Work-Study is a program that allows students to work on campus during the school year. Although is it sometimes possible to use work-study eligibility for off campus work at eligible non-profit organizations, it is primarily a campus based program.
Work-Study is simply the ability to work a certain number of hours in a campus job. At most schools it is a guarantee that the student will be able to earn the amount that appears on the financial aid award letter. This is important since at many schools it may be difficult or impossible to secure a part-time job on campus without work-study eligibility.
Q & A
How much can a student reasonably earn through work-study during the course of an academic year?
An academic year is generally 30 weeks long. A conservative approach that subtracts 6 weeks for mid-terms, finals and breaks leaves 24 viable work weeks. Students who work 12 hours per week at $8 per hour will earn $2300. Students who work 10 hours per week at $10 per hour will earn $2400. You get the picture.
Do students have time for a part-time job in college?
Yes. Parents and students often underestimate the amount of free time at college. Even busy students can usually find 10-15 hours per week for a part-time job.
Research suggests that students who work up to 15 hours per week in an on-campus job are more engaged in their college experience and more successful in the classroom.
Can students get work-study at any school?
Not necessarily. Work-Study is usually reserved for students who demonstrate eligibility for need-based financial aid. And while some schools have a lot of funding to support student work, others have very little. Some school Net Price Calculators (link to NPC page) will provide estimates of work-study eligibility. If a school NPC result does not, you should call the school financial aid office and ask about the likelihood of receiving work-study.
Students who are interested in work-study must apply for financial aid and meet all the financial aid application requirements. (link) Eligibility will be outlined in the financial aid award letter. At some schools work-study is called “Student Employment” or “Term Time Work” and will be labeled as such on the financial aid award letter.
If a student is not awarded work-study, can they just find a job off campus?
Maybe. It will depend on the school. It will obviously be easier to find an off campus job at schools that are located in cities or large towns and more difficult at schools in rural or small town settings.
How does the work-study program actually work?
Students who are awarded work-study must first tell the financial aid office that they accept the award. This is a normal part of the financial aid process and every school will have some sort of award acceptance protocol for all awarded aid. If you don’t accept it, it is very possible that they will take it away and give it to someone else.
After accepting the award you apply for jobs from a list of eligible positions that the school will provide and once hired you establish a work schedule with the employer. At some schools you will be able to secure your job during the summer.
When you begin to work you will receive paychecks for hours worked just like any other job.
So, the student receives the work-study income directly?
Yes. It is very important that you understand that work-study is not the kind of financial aid that automatically credits to the student account to offset billed costs. It is not like grants and loans which flow through the student account and automatically pay tuition and other billed costs. Work-study must be earned a paycheck at a time and you are responsible for determining how the money is spent. Some students use their work-study earnings for spending money and personal expenses while others must save their earnings for other expenses such as books or food. Parents and students should discuss this issue and agree in advance how to deploy the paychecks.
What kind of jobs are available on campus?
There are many different kinds of work-study jobs on campus, ranging from research positions with faculty to working in the dining hall. Proactive students can often find jobs that provide valuable experience, campus mentors and access to important networks.