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Funding opportunity: DOE pilot extends work-study dollars to private-sector jobs

Anthony BoccanfusoBy Anthony M. Boccanfuso

Federal Work-Study program funds support students, but often fail to make the important connection between academic programs and a career post-graduation. That’s largely because more than 99 percent of federal work-study program dollars fund work on campus rather than in business and industry.

Now, universities have an opportunity to expand and move student employment opportunities off campus in partnership with the private sector.

The Experimental Sites Initiative (ESI) allows a limited number of universities to create stronger ties with industry through work-study. ESI loosens requirements that historically limited work to on-campus jobs. To participate, universities must move quickly; the window for sites to apply with a letter of interest closes September 23.

The intent of ESI is to increase partnerships between universities and industry while helping students finish their education with less debt. At the same time, it could fill the pool of well-trained candidates ready for meaningful employment after graduation—and that’s good for research-based industry.

ESI waives some restrictions on wages, hours, and university share of funding for work study and Job Location and Development programs to make this happen. Under the program, the DOE will:

  • Remove limits on the part of federal work-study funds that support students employed in the private sector;
  • Increase the number of hours students in the program can work;
  • Lower the share of wages that must be covered by private-sector employers; and
  • Allow universities to pay low-income students to fulfill education requirement programs, such as clinical rotations.

The ESI calls on universities to improve partnerships with business and industry while ensuring students will graduate with workplace experience and competency in their academic fields. DOE expects the work to be relevant to the student’s academic study, making it a ripe opportunity for industry to bring promising undergraduates into meaningful roles in research before graduation, supported by federal work-study funding.

UIDP members—both companies and universities—are well positioned to collaborate, apply, and generate positive results for ESI. See the details and links to apply.