Maintained for Historical Purposes

This resource is being maintained for historical purposes only and is not currently applicable.

Federal Work-Study Program - Types of Employment

AwardYear: 1997-1998
EnterChapterNo: 7
EnterChapterTitle: Federal Work-Study Program
SectionNumber: 4
SectionTitle: Types of Employment
PageNumbers: 21-33

Federal Work-Study (FWS) jobs may be on or off campus. Off-
campus jobs must be in the public interest if the work is for a federal,
state, or local public agency, or for a private nonprofit organization.
However, a school may use part of its FWS allocation to provide
jobs in private, for-profit organizations. All FWS jobs must, to the
maximum extent practicable, complement and reinforce the student
recipient's educational program or vocational goals.


Schools are required to make students aware of community service
opportunities by encouraging them to get involved in community
service activities. Schools are also required to utilize money from
their FWS Program for that purpose. There is no restriction as to
whether these jobs must be on or off campus. A university or college
is not considered a community for the purposes of the FWS Program
community service requirements. Also, private, for-profit
organizations do not qualify as employers for community service
under the FWS Program.

In determining whether the service is a community service, the
school must always consider whether the service provided by the
FWS student primarily benefits the community as opposed to the
agency or school. Additional information on the community service
component of the FWS Program is available in "Dear Colleague"
letter CB-94-4, dated March 1994.

[[Employing FWS students as reading tutors--CB-96-22]]
Schools are encouraged to place FWS students as reading tutors for
children in preschool through elementary school as part of the
school's effort to support the "America Reads Challenge" (refer to
Dear Colleague letter CB-96-22, dated November 1996). This is an
important way for schools to meet the community service
expenditure requirement under the FWS Program, serve the needs of
the community, and give the FWS students a rewarding and
enriching experience. The programs that provide this reading
tutoring for children may take place during the children's school
hours or after school, on weekends, or in the summer.

The school may construct its own reading tutor program or become
involved with existing community programs. The Department will
authorize a 100% federal share of the student's FWS wages if he or
she is employed as a reading tutor for children in preschool through
elementary school and if the work performed by the student is for the
school itself, for a federal, state, or local public agency, or for a
private nonprofit organization. (The federal share of FWS wages is
discussed in Section 5 of this chapter.) A school is not required to
ask the Department for a waiver of the FWS nonfederal share
requirement to receive the 100% federal share authorization for FWS
students employed as reading tutors. Instead, the school should use
100% federal dollars to pay such a student and then show on its
Fiscal Operations Report and Application to Participate (FISAP) that
it did so.

[[Community service requirement--34 CFR 675.18(g)]]
A school must use at least 5% of its FWS allocation to employ
students in community service jobs unless the U.S. Department of
Education grants the school a waiver. The Department will approve a
waiver only if the school requests one in writing and if the
Department determines that the school has demonstrated that
enforcing the requirement would cause hardship for students at the

According to the participation agreement (discussed in the
introduction to Chapter 5) between a school and the Department, a
school must

- allow employment under FWS to be used to assist programs
providing supportive services to students with disabilities;

- inform all eligible students of the opportunity to perform
community services; and

- consult with local nonprofit, governmental, and community-based
organizations to identify community service opportunities.

[[Definition of community services--34 CFR 675.2(b)]]
Community services are defined as services that are identified by an
institution of higher education through formal or informal
consultation with local nonprofit, governmental, and community-
based organizations, as designed to improve the quality of life for
community residents, particularly low-income individuals, or to
solve particular problems related to their needs. These services

- such fields as health care, child care, literacy training, education
(including tutorial services), welfare, social services,
transportation, housing and neighborhood improvement, public
safety, crime prevention and control, recreation, rural
development, and community improvement;

- work in service opportunities or youth corps as defined in Section
101 of the National and Community Service Act of 1990, and
service in the agencies, institutions and activities designated in
Section 124(a) of that act;*1*

- support for students (other than for an institution's own students)
with disabilities; and

[[Serving as a mentor]]
- activities in which an FWS student serves as a mentor for such
purposes as

-- tutoring (discussed on page 7-19),

-- supporting educational and recreational activities, and

-- counseling, including career counseling.

