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Students Receiving Assistance under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program (update to 1997 letter)

PublicationDate: 11/1/99
Summary: Students Receiving Assistance under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program (update to 1997 letter)
Author: OS - Office of the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education

Posted on November 1, 1999

TO : Financial Aid Administrators
FROM: Ted Sky
Senior Counsel
U.S. Department of Education
SUBJECT: Students Receiving Assistance under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program (update to 1997 letter)

Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley and Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna E. Shalala sent a letter to college presidents on September 12, 1997 indicating how they might work with State and local officials to help students receiving TANF to stay in school. Enclosure A described possible strategies under the TANF statute as in effect on that date. Enclosure B provided a list of State TANF (welfare) administrators. Enclosure C provided a list of federal agency contacts in ED and HHS. The original text of the letter and Enclosure A and an updated version of Enclosure B are provided below for your information.

The most current information regarding Regional Administrators of the Administration on Children and Families in HHS may be found at
For the U.S. Department of Education, agency contacts are: Ted Sky, Senior Counsel in the Office of the General Counsel, Phone: (202) 401-6000,Fax: (202)-205-2689; Harold McCullough, Chief, Grants Branch, Program Development Division, in SFA, Phone: (202) 708-8242, Fax (202) 708-7196; Jacqueline Woods, Liaison for Community Colleges, Office of Vocational and Adult Education, Phone: (202) 205-3039; Fax: (202) 205-9757 (for inquires from community colleges).

For additional information or if you have any questions, contact the Department's SFA Customer Support Inquiry Service staff. Staff members are available Monday through Friday between the hours of 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM (Eastern Time) at 1-800-433-7327. After hours calls will be accepted by an automated voice response/messaging system. You may FAX an inquiry to the Customer Support Inquiry Service at (202) 260-4199, or E-mail the staff at

September 12, 1997

Dear Colleague:

The welfare reform law that President Clinton signed last year emphasizes work and personal responsibility. One important question that has arisen is whether welfare recipients attending college must drop out to meet the law's work requirements. We are writing to provide information about how students can meet the law's work requirements while continuing their education.

Under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) welfare program, summarized in the enclosure, recipients can combine their required work activity with additional education. Although it is not easy to raise children, work in a job, and go to school at the same time, many Americans do so each year. Most undergraduate students, whether or not they are raising a child, work while attending college. Almost all part-time students work; over half of full-time students work over 20 hours per week.

We encourage colleges to work with state and local officials to provide employment opportunities that are aligned with academic schedules and allow students to stay in school. In particular, colleges may be able to use the Federal Work Study (FWS) Program, administered by the Department of Education, to enable students to meet TANF’s work requirements by providing jobs that are consistent with state TANF rules. Federal law does not limit the number of hours that a student can work under the Federal Work Study Program, so long as the student's academic and financial need and the college's FWS allocation are taken into account. States and Indian tribes may count, and the Federal Government will recognize, such work as counting towards the law's work participation requirements, provided the required number of hours of work are performed.

In addition, we encourage colleges to explore with state and local officials other ways to accommodate college attendance with the requirements of welfare reform. As described in the enclosure, states and tribes have the authority to use an array of services and activities, including education and training, to prepare recipients for work and self-sufficiency. A list of state welfare agency administrators is enclosed.

Achieving the Administration's goals of making welfare reform a success and increasing access to college education depends upon continued cooperative effort from many parties. We look forward to working with you and state and local officials in this process. Please feel free to call upon us or one of the contacts on the enclosed list if you have any questions. A copy of this letter is being sent to your State Welfare Agency Administrator.


Donna E. Shalala
Secretary of Health and Human Services

Richard W. Riley
Secretary of Education

Enclosure A: Post-Secondary Education under TANF (below)
Enclosure B: State Welfare Agency Administrators (see website listed below)
Enclosure C: Federal Agency Contacts (see electronic announcement)

Last Modified: 10/31/1999