Leveraging the Federal Work-Study Program to Fund High-Impact Tutoring in P-12 Schools

January 8, 2024

Tutoring is a proven method to help P–12 students improve their learning. Still, it has typically been limited to those who can afford it. Previous attempts to expand tutoring nationwide have failed, partly because they relied on volunteers and placed the burden on parents to find tutors for their children. The National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) has shown a decline in math and reading scores, with the most significant decline in math occurring in 2023. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a substantial impact on the academic progress of P–12 students, especially those from high-poverty communities.

In a recent white paper, Saga Education explores the potential of using Federal Work-Study (FWS) as a funding source to place college students in support roles for P–12 students, such as tutoring, coaching, and mentoring. Research has demonstrated that high-intensity, personalized tutoring provided during the school day can lead to significant learning gains. To expand tutoring beyond 2024, we can utilize programs like the FWS program.

The FWS program has provided financial aid and work experience to college students from lower-income backgrounds for nearly 60 years. It was established in 1964 to promote part-time employment opportunities for low-income college students. It has undergone updates and reauthorizations over the years. In 2000, Congress mandated that 7 percent of FWS funds be allocated to community service activities. 

In May 2023, the Department of Education urged colleges and universities to publicly commit to using a minimum of 15 percent of their FWS funds in the next two years to pay college students who work in community service. So far, 49 colleges and universities have agreed to use a minimum of 15 percent of their FWS funds for beneficial tutoring collaborations with P–12 public schools. 

Several higher education institutions (HEIs) and organizations are highlighted in this white paper for their use of FWS to expand high-impact tutoring (HIT) programs:

  • George Washington University
  • Grand Valley State University
  • Step Up Tutoring
  • Salisbury University
  • Spelman College
  • Teach for America – Ignite Fellowship


Download the white paper here