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Students who participate in the federal work-study program are more likely to graduate and be employed six years after college than their similar counterparts who don’t participate in the program, according to a new study.

Two Columbia University researchers, Judith Scott-Clayton and Veronica Minaya, examined the impact of work-study jobs on students’ academic and future employment outcomes compared to students working in non-work-study jobs and those not working at all.

They found that the work-study program had a positive academic effect – but no impact on later employment – for work-study students who planned to work during college regardless of whether they received the federal benefit (about half of all work-study students). For the other segment of work-study students – students who would not have worked without work-study – the researchers found no or a slightly negative impact on academics but positive effects on their post-college employment.

The authors of the study also found that the positive effects of the work-study program were magnified for lower-income and lower-SAT students compared with their wealthier, higher-scoring peers.

That finding, the authors write, suggest that the effectiveness of the Federal Work-Study program “might be increased by modifying the allocation formula--which currently provides disproportionate support to students at elite private institutions--to better target lower-income and lower-scoring students.”