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Bonamici, Kilmer Introduce Bill to Modernize Federal Work Study Program

January 28, 2019
Press Release


WASHINGTON, DC [01/28/18] –Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), a leader on the House Education and Labor Committee, and Congressman Derek Kilmer (D-WA) have introduced legislation to modernize the Federal Work Study Program.


Their proposal, the Opportunities for Success Act, will make higher education more affordable for many students and create opportunities for more students to gain valuable work experience before graduation. The rising cost of higher education means fewer students, particularly those from low-income families, can gain the education and skills they need to succeed. Income inequality persists as students who can afford to take unpaid internships gain valuable work experience that helps them secure good jobs after graduation. Low-income students are often left to work multiple jobs to afford college, and after graduation many end up in low-wage jobs that are not connected to their field of study.


The legislation reforms the Federal Work Study program to improve access to financial aid and meaningful work opportunities for low-income students, and modernizes the funding formula so it will better serve the students who need it most. You can read a summary of the legislation here.


“I’m proud that the Opportunities for Success Act is my first bill in the 116th Congress,” said Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici. “Too many students still face financial barriers to entering and completing college. The Federal Work Study program opened doors for me as I worked my way through community college, and I want to make sure others have access to the same opportunities. This update will provide more funding to students with the greatest need and also help more students to get valuable work experience.”


“Education is the door to economic opportunity, and for a lot of families — including mine — financial aid can be the key to that door. Financial aid helps more people in more places get an education, which means more jobs and bigger paychecks,” said Congressman Derek Kilmer. “By modernizing the Federal Work Study program, this bill will give more students the ability to learn new skills and give local businesses access to workers they need.” 


The Opportunities for Success Act:

  • Invests in Low-Income Students. Increases funding for Federal Work Study (FWS) to $2.5 billion over five years.
  • Reforms the Work-Study Formula. Revises the distribution formula to allocate FWS funds based on student need and Pell Grant aid.
  • Targets Work-Study to Low-Income Students. Rewards institutions that enroll and graduate high numbers of Pell Grant students.
  • Promotes Career Readiness. Provides additional funding for Job Location and Development programs and requires institutions to prioritize placing students in work-based learning positions.
  • Improves Access to Career-Related Work Experience. Allows students to earn FWS wages during periods of non-enrollment and requires institutions to use FWS funds for work-based learning opportunities.
  • Creates Pathways from Education to Work. Creates a $30 million dollar work-based pilot program to help connect low-income students to high-quality internships.
  • Enhances Student Success. Directs the Department of Education to survey FWS and report to Congress to inform further program improvements.  


The Opportunities for Success Act was first introduced by Bonamici and Kilmer in March 2018. It was later included in the AIM Higher Act.