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Financial Aid Department

Student Employment Center

Work Study Frequently Asked Questions

Table of Contents:

What is Work Study?

Western Washington University's Work Study is a financial aid program that allows an undergraduate or graduate student to work on-campus or with approved off-campus employers to earn money to pay for college expenses. Work Study is not a grant (you must work to earn it), and it is not a loan (you don't have to repay it). It is a federal or state funded program with matching funds from Western Washington University. Being awarded Work Study with financial aid can help a student be eligible for part-time jobs, both on- and off-campus, that they may not have otherwise been eligible for. Employers love hiring Work Study students!

The Work Study program encourages employment in community service and in fields related to your major of study. Rather than automatically being applied towards housing or tuition expenses, Work Study earnings may be used for whatever expenses you have. Your earnings will depend on where you work and the type of work that you perform. Work Study earnings are considered taxable income, but unlike the money you earn from non-Work Study employment positions your earnings will not be used to determine your financial need when filing the FAFSA.

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How Do You Get Work Study?

You must apply and be eligible for financial aid. It is critical to get your Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in as soon as possible. Work Study funds are limited and go to the students with the most need who have met the priority deadline for applying for financial aid which is January 31st. Work Study is an academic year program. There is no Work Study in the summer.

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The Benefits of Work Study

  • To gain work experience and improve marketable skills
  • To explore possible career opportunities
  • To meet a new set of contacts who may eventually become valuable references for future employment
  • To reduce loan indebtedness and participate in the "working your way through school" concept
  • Many Work Study recipients are eligible to receive Food Stamps through DSHS
  • When filling out the FAFSA for the next year you will report your Work Study earnings but will not be used to determine your financial need when filing the FAFSA

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How Does Work Study Fit Into My Financial Aid Package?

Each student has a unique financial aid file. That means some students must be willing to allow reduction of some loan funds to accommodate a Work Study award, if they have an aid package that completely fills their financial aid budget. You do not have to request a special loan reduction; your loans will be automatically adjusted when Work Study is awarded, if you selected the Work Study option on your FAFSA. Reducing loans to accept Work Study is great if you can afford to wait until you have earned the money through your paychecks, rather than getting it in a lump sum at the beginning of each quarter from a loan. Work Study is not used to repay loans; it is awarded INSTEAD of a loan. Some students are able to accept a Work Study award without giving up any loans since they have room within their financial aid need on top of all their other awards to accept Work Study employment.

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Am I Eligible for Work Study?

You may be eligible for Work Study if you have fulfilled the following criteria:

  • Submitted your FAFSA (Federal Application For Student Aid) before January 31st
  • Requested Work Study on the FAFSA
  • Are eligible for Financial Aid
  • Are able to submit hiring paperwork demonstrating your authorization to work in the U.S.

A formula for determining eligibility for Work Study is this: Cost of Attendance (COA) minus Expected Financial Assistance (for example, VA or other educational benefits) minus Expected Family Contribution (EFC) minus any "free" aid (for example, grants, scholarships, or other aid that does not need to be repaid) equals remaining need-based aid eligibility. This eligibility may be filled by a combination of need-based loans (typically a Federal Direct Subsidized Student loan) and Work Study. A student has some flexibility to either reduce loans and work for the money instead, or earn less on Work Study in favor of increasing a student loan. In some cases, a student may be able to maximize both loan aid and Work Study aid by switching some or all of the Subsidized loan to an Unsubsidized loan (a non-need based loan) to create room for Work Study funding. A student’s actual financial aid award will depend on Work Study funds availability and federal loan limits determined by class standing and dependency status.

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Do I Already Have Work Study?

Some students may have Work Study in their financial aid award and don't know it. Check it out on Web4U@Western to review your financial aid award. Work Study will be listed along with other financial aid in your award.

You will also receive a Confirmation of Work Study email When you have accepted your award.

If you are still confused, call the Student Employment Center at 360-650-3158 or email at and we will be able to assist you.

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If I Do Not Have Work Study, Can I Still Get It?

We want to award all the funding we have each academic year to eligible students! But a few qualifications need to be met first:

  • You have a current FAFSA (Federal Application for Student Aid) on file with the Financial Aid Department.
  • You have unmet financial need or be willing to reduce your loans to create unmet need
  • You have contacted the Student Employment Center to have your name added to the Work Study Wait List

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Work Study is a Responsibility

If you are hired for the position, your employer will discuss your pay rate and help you complete the necessary paperwork. If you accept the position offered to you, it is expected that, if at all possible, you will offer a commitment for the full academic year. If circumstances arise where you need to terminate your position, it is expected that you will give your employer two weeks notice, unless an earlier date is mutually agreed upon.

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Work Study is a Regular Job

Your Work Study earnings will not be provided to you in a lump sum. Work Study is not applied towards your housing or tuition expenses. Just like any other job, you will be paid according to your employer's payroll schedule. For on-campus jobs, payroll runs twice monthly throughout the school year, and your pay is based on the number of hours you work per pay period. Paychecks for on-campus jobs can be automatically deposited in your bank account, or mailed directly to your W-2 address. The Direct Deposit enrollment form is available on the Human Resources site. For off-campus Work Study jobs, consult your employer about how you receive your paycheck and whether a direct deposit option is available.

