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Work-Study vs. Off-Campus Student Jobs

a student works the front desk of a resort


Covering the cost of college means some students work when they’re on campus. Balancing classwork and a job can be tough, but it’s not impossible. Here’s a look at the pros and cons of on and off-campus jobs.

The Federal Work-Study (FWS) program awards jobs to students based on financial need. In addition to putting cash in a student’s pocket, earnings from these jobs are considered financial aid and don’t count as income on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Here’s everything you need to know about taking part in the Federal Work-Study Program:

  • Earnings are exempt from Social Security and Medicare taxes
  • Federal Work-Study is subject to the federal minimum wage, $7.25 per hour
  • Most jobs are located on campus
  • Off-campus jobs must be in the public interest, like tutoring
  • Each college must use a minimum of 7% of Federal Work-Study funding for community-service jobs 
  • Ideally, jobs should pertain to a student’s major
  • Students typically work 12 hours or less a week, as students who work full-time while attending college are half as likely to graduate
  • Work-study positions typically are accommodating of a student’s academic schedule
  • In addition to earning a wage, students also can receive college credit while working

Working an off-campus job, however, has it’s own set of perks. Although these jobs won’t be as flexible as the Federal Work-Study program, here’s a look at what they can provide:

  • Most off-campus jobs pay better than Federal Work-Study positions 
  • Most off-campus jobs are less than 2 miles from campus 
  • There might be more job options off campus 
  • Students can work full-time during the summer at an off-campus job, an option that is typically not available for Federal Work-Study jobs
  • Students do not need to demonstrate financial need to qualify for an off-campus job
  • A portion of a student's income ($6,420) isn't counted towards the FAFSA
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