[[Direct vs. indirect services]]
To be considered employed in a community service job for FWS
purposes, an FWS student does not have to provide a "direct"
service. The student must provide services that are designed to
improve the quality of life for community residents or to solve
particular problems related to those residents' needs. A school may
use its discretion to determine what jobs provide indirect or direct
service to the community.

The Department does not intend to indicate that certain activities are
more important than others or that only jobs that have direct contact
with community members are acceptable. For example, an FWS
student working for a "meals on wheels" program may prepare meals
for the program without having any direct contact with the
community residents, yet the service he or she is providing is very
important in meeting community needs.

[[Jobs that should take priority]]
In contacting potential community service agencies, schools should
place a priority on jobs that will meet the human, educational,
environmental, and public safety needs of low-income individuals.
The Department has determined that at this time there is no need to
burden schools with a formal definition of low-income individual for
purposes of providing community service under the FWS Program.
There is no statutory requirement that a particular number or
proportion of the individuals must be low-income persons. Some
examples of jobs that provide services to persons in the community
who may NOT necessarily be low-income individuals are jobs that
provide supportive services to students with disabilities or that
prevent or control crime.

[[On-campus community service jobs]]
On-campus jobs can meet the definition of community services,
provided that the services are open and accessible to the community
and that they meet the regulatory and statutory provisions pertaining
to the applicable FWS Program employment limitations and
conditions. For example, it would be acceptable for an institution to
set up services on the campus (e.g., tutoring centers or child-care
centers) that are open to the community. If the institution sets up
sites in the community and opens the services for the community,
jobs at these sites would be acceptable. A service is considered open
to the community if the service is publicized to the community and
members of the community use the service.


In developing FWS community service jobs, a school might begin by

- determining which types of jobs meet the community services

- determining if any of its current on-campus jobs meet the
community services definition,

- determining if any of its current jobs with off-campus agencies
meet the community services definition, and

- locating other potential employers.

[[Placing FWS recipients]]
To place FWS recipients in community service jobs, a school might
begin by

- determining which FWS recipients would be interested in
community service jobs (evaluating the FWS recipients by looking
at their degree or certificate programs, interests, and skills) and

- determining the number of community service jobs it needs to

[[Promoting community service jobs through public relations]]
To promote FWS community service jobs through public relations
activities, a school might begin by

- devising a plan to market community services under the FWS
Program to eligible student employers and the community,

- obtaining a listing of potential community service agencies,

- asking to be a presenter at various organizations' meetings,

- engaging in networking activities,

- holding and attending job fairs,

- hosting a financial aid office "open house," and

- visiting local agencies.

A school may also get help in developing FWS community service
jobs through communication with colleagues at their own school, at
other schools, or with other organizations. For example the school

- communicate to the student placement office the community-
service requirements under the FWS Program;

- talk to colleagues at institutions that participated in the expired
Community Service Learning Program to get ideas on
implementing, locating, and developing the community service
jobs; and

- contact local nonprofit, governmental, and community-based
organizations to assess their needs and determine what interest
exists for employing FWS students.


A student may be employed on campus at any type of postsecondary
institution, including at a proprietary school. An FWS job at any
school must, to the maximum extent practical, be related to the
student's educational program or vocational goals.

[[Work for the school itself or for its contractors]]
A school, other than a proprietary school, may employ a student to
work for the school itself, INCLUDING certain services for which
the school may contract, such as food service, cleaning, maintenance,
and security. Work for the school's contractors is acceptable as long
as the contract specifies the number of students to be employed and
specifies that the school selects the students and determines their pay
rates. A proprietary school also may employ a student to work for the
school itself with certain restrictions (discussed below under "Work
for Proprietary School, On or Off Campus").

[[Work for a professor]]
student may be assigned to assist a professor if the student is doing
work the school would normally support under its own employment program. Having
a student serve as a research assistant to a professor is appropriate, as
long as the work is in line with the professor's official duties and is
considered work for the school itself. However, in a PROPRIETARY
SCHOOL, a student may not assist an instructor, as instructional
activities are not considered student services.

