Though work study is taxable income, it also considered a form of financial aid -- the Federal Work Study (FWS) program is one to which you must be accepted based on financial need. If you opt into this program you have the opportunity to earn extra money to help pay for your expenses while in school. Participation in the FWS program does not interfere with your eligibility for other financial aid, nor does turning down the program affect how much aid you are given.
Why Choose FWS
If you are eligible to participate in the FWS program based on financial need, you are given the opportunity to earn extra money for school and personal expenses. The key word is "earn" -- participating in FWS does not guarantee you money, only the chance to earn it by working. You are given a job, either on or off campus, and paid an hourly wage that you receive in regular paychecks like you would at any other job. The advantage to FWS is that your schedule is based around your class schedule, helping you to balance the two.
FWS and Financial Aid
If you opt into the FWS program, you do not miss out on financial aid. Conversely, if you do not take advantage of the program, you do not miss out on financial aid. The only thing you miss out on is the opportunity to take on a paying job through the FWS program. Since students participating in FWS are earning the money they make, not being given it, their financial aid is not affected.
The money you make through a FWS job is considered taxable income. Again, this is an effect of your job's classification as work. You are only paid for the hours you work, just like you would be at a non-FWS job, so you must declare this amount on your taxes as income. No matter how much you earn through your FWS job it will not affect your financial aid for the subsequent year -- it is excluded as a factor when determining your expected family contribution.
Unlike non-FWS jobs, where you can theoretically work as many hours as you want, FWS jobs do have limitations. When you receive your financial aid information, you are allotted a certain amount of money that you are allowed to earn through a work study job. You are not allowed to earn more than this amount, meaning that your hours and earnings are limited by your own financial need. Once you have earned the maximum, you must stop working at your FWS job.
Tom Ryan is a freelance writer, editor and English tutor. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English writing, and has also worked as an arts and entertainment reporter with "The Pitt News" and a public relations and advertising copywriter with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.