Paying for College through Federal Work Study Programs

The increasing cost of higher education in America has many families nationwide concerned about their children’s futures. Although there may be a wide range of merit-based scholarships available for students, many potential degree-seekers simply do not have a high grade point average or standardized test scores. And private loans are extremely costly. So what are these average students supposed to rely on to finance their educations?

One option is applying for a federal work-study program within your college or university. Although many work-study program participants benefit from tax exemptions, they still collect just barely over the minimum wage; therefore, federal work-study programs are typically used as a tool to help jumpstart a student’s individual “payback” plan. In other words, students should effectively use work-study earnings either toward tuition payments directly, or towards reducing the cost of loans borrowed from financial institutions with high interest rates in order to cover fees and expenses.

Work-study programs often offer students the option of receiving a check by mail, or having their earnings transferred through Direct Deposit toward their outstanding student debts. These programs generally place financial aid recipients into open positions around campus. Adhering to an academics-first policy, most federal work-study program participants are limited in the number of hours they can work during the week, which is typically set at a 20-hour maximum.

In the most ideal situation, some students may find that some work-study program positions will offer more opportunities than others. In some cases, students can combine the benefits of work-off debt with academic advancement by obtaining credits for the work they do in off-campus, field-related positions. Students who wish to enroll in such programs should check with their individual work-study offices in order to discuss any openings and prerequisite qualifications.

Unfortunately, it is important to note that as is the case with any governmentally-assisted funding, students must apply to qualify for these programs, and open positions are assigned on an as-needed basis. Many students whose families are within the range of certain income tax brackets will not be eligible to apply.