Federal Work Study, in Plain English | 02.17.10

Posted in FAFSA, Federal Work-Study By Evan Jacobs

Well, it’s that time of the year again; time to file your taxes, FAFSA, and other paperwork goodies to your respective school(s). I have received a lot of questions about how different student programs work, and decided to start this “… in Plain English” blog series to address them and simplify the entire experience for you, our readers.

Today, we are going to explore how the Federal Work Study program works, and why it probably is a great way for you to make some pocket money without getting in the way of your studies or classes.

First, what is it? Work study is a federal program that was established in 1964 as part of the Economic Opportunity Act. Basically, it was introduced so that college students have more part-time jobs available to them to offset poverty and afford basic necessities (and potentially repay some of their debt) during their time at school. In the years since, work study has become an excellent tool for getting job experience while in school and serves as one of the primary ways colleges fill what normally would be intern spots in their various departments.

How does it work? Work study eligibility is determined based on the information in your FAFSA. Depending on your level of financial need, you typically can receive anywhere up to roughly $2,000 for the academic year in available earnings. The way you then receive these funds is through working in one of the campus jobs offered by your school — the money is actually kept in an account in your name at your school, and disbursed to you through payroll as you work the hours.

So essentially, the government grants you X amount of dollars for the year, and you pick a position at your school to work to earn that money. It’s just like a normal part time job, except for the fact that there is a total limit on how much you can earn during the year. As far as the pay rate for each job, your financial aid department has a sliding scale that they use to figure out how many hours per week and dollars per hour you can earn based on your award.

Why should I do it? Simply put, it’s a guaranteed job (and money, as long as you work). You get to pick a position that you find interesting — check with your financial aid office for a list of open ones — and this gives you valuable experience, as well as a regular paycheck. One other cool thing is a lot of the work study jobs are somewhat low key, so you may be able to get some homework done in between tasks. Also, every work study job has different hours, and usually are flexible… so you can work as little or as much as you need to (within the guidelines of your award.)

Important Note: If you don’t use your work study grant, it is possible that you will not be awarded another one the following year. Work study is considered a need-based privilege, and if you do not claim it and work at least one semester per academic year, the government may not offer it to you again. This doesn’t always happen, but it is just something to be aware of.

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70 Responses to “Federal Work Study, in Plain English”

  1. rose shu says on March 11, 2010 at 5:02 am:

    Good information I was not aware of

    Reply To This Comment
  2. Courtney C says on March 8, 2010 at 3:43 pm:

    This is great. I'm applying for work study at my art school and I was happy to find an article dealing with work study.

    Reply To This Comment
  3. Laurie says on March 5, 2010 at 4:35 am:

    This is great information most students are not aware of. Thanks for this information.

    Reply To This Comment
  4. shannon says on March 3, 2010 at 9:34 pm:

    thanks for the information

    Reply To This Comment
  5. sierra says on March 3, 2010 at 4:47 pm:

    Thank you for this information! I'm going to look into this some more to see what I have to do to qualify.

    Reply To This Comment
  6. amanda says on March 3, 2010 at 12:08 am:

    Thanks for the great information! I hope to participate in work study in college.

    Reply To This Comment
  7. Dawn says on March 2, 2010 at 2:55 pm:

    How do I get an ONLINE work study job

    Reply To This Comment
  8. Diego Gasca says on February 26, 2010 at 1:53 pm:

    At this point of the economy, or actually in any given situation, a college student can benefit from work study, as it not only enhances their work experience, working around their schedule, but provides as well a good opportunity to repay the system for the resources the student gets to complete his higher education.

    Reply To This Comment
  9. Michele says on February 26, 2010 at 5:35 pm:

    While I was filling out the fafsa for my daughter I was getting confused in regards of where to put her earnings for the semester she worked which was $350.00 I put it under adjusted gross income from IRS form and students cooperative education earnings. Should I have put this down in both places?

    Reply To This Comment
  10. Brittany says on February 26, 2010 at 4:25 pm:

    I was offered a work study at my school but they offered so more than they had available. I was an out of state student and by the time I was at school all the positions available were taken by in state students who chose their work study in the summer. If it had worked out though I would have loved to have that experience and the money.

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  11. KELCIE says on February 26, 2010 at 2:12 am:

    This info answers my questions in easy to understand language. Thanks!

    Reply To This Comment
  12. katie says on February 25, 2010 at 2:46 pm:

    i really neeeded this info thanks

    Reply To This Comment
  13. CLARA says on February 23, 2010 at 4:38 am:

    Is very interesting this information. Thank you for all!

    Reply To This Comment
  14. Tiffany says on February 21, 2010 at 5:27 am:

    How do they determine the amount of hours and wages per hours that you work?