[[Work in a branch campus overseas]]
Normally, employment in a foreign country is not permissible under
the law. However, a school with a branch campus in a foreign
country may employ students under FWS if the branch has its own
facilities, administrative staff, and faculty. Students may also be
employed by a U.S. government facility such as an embassy or a
military base. A student may not be employed for a nonprofit
organization in a foreign country.


[[Criteria to work for a proprietary school--34 CFR 675.21(b)]]
A proprietary school may employ a student to work for the school
itself but only in jobs that meet certain criteria:

1. If the jobs are in community service, they may be either on or off
campus. Students employed by a proprietary school and
performing community service do not have to furnish student
services that are directly related to their education.

2. If the jobs are NOT in community service, they must be on
campus and must

-- provide student services,

-- complement the student's educational program or vocational
goals to the maximum extent possible, and

-- not involve soliciting potential students to enroll at the
proprietary school.

[[Definition of student services--34 CFR 675.2(b)]]
The regulations define student services as services that are offered to
students and that are directly related to the work-study student's
training or education. For example, jobs that provide student services
may include, but are not limited to, jobs in a financial aid office or
library, peer guidance counseling, and jobs providing social and
health services or tutorial services. However, work in the admissions
or recruitment area of a school is not acceptable, as this employment
could involve soliciting potential students. Maintenance (cleaning
dorms) is not acceptable. In general, work that would primarily
benefit the school rather than its students is not permissible. For
example, a student may not work in the front reception area or in the
business office of a school, as those jobs do not provide student
services. As stated earlier, a student may not assist an instructor, as
instructional activities are not considered student services.


[[Local public agencies]]
[[Private nonprofit organizations]]
[[Work in the public interest]]
If a student is employed off campus by a federal, state, or local
public agency*2* or by a private nonprofit organization, providing
jobs related to the student's academic or vocational goals is
encouraged, but not required. However, the work performed MUST
BE IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST. Work in the public interest is
defined as work performed for the welfare of the nation or
community, rather than work performed for a particular interest or

A private nonprofit organization is one in which no part of the net
earnings of the agency benefits any private shareholder or individual.
An organization must be incorporated as nonprofit under federal or
state law. A school classified as a tax-exempt organization by either
the federal or state Internal Revenue Service meets this requirement.
Examples of private nonprofit organizations generally include
hospitals, day-care centers, halfway houses, crisis centers, and
summer camps.

Nonprofit agencies do not qualify automatically as community
service employers for purposes of the FWS Program because the
work performed must meet the definition of community services in
the regulations. A list of programs or activities that are recognized as
appropriate work in community services under the FWS Program is
included at the end of this section. In addition, work off campus for a
nonprofit agency must be in the public interest.

[[Work not in the public interest]]
Work is not "in the public interest" if

- it primarily benefits the members of an organization that has
membership limits, such as a credit union, a fraternal or religious
order, or a cooperative;

[[Political activity--partisan or nonpartisan]]
- it involves any partisan or nonpartisan political activity or is
associated with a faction in an election for public or party office;

- it is for an elected official unless the official is responsible for the
REGULAR administration of federal, state, or local government;

- it is work as a political aide for any elected official;

- a student's political support or party affiliation is taken into
account in hiring him or her; or

- it involves lobbying on the federal, state, or local level.

However, in deciding whether work is in the public interest, schools
must consider the nature of the work as well as that of the
organization. For example, a student may be employed by a private
nonprofit civic club if the student's work is for the club's community
drive to aid handicapped children. If the student's work is confined to
the internal interests of the club, such as a campaign for membership,
the work would benefit a particular group and would not be in the
public interest. As another example, a student may work for a private
nonprofit membership organization, such as a golf club or swimming
pool, if the general public may use the organization's facilities on the
same basis as its members. If only members may use the facilities,
FWS employment is not in the public interest.

Political activity, whether partisan or nonpartisan, does not qualify as
work in the public interest. For example, a student is not considered
to be working 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. Also, a
student is not considered to be working in the public interest if
working to support an independent candidate. Another example of
nonpartisan political activity is work for a city that is sponsoring
political debates.

