How Budget Cuts Continue to Make Us Sicker, Poorer and Less Secure

Cuts Hurt Students

Featuring: Tiffany Gusbeth, Assistant Director of Student Success Services at the American Indian College Fund, Denver, Colorado

ROLE OF GOVERNMENT: Investing in Students

The Federal Work Study program offers vital assistance to students who are financing college through part-time employment. By providing work opportunities, Work Study lets students earn money to help pay for postsecondary expenses, helps integrate students into college life, promotes persistence through graduation, and provides students with valuable work experience that makes them more competitive in today’s workforce.

The Work Study program is also cost-effective for the federal government, since both institutions and employers must have “skin in the game” by matching federal dollars and promoting institutional commitment to federal student aid. Students can receive Work Study funds at approximately 3,400 participating postsecondary institutions.

Despite the program’s success, inflation has eroded the purchasing power of otherwise flat funding. Adjusted for inflation, federal funding for work study has decreased by 24 percent since 2003.

Federal Work-Study Funding
(in Millions of 2018 Dollars)

Source: Summary of FY 2003-2018 Final Appropriations prepared by the Committee for Education Funding

Federal Work Study Got Me To Where I Am Today

Work Study has made college possible for many students, having a lifelong effect for example, Work Study helped Tiffany Gusbeth earn her bachelor’s degree. Tiffany was raised in a single-parent home where financial support for higher education was not an option. With the financial assistance she procured through Pell grants and the Work Study program, Tiffany was able to work two jobs to subsidize the cost of her college education.

“If I did not have [the necessary] funding through federal student aid for tuition, books, and living expenses, it would have been difficult, if not impossible…to earn my bachelor’s degree,” she said.

Now, as Assistant Director of Student Success Services at the American Indian College Fund, Tiffany helps American Indian students pursue a college degree through scholarships. She noted that “Federal Work Study got me to where I am today” – pursuing her passion of supporting students on their higher education journey.

“I was lucky enough to work in the financial aid office at my college. Not only did that opportunity help me tremendously in my financial situation, but I gained professional skills that led me to my calling: student support services.”

Tiffany found a great support system with the employees in her college financial aid office. She is still in touch with many of them, and some have become close friends and mentors. “I truly don’t know what my life would be like if I hadn’t completed my education….I can now support myself and my family.” Tiffany shares her story with the students she works with to encourage them to keep going in their own pursuits of higher education. “I can only scratch the surface of how earning an education has changed my life. I tell everyone to take advantage of Federal Work Study.”

Abandoning Our Students

The Administration’s FY 2018 budget cuts Federal Work Study by 49.5 percent, down to $500 million, which would amount to the largest percentage cut and the largest dollar-for-dollar cut in the program’s history. Funding at the President’s requested level would support awards to only 332,600 students, resulting in 302,331 fewer students receiving valuable financial assistance and work experience compared with the 2015-16 academic year.1


1. Fiscal Year 2018 Budget, Summary and Background Information, Department of Education; available from https://www2.ed.gov/about/overview/budget/budget18/summary/18summary.pdf; Internet; September 14, 2017.