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In a time when President George W. Bush and other national leaders are calling for increased commitment by Americans to national service, Lafayette has achieved an outstanding record of putting federal work-study funds to work for the benefit of the surrounding community.

Statistics published in the January/February 2002 issue of The Washington Monthly show that Lafayette’s use of federal work-study funds for community service projects in the 1999-2000 academic year exceeded almost all other most-competitive colleges and universities in the United States. Among the 56 colleges and universities in the current edition of Barron’s Guide to the Most Competitive Colleges, Lafayette ranked eighth in devoting federal work-study funds to community service projects.

In 1999-2000, the percentage of federal work-study funds that Lafayette devoted to community service was 14.4 percent, above the national average of 11.8 percent and almost triple the 5 percent mandated by law. Last year (2000-01), Lafayette’s figure grew to more than 23 percent, while the requirement was raised to 7 percent.

The lion’s share of federal work-study monies that Lafayette channels into community service is through the America Reads tutoring program. Each semester about 50 Lafayette students spend five to seven hours per week tutoring children in reading and math, working mainly with kindergarteners through fourth-graders at schools in the Easton Area School District. They assist the teachers in the classrooms during the school day and tutor the kids in after-school “homework clubs.” The College has participated in America Reads since it was launched by President Clinton in 1997-98.

“We have been well over the required percentages thanks to a deep commitment to community service on the part of both our students and the institution,” says Arlina B. DeNardo, director of student financial aid. The success stems from a collaboration between the financial aid office, which administers the work-study program, and the chaplain’s office, which oversees Lafayette’s extensive community service efforts.

Indeed Lafayette’s community service programs go far beyond those that are funded in part by work-study money from the federal government.

Under the auspices of the College’s Landis Community Outreach Center, Lafayette students conduct more than 25 programs of sustained voluntary service in Easton and beyond each year. The students help others and learn about social problems by combating poverty; mentoring, tutoring, and educating others; and protecting the environment.

Landis Center programs include tutoring children, prison inmates, and those learning English as a second language; educating others about AIDS; mentoring and organizing activities for children; serving meals and working in homeless shelters; volunteering in hospitals and emergency squads; visiting nursing-home residents, and others. The center also works with other groups planning service projects and with the Alternative School Break Club.

In total, more than 780 Lafayette students contributed more than 32,000 hours of community service in the 1999-2000 school year.

In the Washington Monthly article, entitled “The Other College Rankings: When it Comes to National Service America’s ‘Best Colleges’ are Its Worst, ” Joshua Green writes, “The Federal Work-Study Program was initiated under the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 and moved to the Department of Health, Education and Welfare as part of the Higher Education Act of 1965. ‘Work-study,’ says Lois Dickson Rice, an education scholar at the Brookings Institute, ‘had an implicit, if not an explicit, purpose of urging students to do community service.’ Indeed, look up today’s law and its purpose seems clear: ‘[T]o encourage students receiving Federal student financial aid to participate in community service activities that will benefit the nation and engender in the students a sense of social responsibility and commitment to the community.'”

“The federal work-study programs provide part-time employment to help students who qualify for financial aid pay for college costs. The government provides about 75 percent of the money, and the colleges pick up the remaining quarter,” explains Richard Morgan in a Jan. 8 story “Top Colleges Score Worst on Amount of Work-Study Funds Devoted to Community Service” on the Chronicle of Higher Education’s website. “Until recently, the 3,091 participating colleges were required to use at least 5 percent of their funds for community service, rather than campus jobs. That requirement rose to 7 percent as of the 2000-01 academic year.”

Green writes, “The program now provides jobs to nearly a million students through more than $1 billion in financial aid. Given the renewed public interest in national service since September 11, it’s worth examining what has happened to one of the first federal programs created to encourage it. Which schools are leading the way? . . . What the numbers show is that when it comes to community service, the nation’s best schools perform the worst.”

In the Chronicle story, Morgan quotes Thomas Ehrlich, a member of the board of directors of the Corporation for National Service, “You’d like to think that the top-ranked institutions pay particular attention to living lives of civic attention and responsibility, but obviously they’re not.”

Lafayette is getting the job done, in terms of community service funded by work-study money and purely voluntary service.

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