The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) endorses the bipartisan Classroom to Careers Act of 2019, S.830, co-sponsored by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Patrick Toomey (R- PA). The Classroom to Career Act will improve the rules regarding use of federal work/study monies by providing schools with greater flexibility in the use of those funds, which will lead to superior results for some students.
The change will allow schools to support students engaged in cooperative education initiatives to use federal work/study funds to underwrite the compensation students receive from some private-sector firms. Under current federal work/study guidelines, a school may provide support to a student working for a private-sector firm only if that position is part time. Students engaged in a cooperative education program work full time for their employers during the period of their co-op. The current guidelines prevent colleges and universities operating cooperative education programs from most effectively using this resource to support students, particularly low-income students, who find it financially difficult to work for an employer of their choice because the employer has limited capacity to compensate students engaged in this type of “training.”
Cooperative education provides students with a valuable alternative educational program for completing a post-secondary degree program. It integrates experiential work requirements along with academic study as integral elements of the degree program. NACE research has consistently shown that graduates who have participated in experiential education opportunities have fared better in terms of getting a job and in the compensation associated with the job upon graduation. For example, the 2017 NACE Student Survey found that 54 percent of co-op students received job offers prior to graduation compared with only 41 percent of graduating seniors without any experiential education.
The Classroom to Careers Act of 2019 presents a rare legislative opportunity. Enacting this change will enhance the effectiveness of the federal work/study program for students and schools in a position to take advantage of the change. At the same time, the Act does not harm the interests of any students or schools or alter the fundamentals of the federal work/study program:
Rather, the sole purpose of the Classroom to Careers Act is to provide a school with the flexibility to use federal work/study funds in a manner the school would deem to be the most effective in meeting its educational mission (as the school has defined that mission), and to provide some students with an opportunity to undertake a work experience that would ordinarily be out of reach.
NACE urges Congress to pass the Classroom to Careers Act.