Work-study programs allow students to work part-time jobs while pursuing their studies. These jobs, typically available to both undergraduate and graduate students with financial needs, can be on or off-campus and are often related to a student’s field of study.
However, like any program, some pros and cons need to be considered.
What is a Work-Study Program?
Federal Work-Study is a financial aid program that needs to be applied for when filling out your financial aid application. It provides part-time jobs for students who demonstrate financial need. These jobs typically involve working with the public or are loosely related to a student’s course of study. In addition to on-campus work-study jobs, off-campus jobs are often available with local businesses subsidized by your school.
The Benefits of Work-Study
Work-study programs offer several potential advantages.
Gaining Experience in Your Field
Most colleges aim to match students with work-study jobs that align with their chosen course of study, providing an opportunity for real-world experience in the student’s field of study.
Work-study programs understand that students have academic commitments. Therefore, most work-study jobs offer flexibility in hours and work around your class schedule.
As work-study jobs are only offered to students who qualify, the potential pool of applicants is considerably smaller than the jobs a student might apply for off-campus, leading to less competition amongst potential job candidates.
Work-study jobs provide extra cash that you can put aside towards paying tuition costs, potentially allowing you to take out fewer college loans and accumulate less debt in the long run.
Impact on Financial Aid
Earnings from work-study do not count on your FAFSA, which can potentially maintain or increase the amount of financial aid you are eligible for, unlike earnings from a part-time job off-campus.
Most work-study jobs are located directly on campus, saving students a significant amount of time commuting over the course of a semester.
The Drawbacks of Work-Study
Despite the benefits, there are some drawbacks to work-study programs.
Most work-study jobs only pay minimum wage, which may not be enough to support recreational activities or educational expenses, particularly given that work-study jobs may ask students to handle more complicated tasks compared to other low-paying jobs.
Work-study jobs typically have a strict maximum number of hours students may work in a week, which, coupled with low wages, can result in a paycheck that fails to offset the added burden work-study can bring.
Engaging in work-study can take time away from studying, impacting your academic performance if not managed effectively.
Demographics of Work-Study Students
As of 2021, over 289,022 work-study students are currently employed in the United States. Of this, 66.6% of all work-study students were women, while 33.4% were men. The average age of an employed work study student was 47 years old. The most common ethnicity of work study students was White (57.2%), followed by Hispanic or Latino (17.6%), Black or African American (11.3%), and Asian (8.2%).