Students who are single mothers face pressures from their parental responsibilities as well as academically. In addition to paying for child care, one major concern for college-bound students is how to pay for education expenses on their own.
Escalating college costs and an uncertain economy make paying for college a struggle for many. But it doesn’t always have to be that way.
To help single mothers cope with the rising cost of “going back to school”, federal student aid is available in the form of college grants, scholarships as well as participation in work-study programs.
What is Federal Work Study?
The Federal Work-Study (FWS) Program is a type of federally funded student aid1 that gives single-parent students with little or no monetary resources a way to earn money by doing part-time work on or off campus, often in their chosen field of study.
The aim is to provide them with valuable work experience, and lead them to self- sufficiency after they graduate from college.
Students may work up to twenty (20) hours a week and receive a monthly paycheck (based on an hourly wage) which they can use for educational expenses.
Most FWS jobs are campus-based, although some are off-campus. Those working off campus usually work for a private nonprofit organization or a public agency, performing work closely relevant to their course of study.
How to Apply for Work-Study Program?
You apply for work-study just like you do all other forms of financial aid: by filling out and submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The amount of work-study you are eligible for is usually determined by the information you fill out in your FAFSA.2
On the FAFSA (item 31), you are asked if you are interested in being considered for work-study. Make sure you opt for a “Yes” to indicate that you are interested in the FWS program.
However, keep in mind that funding for FWS program is limited and awarded on a ‘first come, first served’ basis. Hence, it’s critical to apply early way before the datelines.
How Much Can You Earn?
If you qualify for FWS aid, your salary may start at the prevailing federal minimum wage3 but varies with job requirements, skill, and experience levels.
The maximum FWS award is based on your financial need, the number of hours you’re able to work, and the amount of FWS funding available at the school you plan to attend.
FWS money will not pay for your entire cost of education but it goes a long way in helping you pay a portion of it. However, this option will work only if you have minimal living expenses and have family support to meet your child care needs.
If you do not qualify for Federal Work-Study, you should inquire about non-federal student employment opportunities at your school. Non-Federal Work-Study (non-FWS) is not based on your financial need which means any student is eligible depending on any available opportunities on campus.
Non-FWS programs are very similar to Federal Work-Study. The only difference is the funding source. Non-federal work study programs are typically financed by the school; and unlike FWS, the wages you earn from non-FWS program will be used to determine your financial need when filing the FAFSA.
For more specific information regarding both Federal Work-Study and non-Federal Work-Study, you should contact your school’s Financial Aid Office.
- According to the U.S. Department of Education, about 3,400 postsecondary institutions participate and award FWS as part of an eligible student’s financial aid package. [↩]
- Source: How Work-Study Works [↩]
- As of 2009, the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour [↩]