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Frequently Asked

About the Workforce for Student Well-being (WSW) Initiative

The Workforce for Student Well-being (WSW) Initiative is a career opportunity for those interested in becoming a school social worker. 

Below are frequently asked questions about the WSW.

Because the selection of WSW students is managed by each university, we encourage students to contact their university’s WSW administrator regarding the application process and the program’s commitments. 

If you have additional questions about the Workforce for Student Well-being (WSW) Initiative, please contact us at: 

What is the Workforce for Student Well-being Initiative?

The Workforce for Student Well-being (WSW) Initiative  is a statewide collaborative that will expand the number of master’s level social workers providing mental health services in high-need public and tribal schools. Students attending one of the five accredited schools of social work across Washington state, who have a commitment to working in schools, are eligible to apply for conditional scholarships up to $30,000 to offset their graduate education expenses.

What is "school social work"?

“School social work is a specialized area of practice within the broad field of the social work profession. School social workers bring unique knowledge and skills to the school system and the student services team. School Social Workers are trained mental health professionals who can assist with mental health concerns, behavioral concerns, positive behavioral support, academic, and classroom support, consultation with teachers, parents, and administrators as well as provide individual and group counseling/therapy.  School social workers are instrumental in furthering the mission of the schools which is to provide a setting for teaching, learning, and for the attainment of competence and confidence. School social workers are hired by school districts to enhance the district’s ability to meet its academic mission, especially where home, school and community collaboration is the key to achieving student success.”

-National Association of School Social Workers

What is a “high-need school" and is a list of the schools available?

High-need schools participating in the WSW are local education agencies (LEA) defined in the Federal Registry as: 1) for which at least 20 percent of the children served by the agency are children from low-income backgrounds;  2) that serves at least 10,000 children from low-income backgrounds; 3) that meets the eligibility requirements for funding under the Small, Rural School Achievement (SRSA) program under Section 5211(b) of the ESEA; or 4a) that meets the eligibility requirements for funding under the Rural and Low-Income School (RLIS) program under Section 5221(b) of the ESEA; and 4b) for which there is a high student to qualified mental health services provider ratio as compared to other LEAs statewide or nationally.

A list of high-need school districts in Washington state can be found via this link.

How many high-need schools are there in Washington?

The Workforce for Student Well-being (WSW) team in partnership with the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction has identified more than 250 local education agencies that qualify for the WSW. Of the 250, there are 80 school districts that are committed to installing school mental health through a multi-tiered system of support (MTSS) such as Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) or Interconnected  System Framework (ISIF), or is working on a plan to do so. We encourage partnering universities to build upon existing K-12 relationships and to cultivate partnerships.

What is the focus for this conditional scholarship?

For a conditional scholarship through the Workforce for Student Well-being (WSW) Initiative, students must agree to train at a high-need K-12 public or tribal school, then work at a high-need K-12 public or tribal school post-graduation for a minimum of two years. Both the advanced practicum and work requirement must take place in Washington state. The practicum placement and the employment can be at different sites. The WSW has a list of qualifying school districts (local education agencies) that address the Initiative’s goals.

How are grants distributed among participating universities?

The WSW aims to support 100 MSW training program graduates. To do so, each participating MSW training program will be allocated four WSW slots annually. Anticipated funding from the U. S. Department of Education will support 20 WSW students throughout the 2023-2024, 2024-2025, 2025-2026, 2026-2027, and 2027-2028 academic years.

Will receiving a conditional scholarship enhance a student’s job prospects?

We believe so, especially since the Initiative gives students access to specialized training and a statewide network to benefit and accelerate their career as a school social worker. Being a part of a community of practice with students and mentors from across the state will provide additional career placement support.

When did the Workforce for Student Well-being (WSW) Initiative begin?

The U.S. Department of Education Office of Elementary & Secondary Education, Office of Safe and Supportive Schools, awarded the University of Washington a Mental Health Service Professional Demonstration grant in December 2022. The Workforce for Student Well-being (WSW) Initiative began in January 2023. The first WSW cohort will begin Fall 2023 and graduate Spring/Summer 2024.

About the conditional grant application

Who can apply?

The Workforce for Student Well-being (WSW) Initiative offers conditional scholarships to graduate students in one of Washington state’s accredited social work programs who commit to working at a high-need public or tribal school in Washington state.


MSW students in their final academic year, including Advanced Standing students, are eligible to apply.

For students to be awarded a scholarship, they must be enrolled in an accredited social work program. What is the acceptable accreditor?

The Workforce for Student Well-being (WSW) Initiative is designed for students in graduate programs accredited through Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

Is there a fee to apply?

No, there is no fee to apply.

Is there a deadline to apply?

Yes, there is a deadline of September 30th. While each university has its internal application deadline, all WSW applications should be completed by April 30th. 

Please contact your university regarding their individual Workforce for Student Well-being (WSW) application deadline.

Who selects applicants for conditional scholarships?

Applicants are currently selected by their respective universities’ WSW selection committee.

What qualifies as demonstrating a commitment to working in a high-need K-12 public or tribal school?

Past volunteer or paid experience working with youth and families; identification of practice skills that the applicant hopes to develop; and stated interest and/or plan for future employment as a school social worker are ways in which students can demonstrate their commitment to school mental health.

What qualifies as “documented need for financial assistance?”

Completing the FAFSA® or WASFA forms are the acceptable methods for documenting financial need.

What type of documents/information might I need to provide in my application?

Completing and submitting an online WSW conditional scholarship application for your MSW program will allow your university’s Office of Financial Aid to calculate and process your unmet financial need.


