Federal Work Study, in Plain English | 02.17.10

Posted in FAFSA, Federal Work-Study By Student Loan Network Staff

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. Loren says on April 16, 2010 at 11:35 pm:

    I am offered work study once again.

    Reply To This Comment
  2. Jameala says on April 13, 2010 at 7:05 pm:

    works for me XD

    Reply To This Comment
  3. Charlene Sullivan says on April 13, 2010 at 6:22 pm:

    I am waiting until I can submit My work study application to financial aid, to be eligible to get a job on campus. I was accepted to the college after the winter term started. Now I have to wait until may before they will accept my application.

    Reply To This Comment
  4. Christopher says on April 13, 2010 at 1:35 am:

    Thank you for introducing me to Work Study. As a student, I have to work retail and such. With this, at least I can shorten the hours I have to waste at a department store. Work Study provides RELEVANT work in the field of my choice.

    Reply To This Comment
  5. priscilla says on April 12, 2010 at 7:01 pm:

    does every college offer it??

    Reply To This Comment
    • Evan Jacobs says on April 12, 2010 at 7:45 pm:

      If the college is Title IV certified and can accept federal aid for its students, then yes they should have some sort of work-study program in effect.

      Reply To This Comment
  6. dain says on April 9, 2010 at 5:42 pm:

    can you work more than you're supposed to ..like if they give u 2000 workstudy money, can you make it 3000 workstudy by working a few more hours each day?

    Reply To This Comment
  7. Katherine says on April 2, 2010 at 4:12 am:

    What if i wasn't given a work study grant with FASFA…Can i still get one once in the college of my choice?

    Reply To This Comment
    • Evan Jacobs says on April 2, 2010 at 2:38 pm:

      Hello Katherine,

      Work-study is granted by the government, so if you don't receive it from filing your FAFSA, you won't get it from the school. That being said, your school might offer their own version of work-study or perhaps even have small student jobs on campus that pay comparable amounts to a work-study award.

      Usually your financial aid office will have a list of on-campus jobs for students, I would ask them.

      Thanks for the great question!

      Reply To This Comment
  8. jasmine says on April 1, 2010 at 5:52 pm:

    Im trying for work study now

    Reply To This Comment
  9. jordan says on April 1, 2010 at 3:31 am:

    Would I be able to get a work study job within my choice of study ie. sports medicine/kinesiology?

    Reply To This Comment
    • Evan Jacobs says on April 2, 2010 at 2:40 pm:

      It's possible if there are openings in your school's appropriate apartment. The department heads of each program make the choice of if they want work-study employees or not.

      Reply To This Comment
  10. Ellie says on April 1, 2010 at 12:56 am:

    It sounds like a great experience that will allow me to complete my educataion

    Reply To This Comment
  11. Levi S says on March 30, 2010 at 7:33 pm:

    I've been getting acceptances from the colleges that I'm interested in. One offered me a work study job in my initial financial aid package. But, the others haven't even mentioned it as a possibility. If it's available at one school, would I be able to get the same kind of work study at the other schools, since it's a federal program. Anybody know?

    Reply To This Comment
    • Evan Jacobs says on April 2, 2010 at 2:44 pm:

      Hi Levi,

      You would definitely be offered the opportunity if the school you are attending is Title IV certified and can receive federal funds for its students. The tricky part is finding an open position on campus to work in… they tend to fill up quickly unless you go to a large school.

      Reply To This Comment
  12. lisa says on March 30, 2010 at 12:51 am:

    i hope to get a work study job this upcoming school year !

    Reply To This Comment
  13. sarah says on March 28, 2010 at 10:45 pm:


    Reply To This Comment
  14. Bernard Hartman says on March 25, 2010 at 2:19 pm:

    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
  15. wendy says on March 21, 2010 at 6:30 pm:

    It seems like work study is a good choice. I just wonder if Cal State Long Beach also lets student have work study. Sorry, i'm gonna be their freshman this autumn so i don't know how it works…

    Reply To This Comment
    • Evan Jacobs says on April 2, 2010 at 2:45 pm:

      Give your financial aid office a call and ask for a packet of open positions. I definitely think Cal State would participate in the work-study program. :-)

      Reply To This Comment
  16. Khadijah says on March 20, 2010 at 3:04 pm:

    I've heard about work study, and hope I am offered it when I start school this fall. It's a wonderful way to earn money, without having to travel far, and while going to school

    Reply To This Comment
  17. Lisa says on March 16, 2010 at 8:23 pm:

    Work study was a great way to get experience in my field. I really enjoyed it!

    Reply To This Comment
  18. Phyllis Gail Judge says on March 16, 2010 at 1:58 pm:

    I'm a student worker and I'm truly enjoying the experience. I wasn't able to find employment and until I do this is an idea situation for me. It's close to home and it's given me the opportunity to interact with facility, staff members and my peers on a professional level. It's a great concept.

    Reply To This Comment
  19. misty says on March 16, 2010 at 10:56 am:

    I am unsure of how it works in combination of financial aid.Do you get less grants if you do work study?

    Reply To This Comment
    • Evan Jacobs says on March 16, 2010 at 1:16 pm:

      Great question Misty :-)

      It actually is part of your need-based financial aid package. It doesn't detract from what you would receive otherwise. Hope this answers your question!

      Reply To This Comment
      • melinda says on April 9, 2010 at 1:24 am:

        And if you turn it down, you can make yourself ineligible for grants. Because if you think you have enough money, so will they!

  20. Danya says on March 15, 2010 at 7:30 am:

    I don't understand why I have never been able to do work study. everytime i put it down on my FAFSA nothing ever comes of it. is it because my mom makes too much money? I think that is a very asinine way to determine a student's payability if you will to school. I mean, for example the FAFSA askes my mom how much she makes but does not ask how much she has to pay for mortgage etc. which by the way is more than half her income per paycheck wich means she makes the poverty line… but yeah sure whatever, I guess making under 30,000 a year really is too much.

    Reply To This Comment
  21. BritneyRenae says on March 14, 2010 at 8:28 pm:

    I qualify for work study at my school and plan to apply there. However, i didnt know that there's a possibility FWS could expire if you do not take it. Thanks for clearing that up.

    Reply To This Comment
  22. Marya says on March 14, 2010 at 7:50 am:

    Which work study programs earn the most money?

    Reply To This Comment
  23. marieclaire says on March 14, 2010 at 3:17 am:

    how to get MORE work study funds?

    Reply To This Comment
  24. Estrada1643 says on March 11, 2010 at 4:59 pm:

    I did work study and it really helps, but the only thing was that i was unexpectedly known that my grant was met and that i couldn't be there anymore, that caught me by surprise but i had fun.!!

    Reply To This Comment
  25. Rachel says on March 11, 2010 at 4:11 pm:

    I've been considering work study because I heard good things about it, but really I was unsure of how the processed worked & whatnot. This article really aided me with the information for me to really make up my mind

    Reply To This Comment

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