College costs continue to rise, and it’s important to take advantage of any opportunities available for financial aid – especially those that do not have to be repaid later. Scholarships and grants are the most common “free” ways to pay for college, but some students may also have the option to participate in work-study programs. Learn more below about how work-study can help you pay for college.
What is work-study?
Work-study programs allow students to work part-time to help pay for education expenses. Unlike other forms of financial aid, work-study funds are not applied directly to your college tuition bill. Students receive a paycheck or direct-deposited funds for their work, which they can then use toward their college expenses. This money typically covers costs other than tuition, such as off-campus housing, books, or other related expenses.
What are the two types of work-study programs?
Federal work-study (FWS) is overseen by the U.S. Department of Education and is offered to students who have completed the FAFSA based on financial need. According to the Department of Education, approximately 3,400 post-secondary institutions are part of the program. The money paid through FWS comes from the federal government.
Non-federal work-study is available through many colleges to help offset costs and may also be referred to simply as campus employment.
How do I qualify for work-study?
The most important step to qualify for any financial aid, including work-study, is to complete the FAFSA each year. For federal work-study, you will need to indicate on the FAFSA that you are interested in work-study opportunities. Just like scholarships, grants, and federal student loans, work-study eligibility will be determined based on the financial information you provide. Filling out the FAFSA as early as possible each year is important, as some funds are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.
When you receive your college award letters, you will see work-study listed alongside your other options for paying for college if you are eligible.
Non-federal work-study requirements vary by college and may or may not be based on financial need. Inquire with the financial aid office or campus employment office to learn more.
In either case, employment is not guaranteed; you will need to apply and interview for positions just as you would any job.
How does work-study differ from a regular part-time job?
Many times work-study positions are available directly on campus, which means they are more likely to cater to students’ needs. While a traditional part-time job may require you to work inconvenient hours or utilize transportation to get to the job, work-study jobs are often more flexible and offer hours more conducive to a student’s schedule.
Work-study jobs also may be available in your field of study to help you gain experience and knowledge. For example, if you major in biology, you may be able to secure a job in a science lab.
While you are not guaranteed a position – or the same position – each year, work-study can be a great way to offset the many costs of higher education.
If you still need more help paying for college, consider a private student loan from a credit union. We can help you explore your options or match you with a credit union – get started to find your match!