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Funding your Education with Financial Aid: Work-Study
by Brooke Heath

Many students depend on part-time employment to aid them in paying for their schooling. This is a good idea, but before you start bussing tables at the local café consider getting a job that can have long-term benefits through the federal work-study program.

Federal Work-Study

The federal work-study program, also known as FWS, is a form of federal financial aid that provides students with an opportunity to work part-time in order to earn money to finance their education and other schooling expenses. This program is need-based and available to students who demonstrate financial need. Though the program is considered federal financial aid, because students work for the money that they earn, there is no need for repayment. However, unlike other financial aid, work-study money is not awarded before the student has earned it.

FWS is a great alternative to other non-work-study jobs for students in that the work-study schedule is made around the student's class schedule. Employers take into consideration that you already have the burden of attending school on your shoulders. Another huge benefit is that employment opportunities through FWS allow students to work at a job related to their field of study. Therefore, they gain experience that will further their future careers while earning money for school.

FWS is available to both undergraduate students and graduate students who demonstrate financial need.

How it Works

The work-study program is considered a campus-based program because while the federal government awards schools a set amount of money for their work-study programs, the schools provide the rest. Once all of the money is awarded to the students, the schools must wait until the next school year to receive any more assistance from the government.

Employment Opportunities

The program is aimed at providing students with work that is applicable to their career goals and that will also benefit the community. The jobs can be located on or off-campus, though off-campus employment is still coordinated with the school. Off-campus employment is often with private non-profit agencies or organizations that benefit public interests. Some examples of jobs that are offered through FWS include office assistants at many different departments within the school, managers of sports teams, assistants in the school's library, working in the testing centers, tutoring students, etc. These are just a few of the types of jobs that can be obtained through your school's work-study program. For a detailed list of the jobs that are available at your school, check your school's website, or visit the financial aid office.

Show Me the Money!

Perhaps the most important part of this program is getting your money! Those who participate in the work-study program will receive at least minimum wage pay, but it is possible to earn more, depending on the skills that each job requires and the work that is performed. The total amount that you can earn depends on the award amount that you receive from the school. The award amount is the limit that you can earn at your work-study job. This depends on when you apply for work-study, your level of need and the amount of work-study money that your school has available for that year. Because of this, applying early will increase your chances of receiving federal work-study funds.

Due to limits on the amount that a student can receive, he or she can only work the hours that are set by the financial aid office or the employer. When assigning hours, your employer will take into account your award amount, your class schedule and your academic progress.

Undergraduate students who participate in the program will be paid by the hour, and graduate students will be paid by the hour or by salary, depending on the work that is performed.

How to Apply

As with all other federal financial aid, the first step in applying for the federal work-study program is to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as the FAFSA form. This form provides the federal government, state government and your prospective school with information that will determine your need for financial aid. When filling out this form, make sure to answer "yes" to the question that asks if you are interested in work study.

Is FWS the Right Option for You?

When considering the option of federal work-study, you should first decide whether taking on a part-time job will affect your schooling. If you can balance both, then go for it. If you feel that your school burden is already too heavy, perhaps another form of federal financial aid, such as federal loans, would be a better option for you.

Regardless of the route you choose to take when funding for your education, EdFed is here to help. At EdFed, we are dedicated to helping students achieve their educational goals!

For more information on the federal work-study program, visit your school's financial aid website, or financial aid office, or these websites:


Article Title : Funding your Education with Financial Aid: Work-Study
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