    Reply To This Comment
    • Evan Jacobs says on February 22, 2010 at 4:59 pm:

      Basically, they have a formula that they plug your award amount into and it calculates the hours/week and hourly rate you get paid at. It never is below minimum wage, and I personally have seen it go up to a max of about $12/hr depending on the difficulty and skill requirements of the work.

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  15. Brittany says on February 21, 2010 at 5:14 am:

    I just dont like that your only allowed to do a certain amount of hours

    Reply To This Comment
    • Evan Jacobs says on February 22, 2010 at 5:00 pm:

      I hear that. The reason for it is so you don't work up the whole award too quickly – they want to balance out the money over the whole semester so the department you are working for suddenly doesn't lose your help because you run out of award money to work for.

      Reply To This Comment
  16. David Cook says on February 20, 2010 at 6:26 pm:

    I apply for work study and my school said if you have felony record you can not recieved work study. Is this true

    Reply To This Comment
    • Evan Jacobs says on February 22, 2010 at 5:04 pm:

      Hi David. I did a little research on this, and could not find any information that says you are ineligible for work-study based on a past criminal record. However, if you fail to disclose that information on your paperwork, you can be penalized for it under the law.

      Your state may have some sort of unique statute about this that isn't a federal rule, but it would be discrimination to deny you federally-granted work-study aid based on that.

      Reply To This Comment
  17. tiffany says on February 19, 2010 at 4:13 am:

    I hope that I will be able to get this.. How do you know if you qualify?

    Reply To This Comment
    • Evan Jacobs says on February 19, 2010 at 7:02 pm:

      Once you fill out your FAFSA and submit it, your student aid report (SAR) will list if you qualified for the work-study program. Also, your school should list it when you receive your financial aid package from them in the mail.

      Reply To This Comment
  18. Suzie says on February 19, 2010 at 3:45 am:

    I like how this works. You meet new people and can use this in your resume. I have work study right now and its great! I think the only thing is that they give you a certain amount which I wish was more

    Reply To This Comment
    • Evan Jacobs says on February 22, 2010 at 5:08 pm:

      You should ask the office you work for if there is any money in the budget to extend your position beyond your award amount. In some cases, depending on the finances of your school/department, your federal award can be enhanced by school funds if they feel you are doing a great job and want to keep you onboard after your work-study funds are used up.

      At that point, you would be considered a part-time employee of the college/university, which would look great on your resume.

      Reply To This Comment
  19. Vanessa says on February 18, 2010 at 5:57 pm:

    I hope I'll be able to do work study. I think my parents might make too much for me to be eligible:/ Good information though.

    Reply To This Comment
  20. meary says on February 18, 2010 at 5:32 pm:

    I actually applied two weeks ago and now Im working! It's a great job!
    Ask for info!

    Reply To This Comment
  21. ~Liz says on February 18, 2010 at 4:22 am:

    I wish my school allowed me to do this like my last did :(

    Reply To This Comment
  22. lauren says on February 18, 2010 at 3:16 am:

    this sounds helpful i'll have to check into it!

    Reply To This Comment
  23. maira says on February 18, 2010 at 2:34 am:

    really helpful and thanks for every single bit of help that you give us

    Reply To This Comment
  24. Alyssa says on February 17, 2010 at 11:26 pm:

    wow i had no idea that you have to work on campus to receive the fasfa money! thank you soooo much for this article. It was really informative!

    Reply To This Comment
    • Wendy says on February 18, 2010 at 3:39 pm:

      you don't have to, I recieved the money and I am not working anywhere.

      Reply To This Comment
      • Evan Jacobs says on February 18, 2010 at 12:00 pm:

        Work study has to be earned through an on-campus job. Unless your financial aid office isn’t following the rules, or you are thinking of a different type of aid, that is the federal guideline for receiving the award amount.

  25. Matt says on February 17, 2010 at 11:20 pm:

    Thanks for the info! But, I don't think it is fair to say that being granted a work study as aid means that you have a guaranteed job. I can't say how the program works at all schools, but I do know that at my school, you still have to apply for available jobs on campus. AVAILABLE is the key word here. It is very possible that the number of students who are looking for a work study job exceed the number of jobs available at your school. And, even if a job is available, you may not be qualified to do it … or the required hours/times needed for the job may not work based on you class schedule. So – a job is far from guaranteed as I learned this year! I was offered $2500 in work study aid, which I have not been able to use because the only jobs available were ones that required a niche skill that I didn't happen to possess. The "anyone can do" type jobs get filled very quickly. Just my experience … again, not sure if it is done this way at all schools.

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