As you fill out the FAFSA each year, you may notice a question that asks whether or not you are interested in Federal Work Study (FWS). I never checked this box when I was in school, and to this day it remains one of my biggest financial aid regrets.
Just what is work study, and how can the Federal Work Study program help you pay for college or graduate school? Read on to find out.
Federal Work Study is a form of financial aid
What is work study, exactly? As opposed to scholarships, grants, and loans — which simply require that you meet the eligibility criteria and make satisfactory academic progress — work study requires that you work at a job, either on or off campus, to earn the money.
Like scholarships and grants (but unlike loans), work study is a type of financial aid that does not have to be paid back. Undergraduate, graduate, and professional students in financial need are eligible for the work study program.
Although the rules of the Federal Work Study program state that you can only work part-time, you are guaranteed to make the federal minimum wage, which is currently $7.25 per hour. Additionally, work-study aid is exempt from FICA taxes, which means that your paychecks will be bigger because Social Security and Medicaid taxes will not be withheld.
Benefits of Federal Work Study
In addition to decreasing the amount of loans that you will need to take out to pay for school, there are many additional benefits to the work study program. Here are just a few:
1. You’ll work in a job that interests you.
Unlike most federal aid, which is awarded directly to the student, work-study funds are given to institutions of higher education to be allocated at their discretion. However, one of the stipulations of the funds is that they should be used to provide jobs that are related to students’ courses of study.
For example, you might be assigned to work in the front office of the department of your major. You could also work off-campus in a job that relates to your course of study, depending on the relationships that your university has built with other organizations in your community.
This means your job will be relevant to what you are studying. Beats waiting tables or slinging coffee, doesn’t it?
2. Your employer is required to work around your school schedule.
While most part-time jobs allow you to indicate your availability, there’s no guarantee you’ll get your requested hours. Even worse, taking extra time off to study for finals or an important test could be frowned upon.
This could force you to decide between earning the money you need to pay your bills and doing well academically. Unlike many off-campus jobs, work study employers are understanding of your situation, and they will work with you to come up with a schedule that allows you to put in the hours you need while still succeeding in school.
3. The work takes place during normal business hours during the semester.
Because work study aid is awarded on a semester-to-semester basis, you will not be asked to work during holidays or school breaks. So if you want to go home to visit family between semesters or take the summer off to participate in an internship, you will not need to make separate arrangements with your employer.
Additionally, because most FWS jobs take place on campus, it’s unlikely that you will be asked to work in the evenings or on the weekends. Instead, you can tell your employer when you are on campus and put in shifts before, between, or after classes.
This allows you to use your time efficiently by reducing the need to commute and taking advantage of times when you were on campus anyway.
The downsides to federal work study
Although the work study program has many advantages, there are a few things you need to know in order to make the most out of this program.
1. Funding is limited.
Institutions receiving FWS funds from the government receive a set amount that is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Once a college or university’s funds for a particular academic year have been allocated, no more is available until the next academic year.
It’s extremely important to fill out the FAFSA as soon as possible so that you are at the top of your school’s list to receive these funds. If you wait too long, the funding may be given to other interested students, and you may miss out on aid you might otherwise have been eligible for.
2. You won’t make enough to live off of.
If you’re hoping to completely offset your cost of living by participating in this program, think again. You will almost certainly not be offered more than 20 hours per week. And even with FICA taxes withheld, $7.25 an hour is probably not enough to live off of.
Is work study for you?
The program is not designed to fully cover your cost of living. Instead, the aim of FWS is to reduce your student loan burden so you can pay them off faster after graduation, and to provide professional experience in a job that is related to your major.
I know of several students who went on to work for the university as full-time staff members after graduating as a direct result of the time that they spent in the federal work-study program. While it may not be a full-time job while you’re still in school, it can lead to full-time work after graduation.
If you are interested in reducing your student loan burden after graduation, check the Federal Work Study box on the FAFSA. It pays — literally!
Need a student loan?Here are our top student loan lenders of 2019!
|* The Sallie Mae partner referenced is not the creditor for these loans and is compensated by Sallie Mae for the referral of Smart Option Student Loan customers.
1 Important Disclosures for College Ave.
College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.
(1)All rates shown include the auto-pay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.
(2)This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 8.35% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $179.18 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $21,501.54. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.
(3)As certified by your school and less any other financial aid you might receive. Minimum $1,000.
Information advertised valid as of 11/4/2019. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.
2 Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.
3 Important Disclosures for Discover.
Discover's lowest rates shown are for the undergraduate loan and include an interest-only repayment discount and a 0.25% interest rate reduction while enrolled in automatic payments.
4 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change and state law restrictions. Loans are offered through CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS #1175900).
5 Important Disclosures for Citizens.
Undergraduate Rate Disclosure: Variable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of November 1, 2019, the one-month LIBOR rate is 1.80%. Variable interest rates range from 2.90% – 11.16% (2.90% – 11.01% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Fixed interest rates range from 4.72% – 12.19% (4.72% – 12.04% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Lowest rates shown requires application with a co-signer, are for eligible applicants, require a 5-year repayment term, borrower making scheduled payments while in school and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens Bank is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of the loan.
Citizens Bank Student Loan Eligibility: Borrowers must be enrolled at least half-time in a degree-granting program at an eligible institution. Borrowers must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident or an international borrower/eligible non-citizen with a creditworthy U.S. citizen or permanent resident co-signer. For borrowers who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a co-signer is required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at anytime. Interest rate ranges subject to change. Citizens Bank private student loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/consumer credit agreement, verification of application information, and if applicable, self-certification form, school certification of the loan amount, and student’s enrollment at a Citizens Bank- participating school.
Please Note: International Students are not eligible for the multi-year approval feature.
|2.84% – 10.97%1||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|3.12% – 10.54%*,2||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|3.37% – 11.87%3||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|3.52% – 9.50%4||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|2.90% – 11.16%5||Undergraduate and Graduate|