Federal Work Study Awards

Federal Work Study awards are granted to students with financial need as a means of assistance with the costs of post secondary education. The program is federally funded by the United States Department of Education, but is managed and administered by more than 3,400 individual schools, colleges, and universities. Federal Work Study awards are easy to obtain for the student that qualifies, and is often offered in conjunction with other types of federal aid, such as student loans, grants, or scholarships. As each school has different rules and benefits under the Federal Work study program, students are encouraged to check with each institution they plan to attend to determine how they can best benefit from the program.


Federal Work Study awards are essentially federal grants that a student earns. After qualifying, students are provided with an award amount by the school they are attending. By coordinating with administrators, counselors, employers, and other officials, students are provided with jobs that will permit them to earn up to the total amount of their award. These jobs are typically designed to be relative to the student’s degree path or major coursework, or are jobs that serve the best interests of the general local public. By combining these features, a student is not only able to procure financial assistance with educational expenses, but they will also be provided with invaluable experience that will help to further their educational and professional career objectives.

When a student has received a Federal Work Study award, they will be placed for employment with the school itself, an extension unit of the school, or with private employers, government agencies, or non-profit organizations. Students are required to maintain regular hours and good work ethic, and are usually required to pay taxes on the money they earn through their Federal Work Study award. There may be limitations on the total amount of hours a student may work in a week, and in some cases students enrolled in the program may be required to maintain a minimum GPA or Grade Point Average. Regardless of special rules, requirements, terms or considerations that vary from school to school, each recipient of the Federal Work Study award can expect to earn at least the equivalent of the federal minimum wage. In some cases, students (especially graduate students) can earn considerably more, but in no case may a student earn more than $20 per hour.

Students can earn Federal Work Study awards at more than 3400 colleges, universities, trade schools, and other educational institutions nationwide. To apply, a student only needs to fill out the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This is the standard form required for all forms of federal aid, and the information provided on the form will be utilized to make determinations for the Federal Work Study program and for any other grants, scholarships, loans, or other benefits that the student might qualify for. In the case of a Federal Work Study award, the student’s financial need will be calculated based upon a specific formula that takes into account such factors as income and assets, parental income and assets, number of members in the household also attending school at least half time, and whether the student is in a dependent or independent status. The FAFSA only takes about 15-20 minutes to fill out, and a student can expect to receive a determination regarding their Federal Work Study award in less than 4 weeks.

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