Under certain exceptional circumstances a school can request a waiver of the requirement to expend at least 7% of their Federal Work Study Allocation to pay the federal share of wages to students employed in community service jobs in an award year, or for employing one or more of the school’s FWS students as a reading tutor for children in a reading tutoring project or performing family literacy activities in a family literacy project as required by the program regulations. A school that fails to meet one or both of the FWS community service requirements may be required to return FWS federal funds, subject to a substantial fine, and/or subject to other sanctions, including a Limitation, Suspension, and Termination or denial of future participation in the FWS Program, and possibly other Title IV, HEA programs.

Federal Student Aid recently announced the process for requesting Federal Work Study Program Community Service Waivers for the 2019-2020 year and gave some examples of circumstances where schools have been approved for a waiver of the requirements in the past.

Schools that can demonstrate an exceptional circumstance may be eligible to have their community service requirements waived. The deadline for electronic submission of a school’s 2019–20 FWS Community Service waiver request is 11:59 p.m. Eastern time (ET) on Monday, April 22, 2019.  Completed submissions must be accepted by the COD system by midnight ET. A waiver request that is received after April 22, 2019 will not be considered.

Examples of exceptional Circumstances for FWS Community Service Waiver Requests

Small FWS Allocation – The school had a very small FWS allocation. The supporting information submitted by the school noted that seven percent (7%) 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.