Work Study student employees in PA now eligible to be paid for get-out-the-vote activities, more

10 April 2024- The Shapiro Administration implemented a new program from the U.S. Department of Education that allows eligible college students in Pennsylvania and across the country to use Federal Work Study (FWS) funding to work in get-out-the-vote activities, election offices, polling places, and other nonpartisan civic engagement employment opportunities.

Secretary of the Commonwealth Al Schmidt and Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) Secretary Dr. Khalid N. Mumin celebrated the recent announcement and highlighted what it means for students who participate in the FWS program for part-time employment to help offset the costs of postsecondary education.

“An educated citizen is an engaged citizen, and it is critical that young people get involved in our democracy,” Mumin said. “I encourage students across Pennsylvania to take advantage of this opportunity, become part of the living infrastructure of our elections, and ensure everyone can safely and securely exercise their right to vote.”

Schmidt noted the updated guidance is not only great news for students, but it will also help fill a need for increased participation in civic engagement.

“Counties across Pennsylvania are always looking for volunteers to serve as poll workers because the counties need roughly 45,000 people to assist every election in that capacity,” Schmidt said. “It’s especially important to have more young people filling in these roles because the future of our representative democracy depends on their engagement.”

The implementation of the new program, Schmidt said, pairs well with the existing Pennsylvania Campus Voting Challenge, a nonpartisan support and recognition program for higher education institutions with a commitment to increasing student voter participation and engagement on campuses across the Commonwealth. The voting challenge is facilitated by the Department of State in collaboration with the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge.

A coalition of Secretaries of State, including Schmidt, sent a letter last July to U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona in support of using FWS funds for nonpartisan civic engagement work. In response, Cardona issued updated guidance last month clarifying that FWS funds may be used by federal, state, local, and tribal public agencies for civic engagement work that is not associated with a particular interest or group.

Students can receive FWS funds at approximately 3,400 postsecondary institutions across the country. The U.S. Department of Education allocates funds to participating institutions based on a variety of factors and, in most cases, the school or employer must pay up to a 50% share of a student’s wages under FWS.

Students may be employed by the institution itself; a federal, state, or local public agency; a private nonprofit organization; or a private for-profit organization. And students must file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as part of the application process for FWS assistance.