Mapping Your Future: Department of Education clarifies Federal Work Study Program rules on tutoring jobs


Department of Education clarifies Federal Work Study Program rules on tutoring jobs

By Catherine Mueller

January 11, 2023

Although the Federal Work Study (FWS) Program requires institutions to meet specific community service requirements, college officials may have been hesitant to allow students to take tutoring or mentoring jobs at elementary or secondary schools.

The hesitancy stemmed from the wording of previous guidance and the Department of Education issued a January 10 Dear Colleague Letter to clarify the guidelines.

In the letter, the Department reminded institutions that "mentoring positions, including for the purposes of tutoring, in public K-12 schools fulfill the community service requirement in the Federal Work Study (FWS) program." The FWS program provides part-time employment for undergraduate and graduate students with financial need, allowing them to earn money to help pay education expenses. The program encourages community service work and work related to the student's course of study.

According to the Department, an institution of higher education must use at least seven percent of the sum of its initial and supplemental FWS allocations for an award year to compensate students employed in community service activities.

Previous guidance stated "In order to be considered community service, the job has to be in an area that is open, accessible, and used by the community at large. Community service includes a whole host of jobs and is not limited to reading tutors. For example, a school population is not considered 'open, accessible, and used by the community at large,' and therefore, in this context, is not considered a community."

The Department said some institutions interpreted its use of the word "school" to mean that FWS jobs tutoring or mentoring in a public K-12 school would not count toward an institution's seven percent community service requirement.

The Department of Education clarified that "jobs where services are offered exclusively to students, staff, and faculty of an institution of higher education are not open or accessible and cannot be used by the community at large. In contrast, public K-12 schools are by design open and accessible to the community at large, and therefore jobs providing tutoring and mentoring services within these settings meet the criteria for community service activities."