Pros and Cons of Federal Work Study Programs

Written by: Reyna Gobel
Updated: 3/31/21

Work study is a very different kind of financial aid that starts with filling out the FAFSA. You only earn it by working, and the job isn’t guaranteed. Plus, the hourly wage you earn can be as low as minimum wage.

You may be better off with a job off campus.

5 Key Takeways of Federal Work Study Programs

  • Work study jobs aren’t guaranteed. You must apply for them after being approved.
  • The total amount of earnings approved are a maximum total of wages earned for the entire year based on hourly rates at the minimum wage or above.
  • Work study jobs are generally on campus and offer flexible hours around class schedules.
  • Off campus jobs may pay higher rates. Research what is available near campus.
  • There are other options on campus for help with finding jobs to help pay for college: the work study office, individual academic department internship offices, and college career services offices.

Check out the pros and cons of participating in a work study program to decide whether you want to accept a work study offer:

Pro: Jobs are conveniently located on campus.

You’ll have zero travel time if you live on campus as all jobs are located at your college. You may also be placed in a position such as one in your college major’s office that can help with learning about your field.

Con: There are post graduation advantages for working off campus during college.

You may not explore your community as much, where you could potentially work after graduation. Half of the purpose of college is the networking that helps you get jobs post graduation. Talk to the work co-op and career services offices about where you able to work in your field near campus. You may be able to get a higher paying that’s more helpful to your long-term career goals just by walking across the street.

Pro: Flexible hours

One of the biggest advantages to work study jobs are that they will work the hours around your class schedule. Off campus jobs may make this promise, but it’s not guaranteed.

Con: Limited number of job options available

You have to apply for work study positions. You may not get selected for the jobs you apply for. Apply quickly incase there are a lot of applicants or a limited number of work study opportunities at that particular school.

When you apply for financial aid through the Free Application for Financial Aid (FAFSA), you may get approved for work study.

Pro: Hourly wages can’t be less than the federal wage.

Con: Tons of jobs off campus may be offered at rates much higher than minimum wage. Students will want to compare their options and potentially apply off campus, too.

Pro: A general idea of how much you’ll earn towards your education.

Ideally, when you look at your work study award, you can count on that amount of money towards completing your education. However, your work study offer is a maximum amount of money you could earn from work study.

Con: It’s dependant on earning the full amount of your work study award.

Your work study offer is a maximum amount of money you could earn from work study. You could quit the job or get fired and not be able to count on the rest of the funds towards your cost of attendance. At the College Finance corporation we don’t believe in counting on any money that’s not defenant.

Whether, working on or off campus, consider this money as either extra funds or money you can save towards reducing borrowing next year.

Note: Students aren’t obligated to complete work study jobs. Thus, they can quit jobs if they find a better one based on all of the above factors on or off campus.