Getting a college education is more important than it was 10 years ago, but with tuition skyrocketing, paying for college is becoming more of a struggle — especially for the growing number of students from low-income families.
While student loans and grants are available, the interest rates of the former and the scarcity of the latter make these forms of aid unreliable.
This is where the Federal Work-Study (FWS) Program comes in.
The FWS program involves students doing part-time work on or off campus in exchange for wages which they can use for educational expenses. This program is funded by the federal government with the expressed purpose of assisting students with financial need.
There are 3,400 participating educational institutions to which the federal government provides funds to subsidize the wages they pay to those students in the FWS programs. In 2011, $1,168,428,261 in available aid was allocated and doled out to 711,588 FWS recipients.1
The exact nature of the jobs and how much money a student can receive depends on the college or university the student attends. This is because each educational institution handles the way it allocates funds, along with the type of jobs offered to students.
Students in the FWS are limited to work for a set number of hours a week and will receive a monthly paycheck based on an hourly wage. However, since FWS is a form of financial aid, the amount of wages earned must not exceed their total aid award for each academic year.
A typical award for undergraduate students is $3,000 per year ($4,500 for graduate students), but may vary depending on financial need and availability of funds. Unlike a federal Pell Grant, it isn’t free — they will have to work to earn it!
Eligible students can expect to work in jobs that tend to fit in to the needs of the school and the community. For example, reading tutors, literacy tutors, math tutors, library work, student center work and administrative functions are some of the typical on-campus jobs offered by the FWS program. Those working off campus usually work for a private nonprofit organization or a public agency, performing work closely relevant to their course of study.
The aim is to provide students with valuable work experience, and more importantly, help them graduate from college with as little debt as possible.2
Students may be eligible for Work Study if they have fulfilled the following criteria:
- Submitted their FAFSA (Federal Application For Student Aid) on time
- Meet all eligibility criteria for financial aid
- Requested Work Study on the FAFSA
Applying for the FWS comes along with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). There is a section in the FAFSA where a student is given the option to sign up for the work-study program. Simply checking this option will ensure that the student is considered for FWS.3
Applying for the FAFSA itself will also give students access to other forms of federal financial aid, which is a definite plus for students seeking additional help in financing their college education.
It is for this reason that all potential students, whether entering college for the first time or seeking a graduate degree, must always submit their FAFSA application whenever possible – even if they don’t think they qualify for financial aid.
- Source: www.ED.gov [↩]
- According to Project on Student Debt, ⅔ of 2010 college seniors graduated with an average of $25,250 in debt. [↩]
- On the FAFSA (item 31), you are asked if you are interested in being considered for work-study. Make sure you opt for a “Yes” to indicate that you are interested in the FWS program. [↩]