Is Work-Study Worth It? Pros and Cons

If you want more hours (and to make more money), work-study might not be the best fit. Low pay. While federal work-study jobs have to pay at least minimum wage, they might not keep pace with what you could earn elsewhere. For some students, working a job that isn’t related to work-study can mean a higher hourly wage.

For many years, students have been able to contribute to their college costs by working part-time jobs through the federal work-study program. Students who qualify must make at least the federal minimum wage, which is currently $7. 25 – in positions that are typically, but not always, on campus and supported by universities and the federal government

Colleges decide what happens when a student earns the maximum amount, how much they can earn, what jobs they can apply for, how many hours they can work per week (no more than 20), and how much they can earn overall. In their financial aid award letters, incoming freshmen can find the maximum amount of work-study funding available to them. The amount of aid offered each year can vary.

Joe Orsolini, president of College Aid Planners, an Illinois-based consulting firm that assists families with financing higher education, says, “What they’ll do is say you have X number of hours.” You have $1,500 in work-study funds available, so you must find a job that fits that budget. “.

According to Cheryl Combs, assistant director of the student employment services office at Missouri State University, “there are times when you may be able to find a position off campus — a part-time job off campus — that will give you a great experience to apply to your resume that you may not be able to find on campus.”

Chris Stacy, a rising senior at Missouri State, agrees. He says, “I always know that I can take a break and concentrate on my studies if I need to.” Stacy juggles a full-time course load, a job stocking shelves at Target, and a part-time job doing mostly administrative work in the Center of Community Engagement office at his school. His on-campus job gives him flexibility that he doesn’t get at Target in addition to assisting him in making connections and completing some occasional work related to his major in digital arts.

But earning too much money can prevent students from receiving financial aid. Students who qualify for need-based aid will receive less Pell Grant money if their expected family contribution, or how much they must pay themselves, rises. Before there is an increase, students can earn up to $6,420 for the 2017–2018 academic year.

Every additional dollar students earn over $6,420 will increase their expected family contribution by 50 cents. In light of this, if a student earns $7,420 this year, for instance, they will increase their expected family contribution by $500 and possibly forfeit $500 in Pell Grant funds. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which parents and students fill out, is used to determine the EFC. One of the main reasons why work-study is a good way for students to supplement their income is because the earnings aren’t taken into account when calculating the expected family contribution, according to experts. [.

For some students, juggling two jobs and a full-time course load may be too much. Experts advise students to limit their work during the school year to 20 hours per week. However, the FAFSA income restrictions take into account the money that students make over the summer. Students may only work in those positions a few hours per week, depending on the requirements of their work-study program, which can free up time for other part-time jobs on or off campus.

College Federal Work Study Programs Pros & Cons And What To Expect

Differences between work-study jobs and part-time jobs

There are some differences between work-study and part-time employment that can help you determine which is best for you. Although you can find some off-campus jobs, work-study positions are typically on-campus jobs that the college financial aid office approves. Each job either benefits the school, the public or both. Off-campus employment options include tutoring and volunteer work in addition to cafeteria and library positions.

You can find traditional part-time jobs outside of your college’s work-study program. You’ll probably find more jobs off-campus, but some colleges do offer regular part-time jobs outside of work-study. College students frequently work in the hospitality, food and beverage, and retail industries as part-time jobs.

It’s crucial to think about whether your earnings from a part-time job put you over the limit for financial aid eligibility for the following academic year. While a non-affiliated part-time job would count toward financial aid eligibility, work-study pay is not taken into account when filling out your FAFSA.

What is a work-study program?

Students can work part-time through a federally or state-funded program called a “work-study program” to help pay for their tuition and other educational costs. Students work at jobs that are eligible for work-study, typically on campus, and are paid on a regular basis. Work-study positions typically pay the minimum wage, though some may pay more depending on the duties. All types of students, including full-time undergraduates and part-time professionals, are eligible for work-study. It’s important to check with your college of choice to see if they participate in work-study because not all colleges offer it.

If you’re interested in participating in a work-study program, you can indicate this on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. You will probably need to apply for, interview for, and find a part-time job that is acceptable with your college program if you are accepted into a work-study program. On the other hand, some colleges pair students with courses related to their majors. For instance, a college might assign a work-study position at the campus planetarium to an astronomy major.

Is work-study worth it?

Read the advantages and disadvantages of work-study to help you decide if it’s a wise decision for you:


Here are some potential pros associated with work-study:

Work-study is a fantastic way to gain knowledge and expertise relevant to your career goals. They can also assist you in completing your education and learning more about your college program. When looking for work-study positions, it can be helpful to search for openings by department to see if any are relevant to your field of study. To see if they can assist you in locating relevant positions, get in touch with a work-study representative.

Employers who offer work-study positions frequently take students’ schedules into account when allocating shifts. When it comes to your academic schedule, you might discover that a work-study program is more accommodating than a regular part-time job.

The majority of work-study positions are on-campus positions, making them more conveniently located than other positions. If you live on campus, getting to and from classes, your work-study job, and your dorm or apartment may be simpler and faster.

When you are accepted into a work-study program, you are given a specific amount of money that, depending on your financial situation, you may be able to earn. Most of the time, employers plan your hours so that you only work long enough to receive that fixed amount, but some may let you work longer and earn more than the amount specified on your FAFSA application.

The majority of work-study positions pay students with monthly checks that they may spend however they choose. To pay for tuition or room and board, you can choose to have your check deposited into your personal bank account or send it directly to the school.


Before you apply for work-study, you might want to weigh the following disadvantages:

Despite the fact that work-study programs are a fantastic option for students looking for financial aid, the money given is frequently insufficient to cover significant expenses, such as the full cost of tuition or room and board. Some of your college expenses may be covered by your work-study funds, but you might also need to find additional funding through student loans, grants, or scholarships.

Work-study programs only allow certain jobs, so you might not be able to find one that provides the experience you’re looking for. Additionally, many of the jobs are located on campuses, which further reduces the options. However, because there are fewer jobs to apply for, you might find the work-study job search to be simpler.

There is no guarantee that you will be accepted into the program the following year, even if you were successful in obtaining a work-study program the previous year. Acceptance into a work-study program may depend on a variety of factors, including changes in your or your family’s financial situation, the amount of work-study funding your school receives each year, and how you spent your work-study funds in the past.

Each year, you must submit an application by submitting your FAFSA as early as possible and checking the box that says you want to take part. If you obtained a work-study position in the past and were successful, you may be able to do so once more in the future, perhaps even in the same position. This reduces the stress associated with trying to find a new job every academic year and helps you become more familiar with a particular job.


Is work-study better than a normal job?

One of the key reasons why work-study is a good way for students to earn extra money is because earnings aren’t taken into account when calculating the expected family contribution, according to experts. Having a summer job that pays too much could reduce your eligibility for financial aid. ].

What are the pros and cons of a work-study?

Part-Time Advantages and Disadvantages Typically, work-study entails tutoring or working in campus stores. CON: Since most on-campus employment is work-study, you’ll need to figure out a way to commute to your part-time position. CON: Earnings from a part-time job may have a greater impact on your eligibility for financial aid than earnings from work-study.

Should I consider work-study on FAFSA?

Undergraduate and graduate students in financial need can find employment through the federal work-study program, where they can make money to help cover their educational costs. If you would like to be considered for a work-study position, select “Yes.”

Is work-study better than loans?

The fact that work-study is a type of financial aid is one of its main advantages. In the long run, it can reduce the amount of student loan money you borrow, resulting in less debt and less interest owed.

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