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Work Study Overview

What is Federal Work Study?

The Federal Work Study (FWS) Program is a government subsidized student employment program designed to assist students in financing their post-secondary education. In order to be eligible for Work Study, students must document financial need every year by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Based on the results of the FAFSA, and an expressed interest in FWS on your SWOSU Student Data Form, eligible students are awarded an allotment, which may be earned through part-time employment in FWS approved positions on and off campus. Both undergraduate and graduate students are eligible for FWS. However, eligibility for FWS does not guarantee a job.

Note: The only way for students accepting their Work Study award to receive the award amount is to get a job, work 10-20 hours per week, and earn it! Students are strongly encouraged to begin the job search early. Popular Work Study positions are highly sought after and tend to be filled quickly.

What are the advantages of Work Study Jobs?

Although a FWS job should be treated as any other job, it does have several distinct advantages:

  • Students have the benefit of working in an environment suited to their skills, preferences and possible career goals in order to build a solid employment history.
  • Students and Work Study employers arrange a work schedule around the course schedule.
  • Work Study wages are not counted towards next year's student contribution for financial aid.
  • Although the majority of FWS positions are located on-campus, the program also offers a growing number of off-campus positions. Regardless of location, the ultimate advantage of a FWS position is that it affords students invaluable experience when preparing to enter the job market after graduation, not to mention the departmental and/or professional contacts that can be made and educational funding that can be earned.

Note: Studies have consistently shown that students who work no more than 20 hours per week do better academically than students who do not work. Additional time demands appear to force students to manage their time more efficiently, thus necessitating a higher commitment to study time by the student.

What types of jobs are available?

The On-Campus Work Study jobs are as diverse as the personnel needs of the University. Clerical assistants, data entry operators, and laboratory research assistants are but a few examples. Students may look for jobs on the Bulldog Job Board.

Off-campus positions with employers/agencies approved to participate in the FWS Program offer further variety. These positions are available through non-profit organizations and are usually in areas of community service. Off-campus positions may include computer operators and reading and mathematics tutors.

Community Service Work Study is a great way to make a difference in the lives of others and earn your Work Study award at the same time. Our America Reads and America Counts programs are excellent ways to help children in the local elementary schools. These FWS positions may also qualify for the AmeriCorps program.

How much will I be paid?

Most jobs pay minimum wage. The job titles, duties and hourly rates are the same as those for non-FWS employees. FWS students must also have the same job qualifications as non-FWS individuals. Students working at SWOSU under the Federal Work Study Program are paid on an hourly-wage basis under wage regulations set by the SWOSU Human Resources Office. FWS students working off-campus are also paid on an hourly basis at wage rates set by the Off-Campus employer.

Am I eligible for benefits?

No. Work Study (FWS) students are not eligible for paid vacation, sick leave, holidays, or medical and dental insurance through their Work Study job.

How many hours per week must I work?

Federal Work Study is part of the financial aid package. Students may earn up to the amount of their award as listed on their Financial Aid Award Letter. Students may not earn more than the amount of their Work Study award. The Federal Work Study Program reimburses employers for 75% of the students' earnings up to the amount of the award. Any wages earned after that amount must be paid 100% by the employer. It is the student's responsibility to monitor earnings to be sure the award amounts are not exceeded.

Work schedules are to be determined by the student and employer. Students should never be scheduled to work during class time. Also, FWS students should never work more than 8 hours in one day or 20 hours in one week. Monthly maximum hours charts are available from the Human Resources Office.

Students are expected to earn the FWS award evenly throughout the award period, according to a consistent schedule of work hours per week. It is inappropriate for a student to earn the full award in the first half of the award period.

How do I get a job?

Eligibility for work-study does not guarantee a job. Students must look for and apply for jobs. Hiring is at the discretion of the supervisor. Students who begin the job search early will have a broader range of jobs to choose from, and will be able to begin working and earning their award as soon as the award period begins! With this in mind, students should begin their Work Study job search as early as April by:

  • Visiting various on-campus departments and checking out their bulletin boards.
  • Searching for Work Study jobs on the Bulldog Job Board.
  • Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid early so Federal Work Study confirmation can be made.

Students should take the following documentation to the interview so that the employer can verify Work Study eligibility:

  1. Appropriate Application for Student Employment
  2. Copy of their Financial Aid Award Letter showing FWS eligibility
  3. Copy of current and/or coming semester course schedule

The interview with the prospective Work Study (FWS) employer is very important. Students should treat it as seriously as they would any job interview. Punctuality is a must, and neatness counts - students should remember that they will not get a second chance to make a good first impression! Students should also take advantage of the interview opportunity to get clear information about job duties, responsibilities, work schedules, and dress code. If students wish to sharpen their interviewing skills, the SWOSU Student Development/Placement Services is located in the Stafford Room 209 or call 580.774.3233.

When students accept a FWS position, they are making a commitment as an employee to that employer. Students are expected to stay for the length of the Work Study award period (usually two semesters), and are discouraged from changing jobs in the middle of the academic year. If special circumstances require you to resign from your FWS position, however, you must inform your employer immediately.

What if I do not get a job?

If you are not able to obtain a FWS job, in some cases FWS eligibility can be converted into additional Subsidized Student Loan eligibility. If you receive an FWS award and wish to utilize the loan program, please contact the Office of Student Financial Services to determine if this is an option for you. If you don't receive a FWS award, you may still be able to find employment through the SWOSU Office of Human Resources.

How do I get my Work Study money?

To receive their Work Study funds, students must get a job, work the expected number of hours per week, and earn their award.

Work Study students are paid once a month. Students record the number of hours worked and submit this record to their supervisor at the end of each pay period. The workweek always begins on Monday and ends on Sunday (except for the first and last day of the pay period). The hours reported on the monthly payroll time card should be rounded to the nearest 1/4 (.25) hour. For example, 10 minutes = .25 hour, 20 minutes = .25 hour, 25 minutes = .50 hour, 40 minutes = .75 hour. Students and supervisors must check that the hours recorded and totals are accurate before signing the original payroll time card. Late time sheets may result in a one-month delay in the student's paycheck!

Will I get Work Study every semester?

Work Study eligibility is based upon performing the assigned job duties in a satisfactory manner, maintaining satisfactory academic progress, and continuing to show financial need.

If a student's eligibility changes at any time during the award period, the FWS award (as well as any other financial aid awards) may be re-evaluated. This often occurs when the Office of Student Financial Services learns of additional resources, like scholarships or tuition waivers, after awarding federal aid and must reduce the amount of FWS award.

Also, eligibility from one year to the next is not guaranteed. Each year students must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine eligibility for financial aid, including Work Study. Students should apply by February 28th preceding their fall semester if possible.

Rights and Responsibilities

By accepting a FWS position, students become members of a department or agency that depends on them. Students should report to work on time, notify the supervisor when they will be late or absent, and dress appropriately for the work location (dress code should be discussed during the interview). When asking for time off, students should consider the employer's needs as well as their own. In addition, some FWS positions may require access to confidential information. Abuse or misuse of such authorization is grounds for dismissal and other disciplinary actions!

If a problem develops on the job, the first point of contact should be the supervisor. If the problem cannot be resolved, the student should contact the Human Services Office. Quitting a FWS job should be a decision of last resort. There is no guarantee that the Work Study award can be replaced with another type of aid or that you can secure another FWS position. Failure to follow expected policies and regulations may result in the cancellation of their Work Study award and the loss of their Work Study position. Acceptance of a position through Work Study implies a commitment to the employer for at least one semester.