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Work-Study Programs Offer a Loophole in the FAFSA

If you racked up some extra cash this summer with a part-time job, you may be hurting your chances of earning more student aid via the FAFSA.  Logically, the parental income should weigh the heaviest in financial aid decisions because they make the most.  This isn’t true.  In fact, your income accounts for up to 50% of the estimated family contribution (EFC), your family’s “financial strength”.  This particularly rings true if your parents income is considered among the lower bracket.

How Much is Allowed?

As of the 2014-15 school year, students may make up to $6,260 in regards to the FAFSA.  As long as you earned below this cut-off amount, you won’t have to worry about it impacting your aid eligibility.

We’re definitely not suggesting that you remain unemployed.  One particular route which avoids the cut-off entirely is enrolling in a work-study program.  Not only does the program offer awards from $1,000 up to $4,000, the earnings also bypass the financial aid restriction considerations.


These programs, offered at the majority of colleges and universities, typically pay federal minimum wage and allow students to clock in up to 20 hours per week.  Each school specifies various rules related to work-study, so be sure to look into your colleges of choice!  UC San Diego, for instance, notes that you must apply for the FAFSA before March 2nd and relay related documents to their Financial Aid Office by May 21st.

Unlike a regular part-time job at a grocery store or fast food chain, students engaged in work-study programs will study fields related to their desired degree to gain necessary skills.  Best of all, you won’t have to worry about their earnings affecting your financial aid status.  You can leave any work-study program earnings out of the FAFSA entirely.  It’s a true win-win!

Westface College Planning helps navigate the financial aid process from start to finish.  To learn how we can minimize college cost, call us at 650-587-1559 or sign up for one of our Tackling the Runaway Costs of College Workshops or Webinars.

Photo Credit: Rob Brewer

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