[[Political Aide]]
Working for an elected official as a political aide also does not
qualify as work in the public interest. For example, a student could
not represent a member of Congress on a committee. However, a
student could be assigned to the staff of a standing committee of a
legislative body or could work on a special committee, as long as the
student would be selected on a nonpartisan basis and the work
performed would be nonpartisan.

Under certain circumstances, work for an elected official responsible
for the REGULAR ADMINISTRATION of federal, state, or local
government may be considered to be in the public interest. "Regular
administration" means the official is directly responsible for
administering a particular function. Such a person would not create,
abolish, or fund any programs but would run them. Working for a
sheriff would be acceptable, as would working for an elected judge
(because he or she has direct responsibility for the judicial system).
As stated above, any POLITICAL activity would not be acceptable--
raising funds for the official's reelection, for example. An FWS
position that involves lobbying at the federal, state, or local level is
not work in the public interest.

[[Work for the Department]]
FWS students are prohibited from working for the Department due to
the potential appearance of conflict of interest.


[[Job must be academically relevant]]
Schools also may enter into agreements with private for-profit
companies to provide off-campus jobs for students; however, these
jobs must be academically relevant to the student's program of study.
(A student studying for a business administration degree could work
in a bank handling customer transactions, for example.) Private for-
profit organizations do not qualify as employers for community
service under the FWS Program.

A school may use up to 25% of its FWS allocation and reallocation
for an award year to pay the wages of FWS students employed by
private for-profit organizations, but the organizations may not hire
FWS employees to replace regular employees.

[[For-profit organization pays 50%of wages]]
The federal share of FWS wages for students employed by private
for-profit organizations is limited to 50%. The for-profit organization
must contribute the remaining 50%, plus employer taxes (such as
FICA, unemployment, and Workers' Compensation).


When a school enters into a written agreement--a contract--with any
off-campus agency or company that employs FWS students, the
school must make sure the organization is a reliable agency with
professional direction and staff and that the work to be performed is
adequately supervised and consistent with the purpose of the FWS
Program. (See the Appendix at the end of this chapter for a model
off-campus agreement. The sample need not be followed exactly but
serves as a guide.)

The agreement sets forth the FWS work conditions and establishes
whether the school or the agency/company will be the employer for
such purposes as hiring and firing, or paying the nonfederal share of
the student's wages or the student's Social Security or Workers'
Compensation benefits. The employer is generally considered to be
the organization that will control the work of the FWS students--
supervising them at the work site, regulating their hours of work, and
generally ensuring that they perform their duties properly. However,
the school is ultimately responsible for making sure that payment for
work performed is properly documented and that each student's work
is properly supervised.

[[Liability for on-the-job injuries]]
The agreement must also state which organization--the school or off-
campus employer--is liable for any on-the-job injuries to the student.
The EMPLOYER IS NOT automatically liable. federal FWS funds
cannot be used to pay an injured student's hospital expenses.

[[Payroll responsibility]]
The agreement should also define whether the agency/company will
assume payroll responsibility and bill the school for the federal share
of the students' wages, or whether the school will pay the students
and bill the agency/company for its contribution. The school must
make up any payments the agency/company does not make. It is the
school's responsibility to ensure that FWS payments are properly
documented, even if the agency/company does the payroll. To fulfill
that responsibility, the school must keep copies of time sheets and
payroll vouchers and keep evidence that the students were actually
paid (usually copies of the canceled checks or receipts signed by the

[[Supervising and evaluating off-campus employment]]
The school is also responsible for ensuring that each student's work
is properly supervised. School officials should periodically visit each
organization with which they have an off-campus agreement to
determine whether students are doing appropriate work and whether
the terms of the agreement are being fulfilled.

In determining whether to continue an off-campus agreement, many
schools have found it helpful to require that students submit a formal
evaluation of their work experience at the end of the assignment. The
school may also use the evaluation to help off-campus agencies
improve their work programs.

Staff members of the off-campus organization must become
acquainted with a school's financial aid and student employment
programs to better understand the school's educational objectives.
The school is responsible for supplying this information.


A student may be employed under FWS during a period of
nonattendance, such as a summer or equivalent vacation period or
the full-time work period of a cooperative education program. To be
eligible for this employment, a student must be planning to enroll (or
to reenroll) for the next regular session. The student's earnings during
this period of nonattendance (earnings minus taxes and job-related
costs) must be used to pay his or her cost of attendance for the next
period of enrollment.

