Sometimes grants and scholarships aren’t enough to fund a college education. Many students and their families are concerned about going into debt from large student loans. The Federal Work Study Program is a valuable resource for people who want to earn money to pay for their education while attending a university, college or vocational training course. According to the U.S. Department of Education, about 3,400 educational institutions in the country offer this program for eligible students.
What Is Work Study?
A work study program allows students to work part-time to fund their education while they are pursuing a degree. Each student’s wages will be paid partially by the host institution and partially by the Department of Education. Most schools pay less than 50 percent of wages. In some situations, the U.S. government pays 100 percent of the wages, such as literacy tutoring in the community. This money goes directly to the student, who uses it to pay for tuition, living costs and other needs.
Work Study Is Good for Everyone
When students participate in work study, everyone wins. There is a consistent pool of motivated young workers for important jobs on campus. Many of the jobs have a strong community service aspect. Schools receive partial or total federal aid for work study salaries. Most important of all, students have a safe and reliable source of income while they pursue their education.
How Much Will I Earn in a Work Study Position?
All work study jobs are guaranteed to make at least the U.S. minimum wage, which is currently set at $7.25 per hour. Skilled jobs and difficult jobs may earn more than minimum wage. The total amount earned each month will depend on a number of factors:
- The individual student’s financial need
- The total amount of funding available for Federal Work Study at the college, university or school
- The specific type of work study job
Who Can Employ Work Study Students?
Jobs in the Work Study Program are generally focused on education or civic service. They are related to the student’s area of study and specialization when possible. Most work study students remain on campus and work for their own school in some capacity. Other students may go off campus to work in nearby schools, public agencies, nonprofits and other organizations that act in the public interest.
Work study students very rarely get jobs with for-profit private organizations, although there may be occasional exceptions made to work in for-profit businesses if there is a clear benefit to the community and relevance to the student’s area of study. Many for-profit schools must obey restrictions on the type of work done by their work study students.
What Do Work Study Jobs Look Like?
Work study jobs are not always glamorous, but they can be diverse and interesting. Program organizers do their best to match students with a job that fits well. Some of the most common jobs include:
- Teaching and tutoring
- Working in a fitness center or sports facility
- Working in a campus library
- Staffing a food bank, community center or disaster preparedness center
- Monitoring and maintaining research facilities
- Working in a computer lab
Some students may be dissatisfied with their initial work study assignment. In such cases, it is often possible to change jobs after the first semester or the first year.
Community Service Among Work Study Participants
Giving something back to the community is a crucial part of the work study program. According to federal regulations, a minimum of 7 percent of work study students at each school (approximately 1 in 14) must be engaged at any given time in jobs related to community service. These can be rewarding and challenging jobs. Some of the most typical community service positions include:
- Emergency response
- Family literacy tutoring
- Early childhood education
- Mathematics tutoring for elementary school and middle school students
How Many Hours Can I Work?
Work study is a part-time job. Students cannot normally work more than 20 hours per week. The program is designed to help students fund their education while leaving sufficient time for classes and other activities. It is not designed to cover the full cost of living and tuition.
When students have an unusually busy class schedule, their work study hours may be cut to avoid conflicts. People who make poor academic progress or earn bad grades may also have their hours cut.
How Are Work Study Employees Paid?
Work study employees are paid at least once every month. All undergraduates are paid by the hour, while graduate students in some positions may be salaried. Money goes to the student unless a request is made for direct deposit elsewhere. Earnings can be deposited in a bank account for safekeeping. They can also be paid directly toward room, board, tuition or other fees.
The Federal Work Study Program is an important resource for students. It can help you earn money for your education while building valuable skills for the competitive job market.