When you’re attending a college or university over the course of a semester, you may be given the option to apply for a work study. A work study is a campus-based job that will pay you a competitive wage, but at least half of your wages will go toward your outstanding tuition balance. The pros and cons of work study programs should be looked at in full before deciding if this is the right way to handle your student debt.
What Are the Pros of Work Study?
1. You can limit your student loan debt.
With a work study job, your wages can go to support your overall tuition costs. This can lower the amount of loans that you may need to cover your education. For employers who offer work study positions, there may be government subsidies available as well so the cost of hiring for this type of position is reduced.
2. You have a limited pool of competition.
Jobs aren’t always easy to come by in some communities. There may be several candidates all competing for the same part-time job. With work study, the pool of competition is limited to students who may also be interested in the position. If your field of study is niche-specific, you may be the only candidate on campus who wants that job, which makes it easy to start reducing your debt.
3. You may be able to use work study to replace a high interest loan.
Although the wages of work study may be somewhat low compared to other job opportunities, it is more of a form of financial aid instead of a true employment option. You are often given a yearly maximum that can be earned through work study and this is often enough to replace at least one high interest supplemental loan that may be needed for your tuition.
4. You may be able to set your own schedule.
Your work study program will work with your class schedule each semester since it is offered by the institution. This makes it a lot easier to deal with the changing class schedules you may have without worrying about what your employer may say or do because you need to change your work schedule.
5. You can always petition for more hours or more aid.
Even if your initial award is not what you’d like it to be, you can always petition the school for more. All petitions would go through the financial aid office.
6. You can work a part-time job alongside your work study.
Although it makes for a rough schedule, you can hold outside employment and a work study at the same time without much of a conflict.
What Are the Cons of Work Study?
1. You are not guaranteed a position in many programs.
Many colleges and universities may guarantee a work study job as part of the admission process, but the actual job received may not be guaranteed. You might want to work on the student newspaper, but be assigned a work study job in the janitorial program. To stay in the program, you may have to accept the job and then wait for the opening you want before you can transfer.
2. Wages are not usually competitive with the traditional employment marketplace.
There’s a good chance that you’ll be earning the minimum wage when you’re employed in a work study program. Not every job is going to pay well, even in a community, but you could be asked to do some complex tasks at a lower pay rate than someone else who is employed in the same job, but in the private sector.
3. Hours are often limited.
You are often given a set number of hours that you can work during your work study job. This may not be enough to work off your student debt over the course of a semester.
4. Initial financial awards are often lower for new incoming students.
Most schools limit the number of hours that are available in work study programs to incoming freshman. This is because the school wants new students to focus on their academics more than their employment. In return, this may make it difficult for some students to find a program that works for their needs.
The pros and cons of work study show that it is a generally positive experience, especially for those who are patient with the process. It may not pay well, but it can reduce student debt, and that is a benefit that cannot be ignored.