You and your employer must regulate your work hours so that your earnings per quarter are approximately equal to your Work Study award allotment per quarter. Be sure to not over-earn your quarterly Work Study award.

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How Many Hours A Week Can I Work?

The amount of money that you earn cannot exceed your total award.  You can calculate the number of hours a week you can work by following the instructions below:

  • Step 1. You and your employer determine your pay rate.
  • Step 2. Divide your total award by 3 and you will have your award per quarter.
  • Step 3. Divide this figure by your hourly pay rate and you will have the number of hours per quarter needed to earn your award.
  • Step 4. Divide this figure by 11 (there are 11 weeks in the quarter).

This will give you the number of hours per week you will need to work in order to earn your award each quarter. Your award is broken into three quarters in order to help you budget your earnings.


Total Award $3300
Award for quarter $1100
Pay Rate $11.00 per hour
$1100 ÷ $11.00 per hour = 100 hours
100 hours ÷ 11 weeks = approximately 9.09 hours per week in order to earn this award

You can use this formula anytime during the year to figure how many hours you need to work. As an alternative, the Student Employment Center encourages you to use the Work Study Budget Tracking Sheet to track your Work Study award. Please consult this example for a simple step-by-step breakdown of how to use the Tracking Sheet.

Remember! Students may not work more than 19 hours a week during the academic year.

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Can I Use Work-Study Off-Campus?

Yes. Work Study jobs can be on- or off-campus where the employer has entered into a formal agreement with WWU. Off-campus employers must sign an agreement with WWU, and some restrictions will apply. If you know an off-campus employer you want to work for, and the job is in your major area, or is an area of career interest to you, but they can't afford to hire you, contact the Student Employment Center to inquire about the off-campus Work Study program. We especially encourage employment with non-profit organizations which provide a community service, though for-profit employers can also participate and hire you IF the job is related to your major, minor, or career interests.

The Student Employment Center has standard agreements with many local off-campus employers, which are usually set up or renewed over the summer and are ready for fall employment. It is possible to set up off-campus agreements during mid-year, though it usually does take several weeks to complete the process, particularly during peak times, so plan ahead. The Center may not be able to accommodate your off-campus request at the last minute, and if it is during fall rush time (early September to mid-October), you can plan on it taking at least until mid-October before the agreement can be processed, and possibly longer.

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What Happens When My Work Study Award is Exhausted?

When you have earned your entire award your Work Study position ends. Some employers opt to hire students as regular, departmental or institutionally funded, employees once their Work Study award is gone. This is at the discretion of the employer.

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What if I Do Not Earn My Entire Work Study Award?

If you do not earn your entire fall quarter award, the balance will be carried over and added to your winter quarter award, then again to spring quarter, assuming you are enrolled for and maintain eligibility those quarters. However, any unused award at the end of spring quarter will be lost.

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What if I Already Have an On-Campus Job?

Most student jobs on-campus can be changed to Work Study jobs. Notify your employer of your Work Study award and they will do the necessary paperwork to change the job to Work Study. If they are not sure how to do this they can contact the Student Employment Center for instructions.

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What if I Cannot Find a Work Study Job?

Work Study jobs are very plentiful and there are almost always more jobs than there are students to fill them. If you are not hired for the first Work Study job don't be discouraged, try another. There are Work Study jobs that will fit almost anyone's schedule, skills, and interests.

If you are unable to secure a Work Study position during fall quarter, there is the possibility of having your award decreased. This ensures the Work Study funds will benefit the maximum number of students.

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Work Study Waiting List

If a student has not been awarded Work Study during the initial awarding period, and are eligible to receive Work Study, they can be placed on the Work Study Waiting List. As funds become available throughout the year the Student Employment Center awards off of this list. If a student on the waiting list receives Work Study, they will be mailed a new Financial Aid Offer Letter notifying them of this.

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I Do Not Have Work Study, Can I Still Work?

YES! Only 25% of on-campus jobs are Work Study positions. That leaves 75% of on-campus positions open to non- Work Study students! Almost 100% of off-campus jobs are non- Work Study positions as well. If you do not have Work Study, look on this website for non- Work Study positions. If you keep looking you're sure to find one.

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Who Can I Contact if I Have Work Study Questions?

The Student Employment Center is located in Old Main 275. You may either visit the Center or contact them via telephone at (360-650-3158) or email at

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Helpful Hints

  • Read the Online Student Employment Guide when you are hired; be sure to read the Employment Policies and Procedures section.
  • Know your pay rate.
  • Request a copy of your job description.
  • Use the Work Study Budget Tracking Sheet ; this can help you track your earnings.
  • You can reference your pay stubs and earning history at any time through your Web4U.
  • Keep all employment-related papers together because they can be very helpful when writing a resume.

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