Most people will agree that a college education results in a higher paying career. Unfortunately for a great many, college is unaffordable. In addition to low-income individuals, single parents struggle with paying tuition while supporting their family.
If you are looking to go to college in the US, it’s even more difficult to pay for this schooling (a regular university degree from a state public college will run you about $25,000 per year, and roughly $100,000 in total for your 4 year education).
The good news is there are a number of federal programs out there that can help supplement your costs. These are a combination of grants and loans that taken together can roughly cover most of your costs (depending on your financial need). However, if financial aid does not cover your total costs, you’ll need to seek out other assistance — such as a part time job, summer job, or help from your family / parents.
The main federal assistance programs are:
- Federal Perkins Loan
- Federal Direct Loan Program
- Pell Grant
- TEACH GRANT
- FSEOG Grant
- Federal Work Study Program
To qualify for many of these, you need to fill out the FAFSA form. You can find out more info on the US government student loan website.
What is the Federal Work Study Program?
The Federal Work-Study (FWS) program is a federally funded, need-based, financial aid grant, that allows students to earn funding through employment.
The FWS is a grant which does not need to be paid back. The student is physically working and earning their awarded amount. This is extremely valuable for students who wish to gain hands-on experience in their career field. A student can work with the registrar’s office, with professors, or social and history programs. It is a chance to network with professionals and other students, while learning the ins-and-outs of college.
In addition to working at their school, an awarded student may also work for any federal, state or local public agency. In other words, if a student is attending school for a teaching degree, they can possibly work for the Board of Education. If they are going to law school, they can work at the county clerk’s office.
It is important to acknowledge, that finding a program that accepts the Federal Work Study program can be a challenge, due to the high demands for these jobs. Other students may be interested in the same opportunity, do the research and apply early. It is a first come, first served program. To find out if your college accepts Federal Work Study, click here.
How Much Will I Earn?
In general, students earn minimum wage. Undergraduates are usually paid by the hour, while graduate students can earn a yearly salary. At times, there may be opportunities that pay a higher wage depending on your state, amount of experience, and job requirements.
Once you have accepted a job, you will be paid for the hours that you work. You need to work the full hours allotted to earn your grant award amount. If you lose your employment for non-attendance, you may not have a second chance to gain access to this grant.
The money you earn through the Federal Work Study program is paid to you directly. It is your responsibility to pay your tuition and fees. Your employer will allow you to work part time (and possibly odd hours) to ensure you have time to attend classes and study properly.
The History Behind The Federal Work Study Program
The Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 paved the way for opportunities like the Federal Work Study program. It allows individuals who need financing, to gain funds to attend college, without having to depend solely on conventional student loans.
The declaration of the act states that, “The United States can achieve its full economic and social potential as a nation, only if every individual has the opportunity to contribute to the full extent of his capabilities and to participate in the workings of our society. It is, therefore, the policy of the United States to eliminate the paradox of poverty in the midst of plenty in this Nation by opening to everyone the opportunity for education and training, the opportunity to work, and the opportunity to live in decency and dignity.” Below is a detailed description of the requirements according to the Act:
● The work is related to the student’s educational objective
● Will not result in the displacement of employed workers or impair existing contracts for services
● Will be governed by such conditions of employment as will be appropriate and reasonable in light of such factors as the type of work performed, geographical region, and proficiency of the employee
● No such work shall involve the construction, operation, or maintenance of so much of any facility used or to be used for sectarian instruction, or as a place for religious worship.
Who Qualifies For Federal Work Study?
To know if you qualify, you must first apply through a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application. You must provide the basic requirements highlighted below, as well as prove that you have financial need. The FAFSA is a completely free online application that can help students qualify for over $150 billion dollars in grants.
Filling out a FAFSA takes approximately 30 minutes. You should fill one out even if you don’t think you qualify. There are numerous grants and finance opportunities available for students.
Most colleges and school advisors will walk you through the application, so there is no need to pay anyone to fill out this application for you.
To qualify for state or federal funding, you will need to pass the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) guidelines. The EFC measures your family’s financial strength and is used to determine your eligibility for federal student aid. Qualification varies from household to household. The way your need is determined, is the cost of attendance minus expected family contribution. You must also meet these basic qualifications:
● A high school diploma or GED
● Are accepted into a college or university
● Have a social security number or eligible non-citizen card
● Not owe any other federal student loans
● Must maintain a satisfactory academic grade and attendance
● Must be pursuing a first Bachelor’s degree
All grants are on a first come, first served basis. Therefore, you should apply as soon as you can. Every individual state and college, determine the due date for the FAFSA application. You can see a list of deadlines in this guide. The Board of Education also lists deadlines on their website. As an example, for the 2015–16 school year, applications need to be in Jan. 1, 2015, and June 30, 2016. For the best possible outcome, you should contact your school’s financial aid office to get exact dates for your school of choice.
There are finance options other than student loans to help students achieve their goals of attending college. The Federal Work Study Program is one of them. Currently there are over 3,400 participants receiving Federal Work Study awards. This program is a wonderful chance to have flexible employment while also gaining relevant career skills. It seems like FWS is a win-win situation for local public agencies, as well as those who gain the opportunity to work with the future employees of their agencies.