Learnin’ & Earnin’: What You Should Know About Federal Work-Study

By: Katie Wornek, UHEAA

Since today’s blog discusses work…a lot…I think we should lighten up this post by starting with a joke.

Why did the can crusher quit his job?…
…Because it was SODA PRESSING!


All jokes aside, work can be a fun, engaging, and fulfilling part of your life. It’s also a great way to offset some of the costs of college. One of the many options students have for paying for school is Federal Work-Study.

The Federal Work-Study program was created in 1965 with the passage of the Higher Education Act. The program is designed to help students earn money and learn relevant skills through part-time work. Work-study jobs can be found both on- and off-campus and offer flexible hours so you can continue to make school your first priority.


How do I get a Work-Study job?

The only way to find out if you qualify for Federal Work-Study is to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Simply select “Yes” on the question, “Are you interested in Federal Work-Study?” Remember that you are not required to take a work-study position if it’s offered to you, so it’s a good idea to select “Yes” even if you’re not completely sure you want to work while you’re in school. Keep in mind that only some colleges and universities participate in the work-study program – your financial aid award letter will outline if your school does or does not participate.

Once you have been awarded work-study, you will still need to search for and apply for jobs. Most college and university websites have a page that lists their work-study opportunities.


What are the benefits of Work-Study?

Fair pay – Every work-study job is required to pay at least federal minimum wage (currently $7.25/hour) and many offer higher hourly wages. The total amount of money you can earn (aka your work-study award amount) will be listed in your financial aid award letter.

Flexible hours – Employers in the work-study program have to follow specific rules and guidelines designed to protect your experience as a student. Work-study positions offer more flexibility when it comes to accommodating your school schedule, requiring fewer hours, and maximizing the amount of time you have to focus on your education.

Work-study money doesn’t count against you on next year’s FAFSA – As with any traditional job, you have to pay taxes on the money you earn through work-study. However, money earned through a work-study job doesn’t count as income when you file next year’s FAFSA. In other words, the FAFSA assumes that any money you made through work-study went straight back to your education. That’s good news for students because the lower your income is on the FAFSA, the more likely you are to receive need-based aid.

Working through school can actually help you graduate – Maintaining a job while staying focused on school can be challenging, but it can also help you strengthen your character. Students who work to earn money for school are personally invested in their education. Experts claim that working a modest amount of hours can actually help students stay focused, stay enrolled, and finish their degree. Just try to keep your workload at 20 hours per work or less, or you might start to feel overwhelmed.