A school that participates in the FWS Program is required to expend at least seven percent of its FWS federal allocation to pay the federal share of wages to students employed in community service jobs. In addition, one or more of the school’s FWS students must be employed as a reading tutor for children in a reading tutoring project or performing family literacy activities in a family literacy project. A school that fails to meet these requirements may be required to return FWS federal funds to the Department and in egregious cases can be fined, suspended, or even terminated from participating in the Title IV Program unless the school is granted a waiver of the community service requirement from the Secretary ahead of time.

The Secretary may waive one or both of the community service requirements for a school if the school has demonstrated that enforcing the requirement would cause a hardship for the students at that school.

In the past, the Secretary has approved a limited number of waivers for schools that were able to demonstrate an exceptional circumstance. Some exceptional circumstances include, but are not limited to:

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.

A school must submit its waiver request to the Department of Education electronically via the eCampus-Based website. The deadline for electronic submission of a school’s 2017-2018 FWS Community Service waiver request is Monday, April 24, 2017.

The Department plans to notify, via email, each school that submitted a 2017-2018 FWS Community Service waiver request that a determination has been made regarding its waiver request no later than June 30, 2017. http://bit.ly/2numoC5