Funding Education through Work-Study Programs | DCR Workforce Blog

Funding Education through Work-Study Programs

work study programIn today’s uncertain economy, young graduates face the bleakest odds amongst all job seekers, with an unemployment rate of 17% – double the national average! It comes as no surprise that we find former law students filing class-action lawsuits on the basis of fraudulent claims by the law schools about producing overstated placements data that left them with useless degrees, no jobs and enormous debt.

US student debt today has surpassed the $1 trillion mark. On average, student loans stand at $25000, with 8 out of 10 of these loans being guaranteed by the government.  Thirty percent of all loans are past due by a month or more. The availability of federal student loans enables many students to meet the cost of higher education, which would otherwise be out of their reach. The program works well if they graduate and join the regular workforce to pay it those loans. But many find it hard to land a job in this lukewarm job market.  After four or more years of hard work, many are learning that their degrees are in areas of low demand, leaving them without any placements. Meanwhile the cost of education is trending higher, threatening to weaken the system further.

The government has vast collection powers over federal student loans, and can garnish a borrower’s wages or seize tax refunds and Social Security and other federal benefit payments. Missing one payment counts as delinquency and missing 9 months places one in default. Student borrowers turn into debt-burdened tax payers and may end up being dependent on their support system and parents for longer than ever before.

One way to avoid getting embroiled deeper in the problem would be to increase work-study opportunities which help undergraduates and graduates with college expenses. These programs encourage the students to take up work in fields related to their major course of study and engage in activities which promote public interest, following work schedules which do not disturb their class schedules.


There are definite advantages in taking up a work-study program for students who wish to reduce the debt incurred their degrees:

  • A recent study conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) indicates that approximately 60 percent of 2012 college graduates who took part in paid internships received at least one job offer,
  • By having an opportunity to work in their intended field, students can test their career goals. Students work less than 20 hours per week.  Programs are aligned with class schedules and other study related requirements, time-off during breaks and for exam preparations.
  • The earnings do not adversely impact the student’s financial aid.
  • Assignments provide opportunities to develop contacts and network with professionals in the field.
  • The experiences develop life skills and managing different roles as students, employees and members of peer groups.
  • Students begin to build credentials for their resumes that set them apart from other job seekers.

Companies offering work study programs also benefit.  The NACE study also indicated that 66% of employers believe that interview performance and relevant work experience are the most important factors in their hiring decisions—far more significant than strong academic performance. Through work study assignments, companies are given an opportunity to “test drive” strong candidates for entry level positions, hiring individuals who are already familiar with the company’s business model, work environment, and culture.

Unfortunately, there are not enough work study opportunities available today.  We encourage all employers to consider work study programs and internships when formulating their workforce strategy, creating a win-win opportunity for everyone involved.

The content on this blog is for informational purposes only and cannot be construed as specific legal advice or as a substitute for competent legal advice. They reflect the opinions of DCR Workforce and may not reflect the opinions of any individual attorney. Do contact an attorney for advice specific to your issue or problem.
Lalita is a people/project manager with extensive experience in operations, HCM and training and development across industries like banking, education, business consulting, BPO and information technology. She believes in a dynamic approach to life and learning as change is the only constant.