Sending Office: Honorable James P. McGovern
Sent By:

The Department of Labor recently estimated that the U.S. will have a deficit of two million skilled workers by 2020. With more job openings than there are people looking for work, Congress should create avenues for institutions of higher education to partner
with private sector employers to develop opportunities for students to learn real-world skills.

Experiential learning opportunities—such as internships or cooperative education (“co-op”) programs—can lead to stronger post-graduation employment outcomes. Unfortunately, the opportunity cost of participating in an internship or co-op program can deter
many students, especially low and middle-income students who stand to benefit from career-aligned work opportunities.

The federal work-study program is a common-sense vehicle for job training partnerships between institutions of higher education and potential future employers. The program provides currently $1 billion in funding per year to over 3,000 institutions of higher
education, and serves approximately 700,000 students per year. Under current law, federal work-study dollars may be used for full-time work, but only at jobs on-campus, in the government, or at non-profit organizations—but not in the private sector. Our bill
addresses this flaw.

Bill Provisions

The Classroom to Careers Act would reform the federal work-study program to incentivize the creation of paid, full-time work experiences for students in the private sector. This legislation re-aligns federal work-study with its original intent:
to provide meaningful, career-related work experiences for low- and middle-income students. The bill, which creates
no new spending, provides:

  1. Increases federal work-study program flexibility. The bill removes the “part-time” limitation on work-study jobs at private-sector employers. This would allow institutions of higher education to develop full-time, paid training
    programs with businesses so that students can develop real-world skills.

    • Not a mandate. Institutions retain the ability to decide how to allocate work-study dollars.
    • The bill does not change or remove the 25% institution-wide cap on the percentage of work-study funds that may be used for private sector employment.
  2. Promotes the cooperative education model. The bill clarifies that co-op programs—under which students alternate between full-time study and full-time work at an employer in their chosen field—can qualify for federal work-study

    • Co-ops qualifying for federal work-study are capped at 6 months in length.
    • Institutions with co-op programs report high success rates. At Drexel University, for example, approximately half of all undergraduates receive a job offer from a former co-op employer.


Education Coalitions: American Council on Education, American Society for Engineering Education, Cooperative Education and Internship Association, National Association of Colleges and Employers,

Institutions: State University of New York, Drexel University, Northeastern University

If you would like to cosponsor the bill, or if you have any questions, please contact Drea Shropshire (McGovern) at
or Julia Angelotti (Stefanik)



JAMES P. MCGOVERN                                                                                                                ELISE STEFANIK

MEMBER OF CONGRESS                                                                                                           MEMBER OF CONGRESS

Related Legislative Issues

Selected legislative information: Education, Labor

icon eDC logo e-Dear Colleague version 2.0
e-Dear Colleagues are intended for internal House use only.