[[Documenting student's intent to reenroll]]
A student whose eligibility for summer FWS employment was based
on anticipated enrollment in the subsequent term may fail to register
or may decide to attend another school. When a student fails to
register for the subsequent term, the school that employed the student
must be able to demonstrate that the student was eligible for
employment and that the school had reason to believe the student
intended to study at that school in the next term. At minimum, the
school that employed the student must keep a written record in its
files showing that the student had accepted the school's offer of
admittance in the upcoming session.

[[Study abroad]]
A student in an eligible program of study abroad may be employed
during the summer preceding the study abroad if he or she will be
continuously enrolled in his or her American school while abroad
and if the student's study is part of the American school's own
program. In such a case, a student may be employed in a qualified
position in the United States, at the American school's branch
campus in a foreign country, at a U.S. government facility abroad, or
in an American company abroad.


The definition of community services (see page 7-20) includes the
terms "service opportunity" and "youth corps program." Section 101
of the National and Community Service Act of 1990 defines the
terms as follows:

- SERVICE OPPORTUNITY. A program or project, including a
service learning program or project, that enables students or out-
of-school youth to perform meaningful and constructive service in
agencies, institutions, and situations where the application of
human talent and dedication may help to meet human, educational,
linguistic, and environmental community needs, especially those
relating to poverty.

- YOUTH CORPS PROGRAM. A program, such as a conservation
corps or youth service program, that offers full-time, productive
work (to be financed through stipends) with visible community
benefits in a natural resource or human service setting and that
gives participants a mix of work experience, basic and life skills,
education, training, and support services.


The definition of "community services" includes service in agencies,
institutions, and activities that are designated in Section 124(a) of the
National and Community Service Act of 1990:

1. Conservation corps programs that focus on

-- conservation, rehabilitation, and the improvement of wildlife
habitat, rangelands, parks, and recreation areas;

-- urban and rural revitalization, historical and site preservation,
and reforestation of both urban and rural areas;

-- fish culture, wildlife habitat maintenance and improvement,
and other fishery assistance;

-- road and trail maintenance and improvement;

-- erosion, flood, drought, and storm damage assistance and

-- stream, lake, waterfront harbor, and port improvement;

-- wetlands protection and pollution control;

-- insect, disease, rodent, and fire prevention and control;

-- the improvement of abandoned railroad beds and rights-of-

-- energy conservation projects, renewable resource
enhancement, and recovery of biomass;

-- reclamation and improvement of strip-mined land;

-- forestry, nursery, and cultural operations; and

-- making public facilities accessible to individuals with

2. Human services corps programs that include service in

-- state, local, and regional governmental agencies;

-- nursing homes, hospices, senior centers, hospitals, local
libraries, parks, recreational facilities, child and adult day-
care centers, programs serving individuals with disabilities,
and schools;

-- law enforcement agencies and penal and probation systems;

-- private nonprofit organizations that primarily focus on social
service such as community action agencies;

-- activities that focus on the rehabilitation or improvement of
public facilities, neighborhood improvements, literacy training
that benefits educationally disadvantaged individuals,
weatherization of and basic repairs to low-income housing
including housing occupied by older adults, energy
conservation (including solar energy techniques), removal of
architectural barriers to access by individuals with disabilities
to public facilities, activities that focus on drug and alcohol
abuse education, prevention and treatment, and conservation,
maintenance, or restoration of natural resources on publicly
held lands; and

-- any other nonpartisan civic activities and services that the
commission determines to be of a substantial social benefit in
meeting unmet human, educational, or environmental needs
(particularly needs related to poverty) or in the community
where volunteer service is to be performed; or

3. Programs that encompass the focus and services described in
both paragraphs (1) and (2).

*1* At the end of this section are definitions of the terms "service
opportunity" and "youth corps program" (as defined in section 101 of
the National and Community Service Act of 1990) and a list of
agencies, institutions, and activities included in section 124(a) of that

*2* Local public agencies include city or county government offices,
public schools, community-owned hospitals, public libraries, and
community centers.

Last Modified: 07/09/1998