The Federal Work-Study Program is the ideal form of financial aid. Designed for students to “work their way” through college, a work-study program allocates federal money to pay students employed in a sponsored part-time job. In order to qualify for a work-study position, students need to fill out the FAFSA and request federal aid. Money is granted based on need, but it is not automatic or guaranteed. Students need to find a position and work to earn the money.
Work study is a great way for students to gain experience in their fields, work on special projects, or try new things in an environment designed with their needs in mind. Here are the three main reasons the work-study program is ideal.
The typical part-time job for a college student is a low skill, low pay job where employers are willing to work with a high turnover. Working in food service or retail is a perfectly fine and honorable way to make money. But work-study brings the classroom to the real world in a way that students can use a lot more than the experience they earn washing dishes.
Students can ask the professors in their department for work study-jobs on special projects and systems where they can learn hands-on. Getting paid for the work is helpful and might be the only reason the student is actually doing the work at the end of the day, but the experience in and of itself is valuable as well.
It can be a struggle for students leaving college and seeking work if they have no experience to list on their resume. Many work-study jobs can help demonstrate to employers that they have the skills to be successful on the job. Work-study can also connect students to professional references, giving them another edge after graduation.
Another problem college students run into with traditional part-time jobs is scheduling. When dormitories close for semester breaks and a full-time course load limits your availability, employers can have a difficult time scheduling a student for the number of hours he or she wants to work. This means college students are under-employed or scheduled unpredictably. Work-study fixes this problem because the position is exclusively for, and designed around, the unique scheduling needs of a full-time student. Students are also able to manage their own tasks which allows them the flexibility to prioritize studying and coursework.
Although there will likely be a number of off-campus positions, many of the work-study jobs can be worked without ever leaving campus. This is advantageous for students who rely on public transportation to get around town.
Such a large amount of financial aid depends on the results of your FAFSA. For this reason, people are hesitant to change their financial situation. If the FAFSA information changes, the student could be facing a decrease in the amount of aid available to them. For example, taking a well-paid summer job could disqualify you from receiving the same amount of financial aid the next semester. This is particularly frustrating to students who are working to bridge the gap between what they qualify for and what they need to pay. The third reason the work-study program is ideal is because the money earned will not count against the student when it is time to recertify for the FAFSA.
The work-study program is ideal for the colleges and universities as well because students are given the opportunity to directly earn and manage their financial aid. The institution has the opportunity to put students to work and get more done, and the work-study program subsidizes that labor. Although work-study is often not enough financial aid for students to attend college on its own, it does make a significant impact in the amount of financial assistance a student can earn.