NEWS SERVICE SPECIAL REPORT
Work-Study: Colleges Spend 12 percent on Community Service Jobs
By LISA SMITH and TAKASHI YOKOTA
MEDILL NEWS SERVICE
- Although U.S. colleges and universities have spent, on average,
more federal work-study financial aid on community service than
is required by law, the nation's top universities fall below the
national average. And colleges are quietly lobbying against a proposal
that would require them to more than triple the legal minimum.
The top 20 colleges
and universities as ranked by U.S. News and World Report allocate
an average of 9.2 percent of work-study funds -- the federal aid
paid to students for school-sponsored jobs -- to community service
projects. But the national average is nearly 12 percent, according
to government statistics for the 1999-2000 academic year, the most
recent data available.
The top 20 schools,
which represent fewer than 1 percent of schools receiving work-study
money, received nearly 6 percent of the funds. The Education Department
awarded $860 million to schools in the 1999-2000 school year; $101
million was spent on community service jobs. Schools get work-study
money based largely on the amount they received the previous year;
colleges that have been in the program the longest often get the
of Notre Dame, Brown University, Dartmouth College and Princeton
University spent the least money on work-study community service
jobs among the top 20 schools. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
did not even meet the 5 percent minimum requirement. Both Princeton
and MIT disputed the figures, although MIT acknowledged not meeting
They were not
alone in failing to meet the spending requirement: 219 schools were
below the legal minimum.
A number of schools
cited the added administrative and other costs associated with placing
students in off-campus jobs. And the Department of Education has
no mechanism to make schools comply.
But, as part of
a larger movement toward increased community service following the
Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, some key members of Congress want to
increase the spending requirement, which had been hiked to 7 percent
effective last school year, and include enforcement measures.
Sens. John McCain,
R-Ariz., and Evan Bayh, D-Ind., and Reps. Harold Ford, D-Tenn.,
and Tom Osborne, R-Neb., proposed a bill to increase the requirement
to 25 percent by 2010. The requirement provision is part of a larger
Senate bill that would also expand the AmeriCorps program, which
helps pay teachers and other community service workers, encourage
other service opportunities.
The proposal comes
36 years after Congress passed the Higher Education Act, which provided
colleges with money to pay students in financial need for working.
In 1972, the law was changed to allow students to be paid for community
service work. That goal faded through the years.
administrators and lobbyists are saying, 'We want these jobs to
help our budget, not to help our country or community,'" said former
Sen. Harris Wofford, D-Pa., who sponsored the 5 percent requirement.
By the early 1990s,
colleges were only spending a fraction of their work-study money
on off-campus community service jobs, according to a report by the
General Accounting Office -- the investigative arm of Congress -
requested by Wofford.
Wofford's 5 percent
requirement had started as a 50 percent proposal, but he compromised
at the lower level to get a minimum established by Congress in 1993.
But the concept
of community service or national service has gained momentum in
the last few years,Last year, President Clinton and Secretary of
State Colin Powell, who was head of the nonprofit America's Promise,
sent letters to every university in the country, urging them to
pour more work-study money in to community service.
Since Sept. 11,
with patriotism high, politicians are highlighting community service
and national service as ways to demonstrate national unity.
"I think this
is the moment, when the patriotic iron is hot," Wofford said.
But some question
if the goal of 25 percent of work-study pay going to community service
jobs is realistic. Even schools that consistently exceed the current
7 requirement may find it difficult to triple the percentage of
work-study funds they allocate to community service over the next
"I don't know
if it's feasible or not," said Larry Zaglaniczny, of the National
Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, a lobbying
group representing universities, because it's difficult for schools
to meet the current requirement.
of Education can waive a school's requirement if the school claims
that meeting the requirement causes hardships for its students.
During the 1999-2000 school year, 27 schools received waivers. Last
year, the number grew to 58, according to a Senate aide.
we hate more than unused, unspent federal student aid funds because
they're so desperately needed," said Becky Timmons, of the American
Council on Education, a lobbying group.
Notre Dame, which
over the past seven years has averaged below 5 percent in community
service work-study spending requirement, has received exemptions.
Because the school has so many students participating in volunteer
programs not related to work-study, administrators have had difficulty
finding local organizations that could afford to pay the 25 percent
matching funds for work study students' salaries, according to Joe
Russo, the school's financial aid director. "Paid volunteerism is
more costly than volunteerism," Russo said.
argue that work-study students may be more reliable than typical
volunteers in performing long-term, one-on-one assistance like tutoring
or mentoring. To receive their aid, work-study students must commit
to an organization for a specific amount of time and work consistent
hours, unlike volunteers who are more likely to come in when they
about work-study students is that I know that I have a semester-long
commitment. I have a much higher likelihood that that person is
going to stick with that experience," said Karen Baker, a former
top official of the Corporation for National Service, an agency
within the Education Department. "Otherwise I've got to rely on
your good heart."
There is no typical
work-study job that fulfills the definition of community service.
Positions range from tutoring children to shelving books at the
that aren't community service often involve working at the school
library, bookstore and cafeteria, or doing administrative or research
work. It is easier for students to work shorter shifts and schedule
their work hours around classtime at these jobs than at off-campus
jobs. Schools save money by using students whose salaries are partially
subsidized instead of full-time employees. If more work-study students
were required to do community service, schools would have to hire
more employees. They also would have to spend more time developing
relationships with local organizations and training students to
undertake service jobs, particularly positions that involve tutoring.
obstacle to community service is a school's tradition. Because many
of the top universities are research institutions or emphasize information
technology, computer science and law rather than social work or
education, their students may be less likely to choose community
service for work-study jobs and instead opt for positions that relate
to their majors.
Such is the case
at MIT, where only 1.9 percent of work-study money was spent on
community service. An MIT staff member said most work-study jobs
are research-oriented. At the other end of the scale, another top
university, Stanford, spent more than 22 percent on community service.
But unlike MIT, Stanford has large schools of humanities and social
A college's location
also may affect how much work-study funding it can designate for
community service, financial aid administrators said. Universities
located in rural areas "have to scramble" to meet the current requirement
because public transportation is scarce and service organizations
are small, Zaglaniczny said. Montana State University in Bozeman
designated about 10 percent for community service in the 1999-2000
school year, but the school's financial aid administrator said finding
more student jobs in the community of 9,000 people would be difficult
because there are so few service agencies.
But critics counter
that rural school and public health agencies always need help.
Work study and
community service: Two separate premises? McCain and Bayh promise
that universities' commitment to work-study community service will
get more attention in Congress next year as they debate their proposal.
They and others
will argue that work-study was created with the intent of promoting
public service while helping students finance their education. But
many schools will counter that work-study is meant to help out students
who need money to pay for college, not to advance political agendas.
"[The Higher Education Act] had nothing to do with community service,"
said Russo of Notre Dame, although those words do appear in the
But Barry Checkoway,
a professor of social work at the University of Michigan, said universities
were created in part to "prepare young people for active participation
in a democracy."
"If you were to
bring national service through the doors of higher education," he
said, "you'd have a chance to establish it in and entirely new,
and I think more powerful, way." (Joshua Green of The Washington
Monthly magazine contributed to this report.)