Education, News

Financial Aid: What is the Federal Work Study Program?

Financial aid has become an essential part of a student’s journey through higher education. Without this aid, it would be nearly impossible for many students to earn a degree and significantly contribute to the economy. One of the programs that has become popular as a source of financial aid is the Federal Work-Study Program.


What is the Federal Work Study Program?

The Federal Study Work Program (FWS) is a federal program that helps students cover the cost of attending college or another type of secondary education. What makes this program different from other financial aid programs is the work requirement. In other words, the FWS is geared towards helping individuals to continue working part-time while they attend school. Currently, the program is available at some 3,400 schools across the United States. Like other types of student federal aid, you must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), to determine if you are eligible.

Requirements for the Federal Work Study Program

The basic requirement for the Federal Work Study Program is need. Other requirements include:

  • The FAFSA must be filed annually and by the priority date established by each university.
  • The student must achieve “Satisfactory Academic Progress” standards.
  • A student can enroll only in a degree program. FWS is not available for those who are looking at a non-degree or continuing education courses or programs.
  • The student must also meet all other eligibility criteria established by the federal aid programs.

While your eligibility depends upon your FAFSA and the above requirements, it is up to the school to request funding for the program. They are also the ones held responsible for distributing it and assigning the employment opportunities.

What is expected?

Students who successfully become part of the FWS must be ready to balance their work and study. The type of employment will vary by individual and college. The college you are enrolled in might assign you a job based on your personal interests or area of study, and jobs may be on-campus or off-campus. If the job is off campus, it is most likely to be affiliated with your particular university or college, and could be a public agency or community non-profit organization.

The number of hours you can work is not up to you, as they are capped by the university. The campus is also responsible for reporting the number of hours students work to the federal supervisors of the program. The amount of money is also pre-determined, to a certain extent. Wage cannot fall below the federal minimum wage, and must be paid at an hourly rate or as a salary.

Is FWS right for you?

If you want to or need to work while attending school, FWS may be the right program for you, as it provides the flexibility to do both. Moreover, unlike many types of work options, your job site is conveniently located to ensure it does not strain your ability to attend class. Moreover, if you obtain work in your field of study, it will be beneficial on your resume and will provide you with valuable experience. It could ultimately help you obtain employment in the area of your choice.

While there is some worry about work interfering with academic achievement, this has not turned out to be the case. Virginia Tech cites research supporting certain levels of work and school. It finds that employment actually improves the overall academic performance of the working student. It may be the result of the increased need to organize time and be prepared in advance. Whatever the reason, if you think this is a possibility, file your FAFSA on time!


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The Author

Mary Brown

Mary Brown

Mary Brown has enjoyed writing about education and finance related topics, such as scholarships, student loans, college, vocational degree choices, and adult education since the early 2000's. She also writes about school budgets, accreditation and fundraising.