Work-Study Programs at Colleges in US & Canada

Are you a student wondering about how you are going to afford to pay for your tuition in the US? Or pay off your tuition debt as early as possible? Then finding a work-study program at college is probably your best shot at gaining first-hand work experience as well as earning cash for it to help you with your finances. Here is all you need to know about the Work-Study programs.


Work Study Program

By Parinita Gupta


What is Work-Study Program?

Work study program is a form of a financial aid program that helps college students in need of financial aid or assistance receive money through the college financial aid office. This program is funded by the federal and sometimes state government.

The work-study program provides a job experience to the students. They can do this while they are at any level of study in their college and this will always be a plus point for them especially when it’s related to the degree that they’re studying. If your college tuition isn’t completely covered after applying for grants and scholarships, you might be offered a work-study program instead of getting huge loans with interests from the banks.

You might as well just get a part-time job but the work-study jobs are much easier to find since the college itself has many jobs available on campus.

However, please make a note of the fact that there’s a limit to how much financial aid can a work-study program offer. It may vary however the maximum limit is USD $4000.

Work Study Programs in US & Canada

Work-study programs are very common in the US. However, a few Canadian universities like the University of Waterloo, McGill University, University of Toronto, etc. also offer work-study programs.

How does a work-study program work in the US?

Since it does not bear all the college costs of a student so it’s important that they have some personal savings, student loans, grants, and scholarships etc. Even though it doesn’t bear all the costs, over the course of history it has proven to be extremely beneficial for the students who are in need of financial aid and assistance.

To apply for the federal work-study program; you must fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form to be eligible. Typically, students have to be responsible enough to secure their own job and just a written document stating that you are eligible doesn’t mean that your job is guaranteed. Within a few months or weeks of filling out this form, students will get a financial aid award listing amounts that they’re eligible for through loans, student grants, and of course, work-study programs.

Even though the financial aid award letter may list a specific amount allocated to you, it doesn’t by any means implies that you get that amount right away. You must find an eligible work-study program and then work enough to earn that listed amount. Students who apply get the work-study funds which are subject to availability, student’s financial needs, etc.

Students are also at liberty to decline a work-study program offer in case they do not need it. However, going for work-study programs is probably a wise decision since it helps students pay off the student loan as soon as possible.

Work-Study Program Eligibility

To be eligible for work study programs in the US you must fill out the FAFSA form, be an undergraduate student and you must be in need of financial aid or assistance.

Examples of Work-Study

Work study programs may offer you any work within the college campus and the work hours will be allotted to you as per you class schedule.

This may include working at the college library or bookstore, serving at the dining hall, volunteering and assisting at the college events, or even being a tour guide for the new students/ applicants at the college. They may also ask you to work as a marketer for the college which includes promoting and marketing the college online and even offline through pamphlets etc. If there’s a particular subject you excel in, they might even ask you to be a tutor.

They may also offer you work off campus which may benefit your course curriculum in some way or the other. This might include waiting on tables, etc.

Pay / Wages

As mentioned earlier, the financial need and your requirements determine the amount of money that can be offered to you during your work-study tenure.

Students cannot earn more than the specified amount in the award letter. The pay/wages also depend on the kind of work you’ll be doing, your experience, skillsets, and its level and the amount of money remaining in your college’s fund.

You’ll be paid on an hour-by-hour basis once a month. With the work-study program, you are at least guaranteed to have the minimum wage of USD$7.25/ per hour.

In case the minimum wage of the state you are in is higher, you shall be paid the minimum wage. You may request the college to send you a paycheck directly or do a direct deposit. You may also ask them to just simply deduct the payment from your tuition bill.

Alternatives of Work-Study Program

As an alternative, you can apply for student grants, scholarships, and loans. Even though loans are not recommended, incase you see that you need it, you can just have the possibility of it open.

You may also get a regular part-time job however it may reduce your financial aid eligibility by about 50% of your total earnings. Incomes from a work-study job don’t affect your financial aid eligibility.

With the work-study program, you also enjoy the advantage of flexible scheduling of work hours as per your class hours. The work-study program employers are necessarily obliged to consider your class hours and schedule before they assign you to work hours whereas regular employers from a part-time job are not obliged to do the same for you.

Disadvantages of Work-Study Program

Like everything, a work study program holds its own set of disadvantages, It sure is convenient to work at a work study program but possible cons must be taken into account before you take up a work study program and disregard other opportunities such as off campus jobs, apprenticeships, internships etc.

So, to list them simply here below,

1. They are typically minimum wage only, or just slightly higher if you are lucky enough.

2. Even after getting a listed amount at your award, the work must be offered by school for you to even begin with.

3. Even though the generic maximum amount is USD$4000/-, schools offer much less since they want you to focus more on your academics rather than the employment.


About Parinita Gupta

Parinita is a full-time banking professional. Additionally, she is also a passionate blogger and digital marketer.

She mostly writes about the Banking & Finance, Technology, and FinTech sector. But, she also enjoys writing on other topics as well.  You can follow her on Twitter.


References: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.

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