Part II: Federal Work-Study Reporting

Reminders about job descriptions, federal share, community service and other requirements of Federal Work-Study are detailed in the second of two FWS blogs.

Financial aid administrators will start to report FWS earnings to COD soon.
Financial aid administrators will start to report FWS earnings to COD soon. Requirements that define eligible jobs, plus federal and nonfederal share, are detailed here. Photo by Unsplash.

By Rick Cox

Starting this summer, each student’s Federal Work-Study earnings must be reported to COD. This information is needed to calculate the student’s SAI for the 2024-2025 award year. In preparation for this change, we wanted to provide reminders of FWS requirements. These are reminders and not new guidance.

Federal Work Study, Part II

This is the second of two blogs on FWS and will focus on eligible jobs and the federal and nonfederal share of earnings. Our previous blog discussed funding, transferring funds between campus-based programs, carry forward/carry backward and underuse penalties, as well as some requirements related to employing and paying Federal Work-Study students.

PLEASE NOTE: The COVID waivers include a waiver of the Community Service and Reading Tutor Requirements. This waiver will expire at the end of the 2023-2024 award year.

Job Descriptions

All FWS positions should have a job description that includes:

  • Name and classification of the position (e.g., reading tutor 1, library technician, lab assistant, etc.)
  • Name and address of the student’s employer
  • Department or office where the student will work
  • Location of the position
  • Name of the student’s supervisor
  • Purpose or role of the position
  • Duties and responsibilities
  • Rates of pay for the position
  • General qualifications for the position as well as specific qualifications for the various pay levels for that position (if applicable)
  • The length of the student’s employment (beginning and ending dates)
  • Procedures for determining a student’s rate of pay when a position has multiple rates
  • Evaluation procedures and schedules

FWS employment must not displace employees, including those on strike, or impair existing service contracts. Replacing a full-time employee whose position was eliminated for any reason with an FWS student is prohibited. This prohibition applies even if the college first replaces the full-time employee with a student position that is not FWS.

FWS positions must not involve the constructing, operating or maintaining any part of a building used for religious worship or sectarian instruction.

Federal Share

The federal share is normally 75 percent. However, there are exceptions as noted below.

Private, for-profit organization – the federal share cannot exceed 50 percent. Additionally, that organization must pay the nonfederal share, and the job must be academically relevant to the maximum extent possible. The institution cannot use more than 25 percent of its allocation for positions with private, for-profit organizations. Private, for-profit organizations never qualify as employers for community service positions.

The federal share may be 100 percent if the student is employed by the institution, a federal, state or local public agency, or for a private nonprofit organization and the student is employed –

  • As a reading tutor for preschool-age children or elementary school children
  • As a math tutor for children in elementary school through 9th grade
  • To perform family literacy activities providing services to families with preschool or elementary age children, or
  • In community service activities and is performing civic education and participation activities in community service projects.

Any of these positions may also count toward the 7 percent Community Service requirement if they are being performed in an area open and accessible to the community as defined under Community Service below.

The federal share may be up to 90 percent if the student is employed at a private nonprofit organization or a federal, state or local public agency, and the school does not own, operate or control the organization or agency, and the organization must be unable to pay the regular nonfederal share. The institution must have a statement signed by both the institution and the off-campus organization that indicates the college does not own, operate or control the organization. Additionally, the college must obtain a signed letter from the agency that they are unable to pay the regular nonfederal share. However, this is limited to not more than 10 percent of the students paid through FWS. The 10 percent limitation does not include students who qualify for 100 percent federal share due to tutor/literacy or civic education positions.

Community Service

Community service positions may be on or off campus. However, positions with private, for-profit organizations are never considered community service positions. Community services are designed to improve the quality of life for community residents, particularly low-income individuals, or to solve particular problems related to their needs. Community service means that the job has to be in an area that is open, accessible and used by the community at large. A school population would not meet this requirement and is not considered a community.

Work on Campus

A student can be employed by any type of school, including for-profit institutions. Public and nonprofit institutions may employ a student to work for the college itself, including food service, cleaning, maintenance and security. They can also work for the college’s contractors as long as the contract specifies the number of students to be employed and specifies that the college selects the student and determines their pay rates.

At any type of institution, including for-profit, an FWS student may be employed as a professor’s assistant if the student is doing work the college would normally support under its own employment program. The work must be in line with the professor’s official duties and is considered work for the college itself.

