Federal Work Study, in Plain English | 02.17.10
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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