- Colleges should use the Federal Work-Study program to place more of their students in K-12 school support roles, like tutoring, the U.S. Department of Education urged Wednesday.
- To accomplish this, institutions should work with K-12 school districts and the National Partnership for Student Success, a public-private project that helps build student support services, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona wrote Wednesday in a Dear Colleague Letter shared with Higher Ed Dive.
- Cardona also encouraged colleges to use other programs, such as those centered around credit-bearing volunteer or civic engagement work, to help fill student support roles.
President Joe Biden has called for 250,000 new tutors and mentors in K-12 schools in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Low-income students and Black and Hispanic children lost major learning momentum the longer they spent in remote instruction during this time, according to the Center for Reinventing Public Education, a Seattle-based research group.
To help achieve the 250,000 benchmark, the Education Department started the National Partnership for Student Success, or NPSS. The project is a partnership with AmeriCorps, a national network of service programs, and the Johns Hopkins University Everyone Graduates Center, which helps high school graduates prepare for college and adult life.
NPSS assists K-12 schools and districts, as well as local and state governments, with creating and expanding programs that support students’ academic recovery and well-being. As of March, NPSS includes nearly 130 local, state, and national entities, according to Wednesday’s Dear Colleague Letter.
Now, the Education Department wants to use Federal Work-Study to build on this initiative. The program provides part-time employment to college students eligible for Title IV financial aid to help pay for their education. Typically, both the federal government and colleges contribute to Federal Work-Study salaries.
Students and colleges must meet federal requirements to participate — institutions must directly employ the students or strike an agreement with an outside group who will.
The Education Department also said Wednesday a group of 26 colleges has pledged to using Federal Work-Study money to place more students into tutoring and other support jobs. Among them are Arizona State University, Johns Hopkins University, in Maryland, Grand Valley State University, in Michigan, and Howard University, a Washington, D.C. historically Black institution.
“I applaud the 26 colleges and universities that are leading the way as early adopters of this effort by answering the call and partnering with the National Partnership for Student Success in this work,” Cardona said in a statement. “By serving as tutors and mentors, college students can make a positive difference in the lives of children and youth, and ultimately, it is in the best interests of our colleges and universities to help accelerate academic recovery in our public elementary and secondary schools.”
Within two years, all colleges should use at least 15% of Federal Work-Study “to compensate college students employed in community service activities,” Cardona wrote in the Dear Colleague Letter.
Alternatively, colleges could bolster the number of tutors, mentors, student success or postsecondary transition coaches through other funding sources. Regardless, colleges should share with NPSS the number of students taking these positions, according to the letter.
Cardona noted that lack of transportation can pose an issue for students who want to take a Federal Work-Study job off campus. He wrote colleges should provide transportation or cover those costs through funds outside of Federal Work-Study.
Further, the federal government is more generous when paying for community education jobs than other roles that fall under Federal Work-Study, Cardona wrote. It could cover the entire salary of a reading or math tutor, for instance.
K-12 districts should meanwhile work with colleges in their area to try to match students to these jobs, Cardona wrote.