The Ins and Outs of Federal Work Study Programs
While attending school, students may find they have the time for a part-time job which can help pay for college expenses. The US Department of Education has established a program which will help eligible students to cover the expenses of attending school. This money is paid directly to the student so it can be used on anything, not just tuition or textbooks. The first step, though, is being enrolled in an approved university at least half time.
The Federal Work-Study (FWS) Program
The FWS Program provides funds that are earned through part-time employment to assist students in financing the costs of postsecondary education. Institutional financial aid administrators at participating institutions have substantial flexibility in determining the amount of FWS awards to provide to students who are enrolled or accepted for enrollment.
How’s the pay?
Hourly wages must not be less than the federal minimum wage. Financial need is determined by the Department of Education, using a standard formula established by Congress, to evaluate the financial information reported on the FAFSA and to determine the Expected Family Contribution (EFC).
The fundamental elements in this standard formula are the student's income (and assets, if the student is independent), the parents’ income and assets (if the student is dependent), the family’s household size, and the number of family members (excluding parents) attending postsecondary institutions. The EFC is the sum of:
- A percentage of net income (remaining income after subtracting allowances for basic living expenses) and;
- A percentage of net assets (assets remaining after subtracting an asset protection allowance).
Different assessment rates and allowances are used for dependent students, independent students without dependents, and independent students with dependents. After filing a FAFSA, the student receives a Student Aid Report (SAR), or the institution receives an Institutional Student Information Report (ISIR), which provides the student’s EFC.
Who has work-study programs?
Over 3,400 colleges, universities, and other institutions of higher education offer work-study programs. Generally, the work is done on-campus; however, there are some programs which offer off-campus positions for specific experience or job positions which are not found on the campus. In some cases, the school may be able to assist the student, even though the student doesn’t qualify for the program under federal guidelines.
How does work-study work?
The number of hours of employment per week is generally 15 hours and is determined by the financial need of each qualified student, his/her academic schedule, and the amount of other assistance they receive. Federal Work-Study funds are usually divided equally throughout the year. To receive these funds a student must work the hours allowed each month. Time sheets are submitted twice each month and the student will be paid for hours worked during that pay period. Jobs are assigned on a first come first serve basis. Most placement is done the by the first two weeks of school each semester.
America Reads/America Counts Program
America Reads and America Counts are both Federal College Work-Study Programs which are a part of a nationwide effort to improve reading and math skills for elementary students. Institutions in partnership with local school-linked services place college students into tutoring positions for first, second and third graders in the local school districts.
Check the right box on the FAFSA form
Students who would like to participate in the Federal Work-Study program can indicate their desire on the FAFSA application form. This information is then transmitted to the student’s chosen school for coordination with the school’s administrative office overseeing the work-study programs. Click here to get a FAFSA form .
No restrictions on work-study funds usage
The money students receive through a work-study program can be used to pay any expenses they incur. The programs do not require the funds be used to pay for tuition, textbooks, materials, fees, or any other expenses of attending college. Students may use the money for food, transportation, entertainment, or any other purpose they choose.