How Does the Work Study Program Work?

College is becoming more expensive each year. The best way to avoid a hefty debt after graduation is to take advantage of free and cheap options for paying for college before seeking out student loans to help fill any remaining gaps. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) helps students find scholarships and grants. Plus there are a lot of private organizations offering tuition assistance. 

College award letters are arriving, and one available option for financial aid may be the work study program. Students who want to find additional sources of income for their tuition should consider this option.


A work-study program offers students part-time employment in exchange for financial aid. Different programs have different rules, but the bottom line is that it helps students defray the cost of college by giving them work. The part-time jobs often are in line with the student’s coursework.

There are two main types of work-study programs. First is the federal type, wherein the student must first apply through the FAFSA and indicate interest in the work-study program. Students who are given the opportunity will have to interview for the job. The position can be on or off campus, and may even involve community service.

The second type is the non-federal work-study program. Most colleges have such a program in place. It’s only a matter of finding out if your field has listings for such positions. Both federal and non-federal programs are available for students—whether part-time or full-time.


For federally funded work-study programs, the student must be able to show proof of financial need. Fill out the FAFSA form thoroughly as it will be the basis for determining your eligibility. Since FAFSA is involved, you will have to renew your application for the program each year. On the other hand, non-federal work-study programs aren’t always need-based. Financial need is not always a factor. Eligibility may vary depending on the institution. 


As mentioned earlier, most positions available are on-campus, preferably related to the student’s field of study or course. In case the job is off-campus, it will usually be a job with a civic organization or related institution. On-campus jobs are a lot easier, as employers know and understand the student’s schedule, and will be a lot more forgiving when it comes to attendance.


For a federal work-study program, the student’s total work hours cannot exceed the amount of the financial award. This doesn’t apply to non-federal work-study programs. In both cases, though, employers are informed of the student’s school schedule and will therefore have to assign shifts according to the student’s class hours. Average work hours are ten to fifteen hours per week.


Usually, a working student will receive the minimum salary at least. However, this may vary depending on the program, the institution, and the position. In some programs, students will receive a fraction of their salary and the rest goes to paying for school expenses directly. It is best to discuss with the program advisor or manager to fully understand what it entails.

This content originally appeared on Student Choice has partnered with iGrad to offer you the best modern financial education tools and resources available so you can make informed decisions about college financing options and your personal finances. Take advantage of this FREE resource by clicking below.



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