-college job market, in combination with the fact that access to such internships is often unequal by family income. The available research on FWS, while not definitive, suggests that it improves both degree completion and the likelihood of employment after college, in part by replacing off-campus jobs with more academically compatible on-campus ones.