Quick Guide to Work-Study

College work-study is a need-based financial aid program funded by the federal government and Western Michigan University. It is awarded to students based on need who are enrolled at least half time during the period of their employment. Unlike grants and scholarships, work-study awards are earned and paid through the payroll process in the form of a bi-weekly pay. Work-study awards and amounts are subject to eligibility requirements and fund availability. 

Students with a work-study award are subject to the same employment definitions and expectations as other student employees.

For more information, review the information below, and visit the financial aid website.

  • Federal Work Study Overview
    • Federal Work-study (FWS) is a need-based financial aid program funded by the federal government and WMU.​
    • FWS is awarded to students based on need, availability of funds and if the student indicated "Yes" on the FAFSA.  ​
    • FWS wages are counted as part of the student’s financial aid award package. ​
    • Not all students will qualify/receive FWS. Eligibility is based on FAFSA submission and corresponding award. ​
    • International students are not eligible to apply for FWS.
    • Students must be, and remain, enrolled during the period of employment.
    • These funds are awarded to the student, not to the job or employing department. 
    • Departments may request to hire students with a work-study award. Once the work-study award is spent, any additional payment is the responsibility of the hiring department.
    • Students with a work-study award may use that at any campus job. Students with work-study may also work off-campus in approved community service work-study non-profit sites.
    • Students with a work-study award are subject to the same employment definitions and expectations as other student employees.
  • When are Federal Work Study awards determined?
    • New Freshman students: January​

    • Transfer students for Fall: April​

    • Continuing/Graduate students: June​

    • Spring admits: November

  • Suggested posting and hiring timelines
    • To hire for fall: June/July​

    • To hire for spring: November/December​

    • To hire for summer: March/April​

    • How to hire after a revoke date: email sfas-fundmgmt@wmich.edu to determine if funds can be reinstated.

  • How to hire a student with a Federal Work Study award

    1. Develop a job description

    2. Post job to Handshake for at least 3 business days ​

    3. Promote it to students who received a FWS award​

    -Career Services promotes jobs accepting applications via Handshake​

    -Use Cognos Report “30.30.30 Work Study Recruitment and Award Confirmation” to find awarded students​

    4. Identify which applicants received federal work study awards​

    -Report available in Cognos for departmental: “30.30.30 Work Study Recruitment and Award Confirmation”

    5. Conduct interviews, confirm funds awarded for final candidate​

    6. Make an offer following best practices on Campus Supervisors page ​

    7. Submit workflow to Human Resources

    -Form defaults to “Yes-Pay from Work Study (when available).” 

  • Payroll considerations for Federal Work Study
    • Starting with approved rate of pay, employers can calculate maximum hours per week before FWS are exhausted.
    • Identify the hourly rate of pay before posting the position, then take the Award total for semester divided by the Approved Hourly Pay Rate divided by the Number of Weeks​ you expect the student to work.
    • If student will be employed in multiple jobs, coordinate with other department(s) so available funds are not exceeded. ​
    • Time for students with Federal Work-study is processed in the same manner as non-Federal Work-study recipients.​
    • ​Off-cycle payrolls (i.e. special checks) will not charge to Federal Work Study 
    Federal Work-study payrolls are assigned as follows:​​
    • Summer II: pay periods 15 through 18.​​ 
  • Tracking earnings

    Departments are responsible for tracking earnings against awards.​

    • Cognos report “30.30.10 Work Study Departmental Auditing”​

    • At minimum, department should review after first payroll in which a student begins earning.​


    Unused awards automatically carry forward (amounts are not moved so reports will still show awards in original terms) provided:​

    • Semester/session is in the same financial aid year.​

    • Semester/session receiving the carry forward also includes a Federal Work-study award.

    • For example: A student is awarded $1,000 for the fall semester, but they only earn $750 during the semester. Although their spring award shows $1,000, they actually have $1,250 available to earn during the spring semester.

  • Compliance and auditing

    Federal Work-study program is professionally audited each year.​

    Department may need to provide documentation if one or more student employee records is selected for review.​

    • Job Description (wmich.edu/career/job description)​

    • Time Sheets (signed and verified)​

    • If time is not submitted using a paper time sheet, a copy of the Kronos time card and department approval can be used.​

    • Class schedule vs. work schedule​

    • Departments must verify that class schedule and work schedule do not conflict


    Some issues found in previous audits...​

    • Unsigned time sheets​

    • Incorrect payment made to student (time reported and  payment did not agree)​

    • Information on time sheet was not completed correctly (incorrect dates/incomplete information)​

    • Issues with multiple jobs (students paid from wrong job record because Kronos transfers were not completed correctly):​

    • Wrong pay rate used​

    • Federal Work-study used/not used in error ​

    • Departments may be charged for earnings when errors related to audit requirements are made.