Work for a Proprietary School

A proprietary school may employ FWS students, but only if those jobs meet certain criteria. If it is a community service position, it may be on or off campus. These community service positions do not have to provide student services that are directly related to their education.

If they are not community service positions, they must be on-campus and must provide student services that are directly related to the FWS student’s training or education. The job, to the maximum extent possible, must complement and reinforce the FWS student’s educational program or vocation goals. The work experiences the student is receiving must be applicable to the skills needed for his or her career path. Examples are provided on pages6-51 in the 2022-2023 FSA Handbook. A position with services provided only to former students would not be a permissible FWS position as the FWS student is not providing student services that are offered to currently enrolled students. However, the job could include services to both current and former students such as job placement as long as they provide placement services to current students. The job may not involve soliciting potential students to enroll at the proprietary institution.

In general, jobs that primarily benefit the proprietary institution are not student services. Jobs in facility maintenance or cleaning are never student services. Jobs in the admissions or recruitment area of a school are not acceptable student services.

Off-Campus Positions

Colleges that use off-campus agencies for FWS positions are responsible for ensuring that each student’s work is properly supervised. College officials should periodically visit each off-campus FWS site to determine whether students are doing appropriate work and whether the terms of the off-campus agreement are being fulfilled.

If the position is with a federal, state or local public agency or nonprofit organization, the work performed off campus must be in the public interest. This is defined as work for the welfare of the nation or community rather than work performed for a particular interest or group. Work is not in the public interest if it: primarily benefits the members of an organization; involves any partisan or nonpartisan political activity; is for an elected official unless the official is responsible for the regular administration of federal, state or local government; is work as a political aide for any elected official; takes into account a student’s political support or party affiliation in hiring the student; or involves lobbying on the federal, state or local level. For example, a student is not considered to be providing work in the public interest if working at voting polls – even if he or she only checks off the names of those who came to vote and does not pass out flyers supporting a particular candidate.

Students cannot be employed as an FWS student with the Department of Education.

Off-campus employment requires a written agreement with the off-campus employer. This is required for the off-campus position even if the college is considered the employer. The agreement should specify what share of the student compensation and other costs will be paid by the off-campus organization. Again, if this is a for-profit organization, they must pay the nonfederal share. The agreement should indicate who the employer is for such purposes as hiring, firing and paying the student. Generally, the employer is the one supervising the student, regulating their hours worked and generally ensuring they are performing their duties properly. The school is responsible for making sure the payment to the student is documented and that each student’s work is properly supervised.

The agreement should also specify whether the off-campus employer will assume payroll responsibilities and bill the institution for the federal share or whether the institution will pay the student and bill the off-campus organization. The agreement should also state whether the institution or the off-campus organization is responsible for any on-the-job injuries to the student.

If the off-campus employer takes responsibility for paying the student, the agreement should include procedures that the off-campus organization must follow and what documents the employer must provide to be reimbursed the federal share. These procedures should also be included in your written policies and procedures manual. If the school requires the off-campus employer to maintain paper timesheets and the institution allows those to be faxed, the original copies must still be provided to the school.

If the school takes responsibility for payroll, the agreement should include the procedures and the time frame for paying the off-campus employer. The employer’s share should be billed in a timely manner. You should also have a process for tracking these payments and following up if the bill remains unpaid.

Title III or V Designation – Waiver of Nonfederal Share

Colleges may request a Title III or V designation to have the nonfederal share waived. The Department of Education posts a federal register each year indicating the deadline date for applying for that designation. The department will notify the college of the results, and if approved, the approval letter indicates which specific campuses under that OPE ID are eligible for the waiver. Please be aware that if a main campus is approved, the approval does not automatically extend to all branch campuses. Only those campuses identified with the full eight-digit OPE ID in the approval letter are eligible for the waiver. It is also possible that a branch could be approved, whereas, the main campus is not approved. Again, the waiver only applies to those campuses notated in the approval notice.

If approved, the federal share is waived if the work performed by the student is for:

  • The institution
  • A federal, state or local public agency, or
  • A private nonprofit organization

A school cannot use the waiver if the student is employed by a private, for-profit organization. The 50 percent non-federal share is still required.

Rick Cox is Global’s Executive Director of Regulatory Affairs and Compliance