What Students and Families Want to Know about Federal Work-Study


By Jennifer Kunze, Ph.D.

Director of Ramp-Up to Readiness


The high costs of college concern a lot of students and their families. Federal work-study, which is awarded to more than a half-million students annually is one way to help with those costs. How does it work? The Department of Education subsidizes up to 75%—and sometimes more—of a students’ wages, and then colleges cover the rest. What else might students and families want to know about work-study?


  1. Work-study jobs are done on a part-time basis while the student attends college.
  2. The first step to getting a work-study job is filling out the FAFSA, or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
  3. Students are not guaranteed work-study awards for each year they are in college; they need to fill out the FAFSA annually.
  4. Most work-study jobs will be on a campus, such as in the library, or in an academic department, but some may be in the community surrounding a college, and if so, the student may work at a non-profit or public agency.
  5. Students who are awarded work-study still need to apply for jobs.
  6. Work-study students are paid by check, which can be used to pay for books, transportation, and living costs.
  7. Work-study jobs are limited and are not offered in equal numbers at all schools.
  8. Work-study pays at least the federal minimum wage, but individual colleges could pay more.
  9. Colleges determine the hours for work-study employment, and students are not allowed to exceed their financial aid award.
  10. Students will pay federal and state income tax on their work-study earnings.


The Ramp-Up to Readiness™ program helps students understand the varying ways students pay for college, including work-study. Ramp-Up provides an evidence-based, classroom-ready curriculum designed for students in grades 6 – 12. The curriculum is designed around the five pillars academic, admissions, career, financial, and social emotional readiness. The program is used by both schools and out-of-school programs. 

If you would like to learn more about Ramp-Up to Readiness, or receive free samples of the curriculum and other resources, click the button below.


About the Author: Jennifer Kunze, Ph.D., is the Director of Ramp-Up to Readiness at the University of Minnesota, and is thoroughly committed to college for all. Her additional professional interests include high quality instruction, professional learning systems, and labor trends. She is also a licensed social studies teacher, and has worked in K-12 settings, leading efforts in curriculum and instruction, mentoring/coaching, alternative compensation, and postsecondary readiness.  



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