What Is a Work-Study Grant?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A work-study grant is a form of student financial aid that pays wages for student employees. Such grants provide an opportunity for students to work to cover some of their college expenses. They are provided through government agencies and other organizations with an interest in education. Typically a work-study grant is accompanied with some restrictions, and students need to be familiar with these before they start work. Available options can depend on educational institution, course of study, and the student’s own financial aid package.

Woman standing behind a stack of books
Woman standing behind a stack of books

Colleges and universities limit work-study grant eligibility to students with documented financial need. This is based on a financial aid application where students discuss personal and family income, assets, and other factors. If the school believes a student needs assistance, it can offer a financial aid package. This may include a mix of direct loans and grants to pay for school as well as a work-study allowance.

Under a work-study program, an employee’s wages and associated expenses are paid by the program, rather than the employer. This funding can be applied to both on- and off-campus positions. Some on-campus positions may be work-study only, and are not open to students who don’t qualify for this funding. For off-campus jobs, a student usually needs to show that a job is relevant to the course of study. A pre-law student, for example, might get a work-study grant to work in a law office or legal aid organization.

Students with a work-study grant need to apply for a job, which can include submitting a resume, undergoing an interview, and providing information about experience. On-campus employment is not guaranteed to work-study students. It may be necessary to work in a mixture of jobs, and work-study students cannot exceed their hours or pay limitations. The university provides compensation directly for the student and receives reimbursement from the grant. Taxes and other deductions may be made and employees need to declare their earnings as income.

With off-campus work-study grant opportunities, it is important to determine if a position is eligible for funding. Some college financial aid offices may maintain a list of local employers who have hosted work-study students in the past and are prepared to do so again. In other cases, it may be necessary to contact an employer, explain the situation, and undergo a review process. This prevents situations like students using a work-study grant to pay wages for waiting tables or other activities not directly related to pursuing a degree.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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