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THE PROSPER ACT: A Work Study Program for the Future

 

Only 13 percent of Americans agree college graduates in this country are well prepared for success in the workplace. A recent survey showed that only 2 in 5 managers believe college graduates are well-equipped for a job in their field.

One of the few successful programs in the federal postsecondary education policy is the Federal Work-Study program, which has been shown to increase graduation rates and job placement among participants, particularly low-income students. Since the last reauthorization of the Higher Education Act in 2008, our country weathered the worst economic recession in a generation, forever transforming the American workforce and the postsecondary education landscape.

Federal requirements in the program stifle interaction between industry and college campuses and set up a generation of Americans for failure.

For instance, today’s participants in Federal Work-Study can only work part-time; no more than 25 percent of an institution’s Federal Work-Study dollars can flow to students working in the private sector, and the federal match for Federal Work-Study students working in private-sector companies is 25-40 percent lower than other sectors of employment.

These workforce development restrictions have real world consequences for our nation. Groups as wide-ranging as Achieving the Dream, Business Roundtable, Center for Law and Social Policy, National Skills Coalition, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have called upon lawmakers to address these funding and career-orientation issues.

The Committee on Education and the Workforce recognizes that all education is career education. Students pursue postsecondary education to develop the necessary skills to find a job. This is the objective held in common by both the Ivy League student pursuing a psychology degree and the student at the local community college learning how to repair automobiles. Both individuals provide valuable contributions to society, and both students deserve equal support under Federal Work-Study.

The PROSPER Act makes the Federal Work-Study program work for students and opens the door for robust private sector employment by eliminating the arbitrary 25 percent cap, applying the same federal share to all types of employment, and doubling the authorization for the job location and development program. The Committee also adopted an amendment offered by Rep. Ron Estes (R-KS) to include apprenticeship opportunities as eligible positions allowable under the program.

Together, these policy changes will put students on track to establish successful careers and drive upward mobility for all Americans.

To learn more about the PROSPER Act, click here.   

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