We have said it before and we will say it again: there is more to financial aid than just grants and loans.

Quite often when students consider how they are going to pay for college, scholarships are discussed or grants are searched for. Mom and Dad may look into loans. But there is an option that is sometimes overlooked when thinking about financial aid for college—work study programs.

work study programs financial aidWhat are work study programs?

Work study programs provide jobs for students with financial needs who are attending an eligible postsecondary institution. This is applied for and awarded as scholarships or grants are, but you are not placed in a specific job because you are awarded. You make your own job selection, and you have to do the footwork, checking to see what work study jobs are available, contacting the supervisor, interviewing, and getting hired.

Many schools post lists of work study jobs available for those who have been awarded. Boston University posts the jobs available for the fall semester, spring semester and summer semester, noting deadlines to be placed in a job by or lose the award. This video, produced by Bowling Green State University, does a pretty good of explaining work study programs:

Why participate in a work study program?

Work study programs allow you to work to earn money for educational expenses when you are not able to afford it yourself. It also provides a way for you to gain work experience, ideally in your field of study.

Who can participate in work study programs?

Graduate, undergraduate, and professional students can participate, whether you are a part-time or full-time student. The federal work study program is for students who have financial need.

Where are there work study programs?

There are approximately 3,400 postsecondary institutions that receive funding from the government for work study programs. Each institution participating facilitates the jobs available, whether they are on campus or if they are off campus. Ed.gov states that the students:

“May be employed by: the institution itself; a federal, state, or local public agency; a private nonprofit organization; or a private for-profit organization. Institutions must use at least seven percent of their Work-Study allocation to support students working in community service jobs, including:

  • reading tutors for preschool age or elementary school children
  • mathematics tutors for students enrolled in elementary school through ninth grade
  • literacy tutors in a family literacy project performing family literacy activities
  • emergency preparedness and response.”

Some institutions also offer non-federal work study programs, coordinated through the school’s
financial aid office. So start there to find out if your school participates in work study programs.

How much do you work with a work study program and how much are you paid?

The amount of hours you work depends on your work study award, usually 10-15 hours a week. The school’s financial aid office typically works with employers, with your class schedule in mind, when assigning hours.

Pay for the work study program is based on the federal minimum wage, but because not every job is the same and not every student starts with the same level of experience, pay varies as much as the jobs do. Your total work study award depends on your level of need, when you apply, and the amount of funding your school gets.

How you are paid depends on what kind of student you are. Studentaid.gov specifies that if you are an undergraduate, you are paid by the hour. If you are a graduate or professional student, you are paid by the hour or by salary, depending on your work. You are paid at least once a month and it comes directly to you, unless you have requested to have the money go directly to pay for your educational charges, such as room and board, tuition or fees, or to your bank account.

When can you apply for a work study program?

You can apply with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), as most jobs are funded through the federal government. If you didn’t indicate that you wanted to pursue work study when you filled out the FAFSA, you can visit the financial aid office at your institution and notify them.

An important thing to note is that, according to studentaid.gov:

“If you’re interested in getting a Federal Work-Study job while you’re enrolled in college or career school, make sure you apply for aid early. Schools that participate in the Federal Work-Study Program award funds on a first come, first served basis.” If your school doesn’t have funding when you apply, you may be placed on a waiting list as long as you are eligible.

Scholarships and grants are great, and loans are sometimes necessary, but work study programs are also a viable option to consider. Talk to your high school counselor or the financial aid office at your school to get started.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *