Washington, D.C. –U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) today announced the Classroom to Careers Act, new bipartisan legislation that would expand the Federal Work-Study program to allow students in the program to get a full-time job in their field of study. The Federal Work-Study Program provides part-time jobs for undergraduate and graduate students who have financial need. Currently, students enrolled in the Work-Study Program often work in part-time, on-campus administrative jobs at the schools they attend. While these jobs may help students pay for school, they are typically not directly related to students’ career goals and do not usually give them the on-the-job training they need to succeed in the job market after graduation. Gillibrand and Toomey’s legislation would shift the focus of the Federal Work-Study program back to its original intent of giving students employment experience, in both part-time and full-time arrangements, aligned with their field of study through cooperative education and other work-based learning opportunities.
“When college students take on work-study jobs, those jobs should be an opportunity for our students to get the skills and experience they need to succeed in the job market after they graduate,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I am proud to work with Senator Toomey to introduce the bipartisan Classroom to Careers Act to help ensure that our college students are prepared to take on the jobs of the future and keep our economy growing. Congress should be doing everything it can to make sure our students have access to good jobs when they graduate, and that’s exactly what this legislation would do.”
“Co-op programs, such as the program offered at Drexel University, allow undergraduates to gain valuable full-time work experience and develop career skills while still in college,” said Senator Toomey. “This bipartisan measure will make it easier for more Pennsylvania students with financial needs to access meaningful, paid work experiences in their chosen field of study and use their earnings to help pay for college.”
“We thank Senators Gillibrand and Toomey for introducing the Classroom to Career Act of 2019,” said Terry W. Hartle, Senior Vice President, American Council on Education. “Aligning Federal Work Study with cooperative education programs means more students will be able to access the type of immersive learning and comprehensive training that prepares them for success in their chosen careers. We look forward to working with the Senators and their offices to refine this legislation as it advances.”
“This is an increasingly high-tech, global economy — as educators our duty is to provide the tools our students need to be prepared,” said Kristina M. Johnson, Chancellor, The State University of New York (SUNY). “‘Learning by doing’ is one of the most powerful tools we have. SUNY proudly supports the Classroom to Career Act of 2019 which expands the use of Federal work-study for off-campus cooperative education as well as other work-based learning experiences with nonprofit, public and for-profit employers. It will help to align students’ educational experience with their career goals. We congratulate Senator Gillibrand for her leadership in recognizing the valuable role public universities play in educating and training students for the 21st century workforce.”
“Expanding experiential learning opportunities through the Federal Work Study program will enhance the ability of the nation’s colleges and universities to meet the nation’s growing demand for innovation in a changing and dynamic economy,” said John Fry, president of Drexel University. “I applaud Senator Toomey and his Senate colleagues for their foresight on this pressing issue.”
“The most powerful way to learn is by integrating classroom experience with real-world experience,” said Joseph E. Aoun, President, Northeastern University. “By unlocking work-study funds to be used for co-ops and other experiential learning opportunities, students will get off campus and pursue professional work that enhances their education—and creates a lifetime of possibilities. The Classroom to Careers Act is an important step forward for the nation, and I thank senators Gillibrand and Toomey for their leadership.”
This legislation, which does not create any new spending, would simply expand the optional, allowable uses of Federal Work-Study funds. Neither schools nor students would be required to use funds for this purpose. Students would be able to get a full-time job that lasts up to six months and is aligned with their academic study and career interests to put them on a path to a job upon graduation. Because students invest more time in cooperative (co-op) education, and other work-based learning opportunities like apprenticeships, than typically the case for internships, they provide students with a more in-depth and extensive work experience that often gives the participating students an edge in the job market after graduating. Institutions with co-op programs report more than 50 percent of their co-op students accept permanent jobs from their co-op employers.
The Federal Work-Study program helps students with the costs to attend college by subsidizing their pay in jobs. According to the Department of Education, approximately 3,200 postsecondary institutions participate in the program, with the federal government distributing over $1.1 billion annually to provide more than 600,000 students with around $1,700 in annual wages each to help pay for college. Hourly wages must not be less than the federal minimum wage or the state or local minimum wage if higher than the federal rate. Federal Work-Study dollars can be used for up to 50 percent of the total wages in private-sector employment and up to 100 percent of the total wages of public-sector, non-profit, or on-campus employment.
The Classroom to Careers Act is endorsed by the American Council on Education, the American Society for Engineering Education, Drexel University, the National Association of Colleges and Employers, Northeastern University, and The State University of New York (SUNY).