Federal Work Study Program

If you need reliable sources of funding for your college education, federal loans and scholarship programs aren't your only options. The Federal Work Study Program (FWS) helps students with financial need pay for college while working with an approved employer. The federal government pays between 50-100% of the wages for these jobs. The jobs are typically posted in the Student Employment Office.

What is the Federal Work Study Program?

Federal Work Study programs are available at eligible educational institutions and consist of part-time employment options for undergraduate and graduate students. There are approximately 3400 postsecondary institutions across the country who offer these type of programs; the hourly rate is generally higher than the federal minimum wage. This allows both undergraduate and graduate students to earn money while enrolled in school, and most jobs are related to student course work and community service positions.

The FWS award is open to all eligible students who have submitted an approved FAFSA application. After reviewing class schedule and overall skill set, the financial aid administrator and employer can determine how many hours of work will be assigned to each student. The hourly rate for these positions may be lower than the national average for related positions, but these jobs allow graduate and undergraduate students to ‘earn' their FWS award amount as they continue onward in their educational career.

Key Benefits of a Federal Work Study Program

In addition to the monetary benefits of a Federal Work Study Program, participating students can:

  • Gain real-world work experience in their course of study
  • Build a strong skill set
  • Earn references from employers
  • Secure a position with an employer after graduation
  • Explore related positions and job opportunities while enrolled in school

Most students choose to work on campus and these positions are generally available at the school or university. Positions may include bookstore clerks, department administrative assistants, office managers, and customer service. Off-campus employment is usually offered by public agencies and non-profit organizations and may include positions such as office assistants, program interns or coordinators, and general customer service.

Limitations of Federal Work Study Programs

While FWS programs offer several benefits for needy students, they also have some limitations:

Hourly rates and fees: Students are not allowed to earn any commissions or fees as part of their wages, and the hourly rate is usually non-negotiable. Each school must pay the student directly, and this is generally arranged on a monthly basis.

Total amount earned: The amount earned from a Federal Work Study Program cannot exceed the amount of the FWS award, so there may be limits on how many hours a student can work during each semester.

Balancing class load and work schedule: the financial aid administrator and employer will review a student's class schedule, academic progress, and overall skill set on a regular basis to determine how many work hours can be allocated to each student.

Federal work study programs offer several benefits for students who need a way to fund their college education. Submitting a FAFSA application is the first step of the process and more information on participating employers and current positions available can be found at the student financial aid office.

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