President Clinton has called for a significant expansion of the Federal Work-Study (FWS) Program over the next several years. On September 30, 1996, the first step of the FWS expansion was made when the President signed the 1997 appropriation (P.L. 104-208), increasing funding from $616.5 million to $830 million. I am writing to challenge you to make the most of this significant investment.
First, I would like to challenge your institution to take full advantage of this increase and to complete the steps necessary to ensure that needy students on your campus benefit to the fullest extent possible. Most participating institutions applied for 1997-98 FWS funds before this major funding increase was enacted. Because many schools may have simply based their 1997-98 funds requests on their previous allocations (which may have remained relatively unchanged in recent years), we are allowing institutions to update their 1997-98 application information. Earlier this month, your financial aid administrator was sent instructions on how to do this.
Your institution can receive increased FWS only if you request it. Once your financial aid administrator has reviewed your 1997-98 application information, I encourage your institution to request all the funds for which it has need and is able to administer effectively.
I understand that an increase of this magnitude requires significant administrative and budgetary planning so that institutions can ensure that they will meet federal matching requirements and place students in appropriate jobs. To assist your institution in planning for this funding increase, we sent your financial aid administrator a projection of your institution's 1997-98 FWS allocation amount. This projection was based on the latest award year information reported to the Department. It will change somewhat as newer data are available over the next few months.
Second, I want to reaffirm the President's challenge to all participating postsecondary institutions to target a portion of these new FWS resources toward service to the community, and in particular toward support for the new America Reads Challenge. Over 40 percent of our Nation's fourth graders cannot read as well as they should. Research shows that if these students cannot read well at that point, their chances for later success are significantly diminished. The goal of the America Reads Challenge is straightforward -- ensure that every American child can read well and independently by the 3rd grade.
I would like to encourage that you work with us in this effort by increasing the number of students working in community service jobs, and especially to focus on developing job placements that assist children in grades pre-kindergarten through elementary to develop better reading skills. We encourage you to use the FWS funds to support the America Reads Challenge.
Looking ahead, the President will be proposing legislation for the America Reads Challenge when the 105th Congress convenes in 1997. At the heart of that legislation will be the "America's Reading Corps," a group of 30,000 reading specialists and coordinators who will work with local school officials in the community to train one million tutors nationwide. Our goal is that 10 percent -- 100,000 -- of these tutors will be students participating in the FWS program.
To that end, we published regulations on November 27, 1996 waiving the employer's salary matching requirement for students serving as tutors. We welcome your support and input on this exciting new initiative.
In closing, I wish to restate the President's strong commitment to supporting postsecondary institutions in playing a greater role in their communities as well as in meeting the financial needs of their students. The major FWS funding increase just enacted provides us with a unique opportunity in both regards.
David A. Longanecker
Office of Postsecondary Education