What is a “work study,” “The Federal Work-Study Program,” “Non-federal work study?”

Paying for college or even qualifying for enough financial aid can be one of your biggest challenges. However, work-study programs can help you alleviate the burden of finding ways to pay. Filling out the necessary paperwork and getting the details from your office of financial aid will help you discover if you, too, can work in exchange for tuition. So… what exactly is work study? And, what is the Federal Work-Study Program? And, is there such a thing as non-Federal work study?

Submitting your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will determine how much financial aid you’re entitled to. The Student Aid Report (SAR) you receive in response to completing your FAFSA helps your college ascertain your eligibility for a federal work-study program. Log on to the FAFSA Web site to fill out your application. Make sure you have your Social Security number, list of schools you’re thinking of attending, family earnings (based on whether you’re a dependent or not), and tax information ready.

Federal work-study
The Federal Work-Study Program determines student eligibility for part-time work in exchange for tuition based on expected family contribution, the student’s income, assets (if independent), household size, and number of family members (excluding parents) attending a postsecondary institution. The student is granted a specific allotment of money that they can earn on an hourly basis until they receive the full amount or until the end of the term, whichever comes first.

Whether you’re able to work on or off campus may vary depending on where you attend school, but if you’re participating in the federal program and are working on campus, you’ll most likely be working for your university. Off-campus jobs usually involve work with a private nonprofit organization or public agency. Eligible undergraduates are paid by the hour.

Then there is the question of work study vs. non-work study. As stated in the University of Detroit Mercy website in an article entitled “What is the difference between Work Study and Non-Work Study?”: “A ‘Federal Work Study’ student has financial need and has qualified through the Financial Aid Office for a specific Federal or State aid program. The student is granted a specific allotment of money which can be earned.

Students earn money on an hourly basis until they have received their allotment, or until the end of the term, whichever comes first. It is the responsibility of the student and the supervisor to keep track of the earnings. Once a student earns their allotment, they must stop working, or be switched to non-work study status in some instances.”

Non-federal work-study
Non-federal work-study programs vary from state to state, and the student’s job must meet certain criteria, such as number of working hours per week and whether it’s a university job. Students are generally paid by the hour, but they may earn a stipend instead, depending on the position. Those interested in State Work-Study or related programs should contact their universities for eligibility requirements, to see if their institutions participate, or to check with individual departments on campus.

Office of Financial Aid
If you’re wondering whether you qualify for work-study programs, if your school participates, or how to learn more about them, contact the office of financial aid at your university. If you haven’t already completed a FAFSA, it’s a good idea to submit one—even if you’re not sure whether you’ll be attending or whether you will even need financial aid or work study.

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