How Work-Study Programs Work

Work-Study Program Eligibility

The Federal Work-Study Program is a need-based program of financial assistance. Students must complete and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which we'll discuss at length in the next section. Congress sets the criteria for determining financial need. That formula takes into account the information submitted on the FAFSA and also the expected family contribution (EFC).

Determination of financial need is based on these factors:

  • Student's income (and assets, if the student is independent)
  • Parents' income and assets (if the student is dependent)
  • Family's household size
  • Number of family members (excluding parents) attending postsecondary institutions

The EFC is figured by adding two things:

  • A percentage of income after allowances for basic living expenses are deducted
  • A percentage of the assets that remain after subtracting an asset protection allowance

The formula varies depending on the student's living situation (living with parents, independent without dependents or independent with dependents). Your earnings from the work-study program will not count as income.

Applicants for the Federal Work-Study Program must be a full-time student at an institution of higher education or have been accepted as a student. The program is not limited to colleges; vocational schools often have Federal Work-Study Program money available. Graduate students can take advantage of the funds, also.

Next, we'll take a look at what you need to do to make sure you get your share of this money, including how to hedge your bets even if you're not sure work-study is for you.