Connecting Students with Jobs: CPPP Supports State Higher Education Agency’s Recommendation to Implement Off-Campus Work-Study Pilot Program
The Texas economy depends on a skilled workforce—and off-campus work-study positions are a neglected tool in Texas’ higher education system that we could use more broadly to provide career-relevant work experience for students and newly trained skilled talent for employers. After studying off-campus career relevant work-study employment in Texas, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) found that expanding these opportunities would be beneficial to the state, students, and employers. However, the THECB identified several barriers to expansion that a pilot program would help explore.
According to the THECB, 14 states including Texas have a state-supported work-study program in addition to the Federal Work Study Program. Of these states, only six have made progress toward expanding relationships with private sector employers who typically hire students after graduation. These states are moving toward off-campus work-study placements because such public-private partnerships allow employers to train future employees at a reduced cost while helping work-study students gain experience that sets them apart from other applicants.
Barriers to Implementation
Despite these examples and promising practices from other states, the THECB nevertheless identified several barriers to broader implementation in Texas. The primary barrier cited was an increased administrative burden on higher education institutions, who must identify and arrange off-campus work-study positions for students. This challenge is even worse because of the reportedly insufficient amount of funding provided through the state program for administration costs.
Some institutions also reported that they already face challenges meeting the federal work-study requirement to spend at least seven percent of their annual allocation on community service, reading, or positions at family literacy programs. As a result, some view the new state requirement to find additional off-campus positions for the state work-study program as a competing mandate. The THECB also heard concerns around the availability of local jobs, particularly in rural areas.
What THECB recommends
To ensure successful implementation of off-campus work-study placements and to begin to address some of these challenges, the THECB recommends repealing a provision enacted last legislative session that required at least 20 percent of work-study positions to be moved off-campus, and replacing it with a pilot program. Mandating institutions of higher education to partner with private sector employers to create work-study placements has already led to the unintended consequence of 12 institutions (less than 10%) deciding not to participate in the Texas College Work-Study program in the upcoming academic year.
The Center for Public Policy Priorities supports the THECB recommendation to launch a pilot program as a way to build out best practices. However, before the Legislature takes action to repeal the off-campus requirements that begin in 2017, the THECB should examine the experiences of the institutions that are participating in the program.
“A Report of the Feasibility of Providing Off-Campus Work-Study Employment” – Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board: http://www.thecb.state.tx.us/reports/PDF/8845.PDF?CFID=51375610&CFTOKEN=52650776
“Beyond the Campus: Connecting Community College Students to Meaningful Employment”: http://forabettertexas.org/images/EO_2015_03_WorkStudy.pdf