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Work-Study Programs: What You Need to Know

Mar 17, 2009 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

College financial aid comes in many forms. Some financial aid you don’t have to pay back at all. Other aid you do have to pay back—with interest. Some you work for.

Work-study programs are a type of financial aid that allows you to work in exchange for money toward your tuition. Here are some answers to frequently-asked questions about these programs, as well as information on how you can apply.

How do I qualify for work-study programs?

Most work-study programs qualify students based on financial need. When you fill out the FAFSA, you can indicate that you’re interested in work-study opportunities to be offered the opportunity as part of your aid package. If you didn’t indicate interest on your FAFSA form, however, you can still be considered for work-study aid by applying directly to your college. Each college has a different procedure and deadline for application. For some private work study programs, you may have to apply separately.

Most schools have a set amount of funds to apply toward work study aid—and the amount is different for every school. To get the most aid possible, it’s generally encouraged that you apply early. Many schools have deadlines for work study aid that fall earlier than deadlines for FAFSA submission.

What kinds of work will I be expected to do?

Work study programs are administered both on campus and off. On-campus work study programs are for the college; you could be doing anything from working at the college computer help-desk to lifeguarding at the pool, working at the library or tutoring other students at the writing center. There are often a wide range of jobs that will suit many different abilities, interests and schedules.

Off-campus work-study programs are typically administered by nonprofit or community organizations that have work-study arrangements with your school. The work is usually required to be some form of public service, and often the school must agree that it has academic value relevant to your degree program.

If I don’t qualify for Federal Work Study programs, do I have other options?

Work-study programs may also be offered privately through your school or through your state board of education—you can find more information on these programs by checking with your school’s financial aid office or your state department of education website. There are also work study programs for specific individuals—including the VA work-study allowance program for military personnel and veterans.

How will I be paid?

Work-study funds aren’t paid in a lump sum like a grant or loan, but rather in a regular weekly or monthly paycheck. Most work-study programs are paid on an hourly basis, although some graduate programs may pay a salary.

You can get your paycheck directly from the school or employer, or you may be able to request that it be deposited directly toward your school tuition.

How many hours will I work?

Typically, the number of hours you can work is defined as part of your financial aid package. You’re awarded a certain amount of money in work-study pay as part of your financial aid, and you won’t be allowed to earn more than that. Your employer should take your class schedule and awarded hours into account when assigning work.

Are there any grade point restrictions for work study aid?

Most colleges require work study participants to maintain a certain grade point average, although this can vary by school. In addition, most schools require students to be taking a certain number of credit-hours per semester, either full-time or part-time.

Work study programs can provide valuable opportunities for students to earn money, learn about a profession, and reduce their tuition bills. Apply for Federal assistance, look into campus-based aid, and check to see whether there are any opportunities offered at the state level. With some research, you may be able to find a work study job that will help you pay your tuition bills and possibly get a start on a future career.

YouTube Video: Students talk about their experience with work study from UCRCareerCenter


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