Posted Date: March 27, 2015

Author:  Sue O'Flaherty, Service Director, Program Management, Federal Student Aid

Subject: 2015-2016 Federal Work-Study Program Community Service Waiver Requests

Section 443(b)(2)(A) of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended (HEA) and the implementing regulations at 34 CFR 675.18(g) set forth the community service expenditure requirements under the Federal Work-Study (FWS) Program that a school must meet unless it is granted a waiver from the Secretary. The following information explains how a school requests a waiver of the community service expenditure requirements under the FWS Program for the 2015-2016 Award Year.

FWS Community Service Expenditure Requirements

Each school that participates in the FWS Program is required to expend at least seven percent of its total award year FWS federal allocation as the federal share of compensation paid to students employed in community service activities. In addition, one or more of the school's FWS students must be employed during each award year as a reading tutor for children in a reading tutoring project or performing family literacy activities in a family literacy project [34 CFR 675.18(g)(1)].

A school that fails to meet one or both of the FWS community service requirements may be required to return FWS federal funds in an amount that represents the difference between the amount the school should have spent for community service and the amount it actually spent as well as being subject to a substantial fine. Further, a school that is not compliant with the FWS community service requirements may be subject to other sanctions, including a Limitation, Suspension, and Termination (L, S, & T) proceeding, through which the school could be denied future participation in the FWS Program, and possibly other Title IV, HEA programs.

FWS Community Service Waiver Request

Under the statute, the Secretary may waive one or both of the community service requirements for a school if the school has demonstrated that enforcing the
requirement(s) would cause a hardship for the students at that school. The fact that it may be difficult for the school to comply with the requirement(s) is not in and of itself a basis for granting a waiver [34 CFR 675.18(g)(2)]. In the past, the Secretary has approved a limited number of waivers when schools were able to demonstrate an exceptional circumstance. For example:

Small FWS Allocation - The school had a very small FWS allocation. The supporting information submitted by the school noted that seven percent of the school's allocation only provided enough funds for a student to work in a community service job for a short period of time. Therefore, the school was unable to find placement for a student in a community service job.

Rural Area - The school is in a rural area that is located far from the type of organizations that would normally provide community service jobs. The school provided information that showed that its students lacked the means of transportation to get to the location of the community service jobs. In a similar waiver request in which transportation did exist, a school provided documentation that showed that the transportation costs were extremely high for the students.

Specialized Program - The school offered only a single program of specialized study that required its students to spend extensive amounts of time in classroom and non-classroom academic activities. The school provided information that demonstrated that this specialized educational program did not allow its students to have time for performing community service jobs at the time those work opportunities were available.

Submission Requirements for a 2015-2016 FWS Community Service Waiver Request

A school must submit its waiver request to the Department of Education (the Department) electronically via the eCampus-Based (eCB) Web site at the "Community Service Waiver" link at the top of the "Setup - Change Years/Schools" page.

The school's waiver request must specify whether the school is requesting a waiver of the seven percent community service requirement, the reading tutors of children or family literacy project requirement, or both. It must also include detailed information to demonstrate that complying with the requirement(s) would cause hardship for the school's students.

The deadline for electronic submission of a school's 2015-2016 FWS Community Service waiver request is 11:59 P.M. (ET) on Monday, April 27, 2015. Transmissions must be completed and accepted by 12:00 midnight.

A waiver request that is received after April 27, 2015 will not be considered.

Decision Notification of the FWS Community Service Waiver Request

The Department plans to notify, via e-mail, each school that submitted a 2015-2016 FWS Community Service waiver request that a decision has been made regarding its waiver request by July 1, 2015. In the e-mail, we will inform the school that the Secretary's decision to approve or deny the school's waiver request has been posted to the eCB Web site. We will send this e-mail to the school's Financial Aid Administrator, as provided in the school's most recently submitted Fiscal Operations Report and Application to Participate or as updated via the "Contact Info" page on the eCB Web site.

To access the decision following receipt of this e-mail, log in to the eCB Web site, select the "Self-Service" link from the top navigation bar, and scroll to the "Campus-Based Notifications for All Available Award Years" section. Then, scroll to the "Community Service Waiver" bullet and select the "2015-2016" link next to it.

Contact Information

If you have additional questions about the FWS community service expenditure requirements or the procedures for requesting a waiver, contact the Campus-Based Call Center at 877/801-7168. Customer service representatives are available Monday through Friday from 8:00 A.M. until 8:00 P.M. (ET). You may also e-mail CBFOB@ed.gov.

   

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