Here's How the Federal Work Study Program Works

Here's How the Federal Work Study Program Works

June 12, 2020
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Here's How the Federal Work Study Program Works

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Figuring out how to pay for college is at the top of the to do list for many college students. Thankfully, there are several ways to get funding for college, including a work-study opportunity.

The Federal Work-Study is a program that helps college students get a part-time job while they are enrolled in school. This program is provided for undergraduate and graduate students with financial need.

Whether you are a full-time or part-time student, you'll need to apply through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. All you need to do is select the option that indicates you want to be considered for the work-study.

A work-study isn’t guaranteed with your financial aid award, but applying early will provide a better chance of getting more aid. Within a few weeks of submitting the FAFSA, you should be able to see the awarded amounts you are eligible for grants and the work-study. If you do receive work-study as part of your financial aid package, then you can start looking for a work-study job.

What Kind of Jobs Can You Get?

The program makes an emphasis on finding employment relating to your course of study or in civic education. Both working on campus or off campus is possible for a work-study job but campus jobs are prioritized.

On campus jobs can include working as a lab assistant, in the library, or as an administrative assistant.

More than likely, as jobs fill up, you will be able to work at an approved off-campus employer such as a private nonprofit organization or a public agency. Other opportunities can include community service jobs such as reading, tutoring, or working in healthcare.

To help find these work opportunities some schools may match students to jobs or have work-study job listings available that students are able to apply for. Most schools, however, require the students to find their own work-study jobs if they are granted the funds.

Just like any other job, you will have to go through the applying and interview process. To make this process easier, make sure to contact the financial aid office to see how to proceed.

Since on campus work-study jobs can be limited be sure to secure a job as soon as you are awarded the financial aid. If you find a job on campus before getting the aid, you might still be able to work some hours without the work-study.

How Much Can You Earn?

In a work-study job, you are guaranteed to make at least the federal minimum wage, which is $7.25 per hour. However, there are a few factors that could affect the earning amount including the minimum wage requirements of your state.

The total award depends on when you apply, your level of financial need and the school’s funding level. Also, the compensation could depend on the type of work you do and the skills required.

As an undergraduate, you will be paid by the hour. Depending on the work, a graduate or a professional student can get paid by the hour or by salary. The payment schedule is varied, being paid at least once a month, but could be paid bi-weekly.

Most schools pay directly unless otherwise requested for the school to do a direct deposit or to set up automatic payments for your educational expenses. This makes it so that you are able to pay for any other living expenses students might have than just the academic expenses.

There is a limit to your earnings since they can’t exceed the total Federal Work-Study award. So, the employer or the financial aid office will be responsible for taking your class schedule and academic progress into account when making the work schedule. The money allocated will be spread out throughout the year until it runs out.

Likewise, having a certain amount of aid allocated doesn’t mean you will automatically earn all of that money if you work less hours. You will have to work enough of the hours needed to earn all of the provided financial aid.

Normally, the part-time jobs are 10-20 hours per week depending on the student’s availability and the employers’ qualifications.

Determining Factors

As you are not guaranteed a work-study aid, there are several factors weighing in on the eligibility. The biggest factor is the student’s financial need depending on your reported income and possibly including a parent’s or a spouse’s income. Filing your FAFSA early is also a big factor since the funds are based on a first-come, first-serve system.

Even though you are not required to accept the aid if you are awarded, it could affect your ability to qualify for the next year, so it is something to take into account.

The work-study program does not affect future financial aid and won’t count in the calculation that determines how much you are eligible for. However, you will need to report it on your FAFSA the following year since the money is taxable.

Make sure your school is a participating school that allows the federal work-study before determining to apply. Checking the financial aid office is the best way to see if your college is part of the 3,400 colleges and universities that have the Federal Work-Study Program.

While the work-study program most likely won’t cover all of your expenses, it is a beneficial tool for those who do qualify. Any work experience is a plus and these job opportunities are perfect for students since they promise flexible hours, balance school and work, and are often related to the field of study. Additionally, students can benefit from picking up professional skills, learn more about their field of study, and make contacts for future references.

It is up to you to determine whether you can balance working a part-time job with a busy class schedule. However, in most cases, a work-study helps students pay their personal and academic bills without accruing loans that need repayment. This way, students can graduate from college close to being, or even completely, debt free.