Does the Federal Work-Study Program Really Work—and for Whom?

By: Judith Scott-Clayton & Rachel Yang Zhou | March 2017

In this brief, the authors discuss current research regarding both the effectiveness of the Federal Work-Study (FWS) program and its equity in terms of the distribution of funds. The authors highlight findings from recent CAPSEE research which suggests that the program does positively influence students’ college attainment and post-college outcomes. The evidence also suggests that these impacts may be greatest for low-income students and students at public institutions. The authors then discuss how the current process for allocating FWS funds to institutions leaves these very students—those who are most likely to benefit—with the least access to the program. The authors conclude with implications for policy, including potential channels that might be used to maximize the effectiveness of the program.

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