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What is College Work-Study?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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The Federal College Work-Study program administers federally subsidized student grants to colleges for post-secondary students in financial need. The program is monitored by the United States Department of Education and was first started in 1964 under the Congressional Economic Opportunity Act. The goal of the college campus-based program, now formally called the Federal Work-Study program (FWS), is to help students get paying work on campus — preferably in their major. The campus employer typically contributes about 70% of an approved FWS student's financial subsidy and the federal government may provide the remaining 30%.

More than 3,000 schools participate in the program, and these FWS-approved colleges receive funding to create campus jobs for students. Officials examine each student's Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine his or her eligibility. The financial subsidy an approved student is eligible to receive is based on his or her status as a dependent or independent student and whether he or she has dependent children. A dependent student is one who is living with his or her parents, while an independent student is one living independently.

In order to determine a student's Expected Family Contribution (EFC) to accompany the College Work-Study program subsidy, the independent student's income or the parents' income in the case of a dependent student, is assessed from the FAFSA by FWS officials. Students must be enrolled in or at least accepted for enrollment by a post-secondary school before they are eligible for the FWS program. The student finds out whether he or she is accepted into the program through the Student Aid Report (SAR) he or she receives by the FWS in response to his or her FAFSA.

A specified grade point average (GPA) may be required to be maintained by a student approved to participate in program. In some cases, the student's FWS employment may occur off campus, especially in a nonprofit organization, but usually, work-study jobs are on campus. Typically, students are employed as tutors in their subject of study or they work in campus administration.

College Work-Study wages can't be lower than the current federal minimum wage, and students usually receive their paychecks every two weeks. While 35 work hours per week is typically permitted during summer vacation and semester breaks, FWS guidelines often state that a work-study student isn't allowed to work more than 20 hours a week when school is in session. Students usually file a W2 income tax form to report their earnings.

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Discussion Comments

By SilentIce — On Jul 21, 2010

heart297- Most universities will have an online employment web site where students can search and apply for jobs. Search by the term "work- study" and see what comes up. Specific jobs on campus are usually designated as work-study jobs and are only available to students who qualify for the program.

You might also want to consider talking to the financial aid office or to your counselor. They will usually have a list of work-study jobs that are available. They might even help you apply for the jobs if you ask.

By heart297 — On Jul 21, 2010

How can I find work-study jobs available at my university?

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