What is Federal Work Study?

 In Work Study

Over the coming weeks and into the new year, families applying for the 2017-18 school year will begin to receive financial aid award letters. While families have a sense of what loans, scholarships and grants are, another common component that tends to be less known is Federal Work Study.

Essentially, Federal Work Study is money provided to a school from the government to be used to pay qualifying student workers. It’s a program used to create jobs on campuses for students that would like to work part-time during their college career. Federal Work Study is a need-based award, meaning eligibility is determined through financial aid applications. Students are awarded an amount they are able to earn through the work study program for a given aid year.

Here are a few common questions surrounding Federal Work Study.

Are students guaranteed jobs?

No. Just because a student is awarded work study doesn’t mean they are guaranteed a job. Often, students are required to approach offices and departments on campus to apply for open jobs. Students awarded Federal Work Study tend to have an advantage over those that don’t receive the award when it comes to gaining employment.

Does Federal Work Study count toward my cost of college?

No. Federal Work Study¬†operates like a part-time job. In this case, students that are working receive a paycheck. It is up to the student how the money is spent. While students can use the money to pay for future college balances or to pay down outstanding student loans, it’s not uncommon for the wages earned to be used as spending money for the student.

If I don’t have Federal Work Study can I still work on campus?

Yes. It’s not uncommon for some departments or offices on campus to have budgets allocated for student workers. This will especially be the case for those departments that employ the most student workers, usually food services and athletics. Students that do not have work study can apply for these jobs. However, students that have been awarded Federal Work Study are viewed as favorable considering their wages are paid for by the government rather than through the department’s budget. You can also become a budget worker if you want a job beyond your Federal Work Study job or if you have already used your allotted Federal Work Study award.

Additional Federal Work Study Information

  • Different work study jobs have different hourly wages. Not all jobs are the same.
  • Departments and offices on campus are generally more flexible with their student workers than off-campus jobs. In this way, students are generally able to flex their schedules to account for tests, breaks or other school-related activities.
  • Federal Work Study is not guaranteed each year. You have to qualify for work study based on need. If a family’s financial situation changes from one year to the next the student may no longer qualify for need-based aid such as Federal Work Study.
  • Federal Work Study tends to be something that is easier to have and later turn down rather than not request initially and try to get added later. For this reason, I advise families to express interest in work study when initially applying for aid.
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