The application will take 60-90 minutes to complete and can be found via this link.

My university isn’t listed as a partner with the WSW. Can I still apply?

Unfortunately, you cannot. WSW university partners are restricted to the five accredited MSW training programs in Washington state that have chosen to participate.

About the Workforce for Student Well-being (WSW) Initiative

Is there a set number of conditional grants set aside for each education partner?

Yes, with a goal of providing 100 conditional scholarships, each university is allotted four (4) scholarship awards for the 2023-24 academic year.

When do you hope to receive conditional grant applications for students in the last year of their MSW program?

Each higher education program determines their eligible students based on their selection process. Students should check with their university regarding their WSW deadline and apply before September 15th.

When a graduate student is awarded a WSW conditional scholarship, are the funds distributed each quarter?

Yes, a student is awarded a maximum of $30,000 for the final year of their program. The award amount is calculated based on need provided by your university’s office of financial aid/services then distributed each quarter. The conditional scholarship award is in exchange for two academic years of employment at a high-need K-12 public or tribal school.

When an extended degree student is awarded a conditional grant, will they be able to begin receiving funds during the summer quarter?

Yes, conditional scholarship funds will be paid in installments each academic term (quarter) and available through students’ spring/summer graduation date.

If a conditional scholarship recipient's practicum placement needs to change due to concerns about the recipient's performance, will the recipient need to leave the WSW program?

The conditional scholarship recipient may transfer to another high-need K-12 public or tribal school to avoid leaving the program.

If a placement does not work and we are not able to secure another placement in a high-need K-12 school, what is the consequence to the student?

Because this is a conditional scholarship (and not a traditional scholarship), the student must repay the funds if placement is not a high-need K-12 public or tribal school.

Will universities be permitted to search for placements at various high-need schools?

Yes. In an effort to increase the number of school social workers, universities are encouraged to develop partnerships with high-need K-12 public and tribal schools in Washington state.

If a conditional scholarship recipient does not successfully complete their graduate program, is the recipient responsible for reimbursing the Workforce for Student Well-being (WSW) Initiative?

The student must repay the funds as this is a conditional  scholarship (versus a traditional scholarship).

What happens if a student does not complete their graduate program?

In the event that a conditional scholarship student is in default, either by disenrolling in the academic program or through voluntary or involuntary termination of employment, the student may be referred for collections.

Will high-need schools affiliated with the WSW require additional support from the universities?

Additional support from university partners, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), and the WSW team is in development.

Can students in a one-year program apply for a conditional grant?

Yes, students in a one-year program may apply for a conditional scholarship, which has a maximum award of $30,000, based on unmet need in, on condition of two academic years of post-graduation employment in a high-need K-12 public or tribal school.

After graduation, are graduates who received a conditional scholarship required to find employment at a high-need school or may they find employment at any school or school district in Washington?

Employment must take place at a high-need K-12 public or tribal school in Washington state.

A list of high-need schools and schools in Washington state can be found via this link.

Learn more about Post-Graduation Loan Requirements

Are graduates able to move out of state and meet the employment obligation at a school outside of Washington?

The Initiative is specific to Washington state; students must maintain legal residency in Washington state following their graduation and be employed at a high-need K-12 school in Washington to fulfill their conditional scholarship commitment.

How is "unmet financial need" defined?

The unmet need is the student’s cost of attendance minus any scholarships. The university’s Office of Student Aid calculates the student’s unmet need, upon which a student makes the decision to proceed with accepting the conditional scholarship or to decline the opportunity.

How much financial support will each practicum instructor receive per conditional scholarship student?

An acknowledgment has been allotted for each WSW student’s training/practicum site for providing a learning experience that increases  the number, diversity, and skills of school social workers working in Washington schools. (Funds are sent to the practicum instructor’s K-12 school versus individual practicum instructors.)

How and at what intervals will conditional scholarships funds be disbursed?

The funds are invoiced by the student’s training site, a high-need K-12  school, then distributed at the end of the student’s training period/practicum.

If the training placement fails, will the practicum instructor or K-12 school be expected to return the funds received?

The funds are invoiced by the student’s training site, a high-need K-12 school, then distributed at the end of the student’s training period/practicum.

Are there additional experience or licensure requirements that Field Instructors for conditional grant recipients must meet (beyond what is required currently by the higher education program)?

There are no additional experience or licensure requirements for practicum instructors beyond what is required by their university’s social work program, however, practicum instructors and practicum supervisors are encouraged to participate in the WSW’s community of practice activities.

What is the criteria for the ideal WSW participant??

The Workforce for Student Well-being (WSW) Initiative‘s student criteria prioritizes MSW students that: 1) have demonstrated a commitment to working in a high need K-12 public or tribal school; 2) are in-need of financial assistance; and 3) have demonstrated experience with and a commitment to working in diverse communities.

What is the Community of Practice?

A key component of the Workforce for Student Well-being (WSW) Initiative is participating in the Community of Practice, which includes: 1) receiving pre-service training inclusive of a 30-hour learning experience with peers; 2) attending a professional networking retreat with mentors; 3) receiving Educational Staff Associate (ESA) certificate; and 4) receiving career placement support to take a leadership role in a high-need public school after graduation.

What data will be collected for each student receiving a conditional scholarship?

In addition to students completing their password-protected online application, we will survey students and graduates, and ask partner-universities to provide common existing student information (for example, the student’s training/practicum site and zip code).


Fulfilling one’s post-graduation employment commitment is critical to the WSW’s success and post-graduation information and feedback will be collected.

Still Have Questions?