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Am I Eligible for Work-Study?

July 30, 2021 · 5 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey. Read more We develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide. We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right. Read less

Am I Eligible for Work-Study?

Whether you are eligible for the federal work-study program, which provides part-time employment for college students who demonstrate financial need, depends on if you meet base eligibility requirements to receive financial aid. It also depends on if your school participates in the program (not all schools do). Read on for more information about the program that can include on- and off-campus jobs.

What Is Work-Study?

Federal Work-Study allows students with financial need to secure part-time employment to help them to earn extra money to pay for education expenses. Work-study encourages community service work and work related to the student’s course of academic study. The program is administered by participating schools, so students can check with their school’s financial aid office to find out if the school participates.

As noted earlier, jobs are available both on- and off-campus. Those working off campus, will most likely work for a private for-profit or nonprofit organization or a government agency. The work must be in the public
interest
.

Who Is Eligible for Work-Study?

Several factors determine a student’s work-study program eligibility, including their family’s income and enrollment status. The school’s financial aid budget will also factor into a student’s overall financial aid award.

Not all schools participate in the federal work-study program. There are about 3,400 schools participating in the program.

How Do Students Apply for Work-Study?

To apply for work-study, students must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). As a student fills out the FAFSA, they’ll need to indicate that they would like to be considered for work-study. Selecting this option doesn’t automatically mean that the student will receive work-study as part of their financial aid package.

If interested in receiving work-study, students might want to file their FAFSA as early as possible, since aid is often determined on a first-come, first-served basis.

If a student receives work-study, their allocation will be included as a part of the financial aid award. A student’s work-study allotment will depend on a few factors , including when they apply, their level of financial need, and the school’s funding level.

If awarded work-study as part of a financial aid offer, students are not required to accept it. For many students, it makes sense to participate in the work-study program, especially if it means lessening the financial burden of attending school and taking out fewer student loans.

After being awarded work-study, students may still have to apply for and secure their own employment—not every school will assign a job at the same time as they offer the financial aid award.

While an aid award may list a specific amount for work-study, that doesn’t mean the student will receive the entire amount, either. Students may still need to find a job that allows them to work enough hours to earn that much money.

Students who receive a work-study allocation as part of their financial aid award and are able to secure a job that meets the program requirements, will earn at least the federal minimum wage (if not more, depending on the state’s minimum wage). Money will generally be earned in a standard paycheck—and universities must pay students monthly at the very least.

Since tuition bills are usually due at the beginning of the semester, work-study funds typically aren’t applied directly to tuition bills. Students can use their own discretion to decide what to use their work-study funds for—some may want to pay for things like living expenses, books, or transportation costs.

Is Work-Study Income Taxed?

The money earned through the work-study program will still be subject to state and federal income taxes. Students who are concerned that earning money through the work-study program will affect their eligibility for other types of financial aid in future years can cross that stressor off their list.

One perk of the work-study program is that earnings won’t count toward income totals when filling out the FAFSA form. Earnings through the program are backed off the FAFSA, so they shouldn’t jeopardize any future financial aid awards.

When filing the FAFSA every year, clearly indicate continued interest in receiving work-study as part of the financial aid package. Students are not guaranteed work-study each year.

How Do I Find a Work-Study Job?

Some schools may match work-study students with a job or students may have to apply for and secure employment on their own. Many work-study jobs can be found on campus, and a lot of schools have online portals where students can look for and apply to work-study jobs.

Jobs that may qualify for the work-study program include research assistantships, teaching assistant positions, and administrative duties in a campus office. More work-study jobs may be found off campus for nonprofit organizations or other corporations—such as community service jobs or tutoring.

What Can I Do If I Don’t Qualify for Work-Study?

Students who don’t qualify for work-study may want to consider other options to earn some extra money.

One option could be to get a part-time job that isn’t part of the work-study program. College towns usually have plenty of coffee shops and restaurants that are looking for part-time or seasonal employees. Managers or owners may be willing to work with student-employees to build their work schedule around classes.

Those who aren’t interested in formal employment could try something more flexible, like babysitting. The work is usually flexible, and if you’re watching the kids in the evening while the parents enjoy a night on the town, you could have a bit of time to do some homework or assigned reading after you’ve put them to bed.

Another idea? Pick up a side hustle. Find something enjoyable that has a doable time commitment. For example someone studying journalism or writing, could try sending out a few pitches for freelance writing assignments. A graphic designer could take on a few side projects.

A side hustle allows students to pick something that fits with their skills and time. This way, there’s still plenty of time to focus on schoolwork.

Any money earned outside of the work-study program will be reflected as income when filing the FAFSA the following year and could affect eligibility for aid .

Managing Finances After Graduation

To take control of their student debt, some borrowers may consider refinancing their student loans.

After graduating, students will hopefully be in a better financial position than they were in as students borrowing their loans—with a new degree and working in a new career. Depending on the individual’s earning potential and credit history, it may be possible to lower your interest rate when refinancing student loans with a private lender. Know that when you refinance federal loans they lose eligibility for federal repayment programs and protections like deferment and forbearance.

Some private lenders may offer some protections to their borrowers, including SoFi. Those who unexpectedly lose their job through no fault of their own, may qualify for SoFi’s unemployment protection, which allows borrowers to temporarily pause payments.

To see what your loans could look like when you refinance, take a look at our easy-to-use student loan refinance calculator.

The Takeaway

The federal work-study program offers part-time employment to students who qualify. Eligibility for the program is determined by a variety of factors including their family’s income and the student’s enrollment status. When a student applies for aid may also impact whether or not they are awarded work-study, as it is often awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.

A work-study job can help cover expenses, but it may not be enough. If they can’t cover all of their education costs with federal student loans, students may want to consider taking out a private student loan.

Interested in using private student loans as part of your funding strategy? See how SoFi can help.


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Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.

SoFi Student Loan Refinance
IF YOU ARE LOOKING TO REFINANCE FEDERAL STUDENT LOANS PLEASE BE AWARE OF RECENT LEGISLATIVE CHANGES THAT HAVE SUSPENDED ALL FEDERAL STUDENT LOAN PAYMENTS AND WAIVED INTEREST CHARGES ON FEDERALLY HELD LOANS UNTIL THE END OF JANUARY 2022 DUE TO COVID-19. PLEASE CAREFULLY CONSIDER THESE CHANGES BEFORE REFINANCING FEDERALLY HELD LOANS WITH SOFI, SINCE IN DOING SO YOU WILL NO LONGER QUALIFY FOR THE FEDERAL LOAN PAYMENT SUSPENSION, INTEREST WAIVER, OR ANY OTHER CURRENT OR FUTURE BENEFITS APPLICABLE TO FEDERAL LOANS. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION.
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.

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