What is college work-study?
What does it mean?
Work-study refers to the federal financial aid program where students are employed in campus sponsored jobs. Their earnings are considered part of their financial aid award since half of it comes from federal funds. Jobs are available only to students who qualify by submitting the FAFSA. Some states and colleges have their own work-study programs which may have different requirements.
How does it affect how much you pay for college?
Theoretically, any money you earn is less money that you should have to borrow through student loans. Since borrowed money costs more because of interest rates, having a work-study job reduces the cost of a college education.
However, there are several limitations to work-study. The first is that since students actually have to show up and work the hours, the amount of money students can earn this way is not going to come anywhere near covering the cost of tuition. The amount can be significant for the student, but students will still need other sources of financial aid.
This leads to another potential issue: gapping. If a student’s financial aid award doesn’t cover her entire need, she may have to work to help cover the short fall. But if she is doing work-study as a way of reducing her loans, she can’t spend those hours working at another job to cover the gap. In other words, she needs to work and have the full amount of the loan which may mean turning down the work-study job.
Finally, students aren’t actually awarded work-study jobs as part of their financial aid award. They are eligible to apply for a work-study job and earn a maximum amount. On many campuses, the number of work-study jobs are limited because of an arcane federal funding formula. Many students that qualify for work-study jobs won’t find any.
And they actually have to work the hours to receive the pay. If they don’t work all of the hours their eligible for, they are not going to get the rest of the money as a lump sum at the end of the semester.