Rep. Larry Seaquist said he would propose restoring some money for the SWS program in 2012-13. The Governor has recommended suspending the program’s funding to help offset the state’s revenue shortfall.
“Even though we are looking at ways to shrink the budget, we might want to add back some work study money because of its high effectiveness,” Seaquist said during a hearing on the SWS and State Need Grant programs before the House Education Appropriations Committee last week.
Rachelle Sharpe, director of Student Financial Assistance, said program is helping more than 7,500 Washington students to support themselves while earning a degree. SWS also provides students marketable employment skills and reduces their debt upon graduation, she said.
The SWS program will distribute $20.6 million in state and employer contributions this fiscal year in the form of student wages. About 2,000 public and private employers will provide $6.3 million of the program’s total expenditures. Fifty-five public and private two- and four-year institutions participate.
Washington’s SWS program is more than 35 years old, making it the second oldest program of its type in the country. Prior to recent reductions, it was also the largest in the nation. SWS eligibility is based on student financial need, and it is the state’s only need-based program open to both graduate and undergraduate students.
Whenever possible, SWS students fill positions that relate to their academic and career interests, making the work study experience a potential springboard to jobs in their chosen fields after graduation. Many graduates ultimately are hired full-time by the same organizations that employed them as SWS students.
Two years ago, state funding for the SWS program was cut by two-thirds and employer match requirements were increased significantly. Other policy changes were implemented to continue providing as many SWS positions as possible in light of reduced funding. Sharpe said the program has experienced a decrease in off-campus placements, but it is unclear whether that is the result of increasing employer contributions or the decrease in the size of the program overall.