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What is the Federal Work-Study Program?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated May 17, 2024
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The Federal Work-Study (FWS) Program is a program in the United States which is designed to assist low income students who need help paying for school. Through the program, students work in jobs which are eligible for Work-Study funds, and the government pays their wages. This is done indirectly, through a grant of Federal Work-Study funds which is given to the institution where the student is enrolled, with the school paying the student from these funds. Schools also decide how funds should best be allocated, based on need.

To apply for the Federal Work-Study Program, students must file a Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The financial aid office at the school will review the application to determine what kind of assistance the student is eligible for, and will issue an award letter offering options such as grants, loans, and Federal Work-Study. The student can take all or part of the award, including Work-Study funds.

Being eligible for Federal Work-Study does not mean that students will automatically access the funds. They need to apply for an approved job on campus or at an off-campus organization which participates in the program; these organizations are either community service oriented or relevant to the student's major. If the student gets the job, his or her hours will be determined by the amount of the Federal Work-Study award, with the student receiving an hourly wage which must meet or exceed the Federal minimum wage.

Having a work-study job can provide a student with a steady source of income to pay for things like books, meals, and so forth, with funds from grants and loans being applied to tuition, fees, housing, and related expenses. The student will need to pay taxes on Federal Work-Study income, just like any other income, and the student is not guaranteed a position. Work-study students can be fired if they do not perform properly, or awards may be adjusted if the school's allocation changes.

Employers who participate in Federal Work-Study agree to avoid scheduling their employees for hours over the allotted time, and they must also balance the student's schedule and academic needs. This can be difficult sometimes, as student schedules are often erratic, and employers may be balancing several work-study students while still trying to get things accomplished. These part-time jobs generally require low skills, although sometimes a student will hold the same job for a number of years and earn increasing responsibilities as a result.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By 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.

Discussion Comments
By honeybees — On Jun 09, 2011

When I was in college I qualified for a work study program. I was able to get a job in the library on campus. I know there are all kinds of federal work study regulations and I don't know what they are, but I was able to work up to 15 hours per week.

That doesn't seem like a lot when it comes to making money, but if you have a heavy course load, you don't want many more hours than that. Being able to take part in that program was a big help for me all through school.

It was also nice to know that I had a job every year I went back to school and didn't have to worry about finding a new job every year.

By sunshined — On Jun 08, 2011

I have known several people that have benefited from the federal work study program. You usually don't get to work a whole lot of hours during the week, but it can sure help with expenses.

Once you get your information back from the FAFSA you will know if you qualify for the federal work study eligibility. If you are able to participate in this program, one advantage is that the jobs are on campus and you don't have to worry about going off campus to get a job.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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