What is the Federal Work Study Program?

Getting a college degree can be expensive, and the Federal Work Study Program provides students with work opportunities to help that goal be more affordable. It is a government program that provides funding for part-time jobs that can be worked by students with proven financial need. Both individual students who need the employment and educational institutions who provide the employment opportunities must submit applications, students to show their financial need and schools to provide necessary information about their student population so that grants can be appropriately allocated.

Participating Schools

Currently, about 3,400 post-secondary schools are part of the Federal Work Study Program, including vocational schools, undergraduate and graduate schools. In 2011, over a billion dollars were given to students in need. This included over 970,000,000 in federally appropriated funds with the remainder coming in matching grants.

Schools that wish to participate in the Federal Work Study Program apply annually to the U.S. Department of Education. They file a FISAP, which stands for Fiscal Operations Report and Application to Participate. Information provided on this form lets the government know approximately how many eligible students the school has enrolled. That determines the amount of funding the schools will receive and what they will need to cover since generally the school pays a percentage of a student’s wages with the grant monies covering the rest. The government also sets certain stipulations for how funds must be used. A certain percentage of awarded funds must be set aside for important community service jobs such as literacy programs, after-school tutoring or emergency response services.

Participating Students

The Federal Work Study program is part of the overall federal financial aid available to eligible students. To determine eligibility, students need to file a Free Application For Federal Student Aid Form, commonly called a FAFSA. On the form, you will have a chance to state your interest in obtaining a federal work study job. Work study jobs can be awarded as part of a package of financial assistance. Not every student who qualifies for financial aid will necessarily qualify for federal work study jobs. It’s important to remember that you can apply each year, in case income needs change. Even if you don’t qualify for federal work study jobs, you can check with your college to see if they have other work study jobs that aren’t part of the federal program. Many do.

What to Expect From A Federal Work Study Job

Many students work in jobs related to their studies, sometimes in jobs that are community service oriented. You may work on or off campus, as some of the available jobs will come through public or private companies and non-profits not part of your college.

Federal work study jobs do usually require interviews. In addition to looking at your qualifications and interests, potential employers will take your class schedule into account. Students generally work between 10 and 15 hours per week. They may not make less than federal minimum wage, though they may also make more.

A college education is a huge investment of time, money and work. Students who struggle financially should be encouraged to look into the Federal Work Study Program as a step toward being able to meet their educational goals.

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