More than three in four first-time, full-time undergraduate college students attending 4-year institutions receive some type of financial aid annually, according to data provided by the National Center for Education Statistics (approximately 85 percent).

In some cases, this financial aid is granted in the form of scholarships and grants, many of which do not have to be paid back. In other cases, obtaining help with schooling costs involves taking out student loans.

For instance, the average federal loan taken out by graduate students is around $18,470, an amount that is roughly four times higher than the federal loan amount typically secured by students at the undergraduate level.

Yet, there is one other type of financial aid that is available to some college students. It is called Federal Work-Study. What exactly is Federal Work-Study?

What Is Federal Work-Study?

The concept of Federal Work-Study is a financial aid program that involves working a part-time job to help cover educational expenses and is available to both undergraduate and graduate-level students.

This work may be on campus, such as by working for the school itself, or it could be off-campus work.

In the case of off-campus Federal Work-Study jobs, the type of work conducted "must be in the public interest" says the U.S. Department of Education. Therefore, it could involve working at a local non-profit or some type of nearby public agency.

How Do I Know if I Qualify for Federal Work-Study?

To qualify for this particular financial assistance program, you must be able to show financial need. This "need" is determined based on the information you provide on your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).

The amount of money you could be granted via Federal Work-Study depends on a variety of factors. Among them are the date you filed your FAFSA, your level of need financially, and the amount of funding available to your school of choice.

Federal Work-Study is granted to both part- and full-time students, so there are no requirements as far as class load is concerned.

How Does Federal Work-Study Differ from Other Types of Student Employment?

One way that Federal Work-Study differs from other types of student-based employment obtained with financial aid is that, instead of your pay being directly applied to your tuition (so you really never even see it), you do receive an actual paycheck from your Federal Work-Study job.

Another difference is that with a Federal Work-Study program, the amount you earn does not negatively impact the amount of financial aid you're able to receive the following year. This is a great benefit over working in other types of jobs in which everything you earn is counted as income and, therefore, taken into consideration when determining how much assistance you will get in the future.

What Can I Use My Federal Work-Study For?

Funding from a Federal Work-Study program is not intended to cover your tuition and housing, according to the Department of Education, but is more so to help you pay your everyday expenses. Depending on your particular situation, this could include food, transportation to and from campus, or any other type of living expenses you could use help in paying.

What if you want to use your Federal Work-Study monies to help offset your tuition costs because you are able to cover all of the rest of your expenses with other incoming cash? In that case, you can.

In the end, it is up to you what type of expenses you use your Federal Work-Study to cover. It's just that the program was designed to help with smaller costs as opposed to larger ones, which is where tuition would fall.

How Much Can I Earn with Federal Work-Study?

The total amount you can earn with Federal Work-Study is dictated by the amount of your award. Additionally, if your job is on campus, the school is required to pay you at least monthly, but may choose to do so more often.

Undergraduate students are paid by the hour and graduate students can either be paid by the hour or receive a set amount of salary. If you're paid hourly, the amount you earn per hour can vary based on the actual position, but will not be less than federal minimum wage, which the U.S. Department of Labor reports is currently $7.25 per hour.

Have More Questions About Federal Work-Study?

If you have more questions about Federal Work-Study or want to learn more about whether it may be available to you, check out the Federal Work-Study page.

You can also contact Saint Leo University's Student Financial Services at (800) 240-7658 or via email at