Students in the Sanford Center, student at their computers.

Federal Work-Study Program

Federal work-study is a need-based financial aid program funded by the federal government and Western Michigan University. Unlike grants and scholarships, federal work-study offers are earned and paid through the payroll process in the form of a biweekly paycheck. Federal work-study offers and amounts are subject to eligibility requirements and fund availability. Early application is very important.

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For students

Participating in federal work-study can be a gratifying experience. It's not only an additional avenue to help pay for school but it also helps you gain some invaluable social and professional skills that will help you in your future career. To learn more about whether you're eligible, review the requirements and explore the different programs available.

Financial aid eligibility

Students earning federal work-study must meet and maintain general financial aid eligibility criteria, including satisfactory academic progress.


Offers may be canceled if no paycheck has been issued within the first four weeks of the semester or session.

Types of federal work-study programs for students

  • Students working at the WMU Student Center's Mi Pi pizza restaurant.

    Working on campus at WMU is a great way to gain employment experience at home. Support yourself financially and learn some vital soft skills along the way. Most on-campus positions are within walking distance of campus.

  • Student teacher working in her classroom.

    Western works with local schools to provide reading and math tutors to elementary students. Being a tutor for either program requires dedication, reliability and a sincere interest in helping young students.

  • Volunteers are seen working on cleaning and setting up areas in and around the hoophouses at the Gibbs Permaculture Research and Demonstration Site.

    If serving members of the community is your goal, WMU offers a dedicated federal work-study program. Past opportunities have included work for public safety departments, ethnic community support agencies, senior centers and housing agencies.

Frequently asked questions

  • Who qualifies for work-study?

    Students are offered college work-study based on criteria such as demonstrated financial need, previous work-study experience and work-study preference indicated on the FAFSA. Because work-study is a financial aid program, you must meet general eligibility criteria, including Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP). If you fail to maintain SAP, your work-study offer may be canceled.

  • How may I apply for work-study?

    Each year, you should apply for financial aid by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) at Be sure to indicate your preference for work-study on the FAFSA.

  • When should I apply?

    Applications for the upcoming school year are accepted beginning Jan. 1 of each year. As with many financial aid programs, work-study funding is limited, so you should apply as soon after Jan. 1 as you are able.

  • Once I receive a work-study offer, will I automatically receive one the following year?

    No. You must reapply for financial aid each school year. Also, you must apply separately for summer I and summer II financial aid. The summer I application will be available in March each year, and the summer II application will be available in May each year.

  • How many hours may I work?

    The amount of your work-study offer, your hourly rate of pay and the number of weeks you intend to work during the semester will be the primary determinants of the number of hours you may work each week. WMU policy also places limits on the number of hours that a student may work. For more information about the University’s limits, please visit

  • How is a work-study position different from other student positions?

    Work-study positions differ from other student positions in the source of funds that pay the employee. You report to a job and earn a paycheck in the same manner as other student positions. Additionally, wages earned through work-study are permitted a special exclusion in the earned income section of the student's FAFSA the following year. Contact a financial aid representative for more information about this exclusion.

  • What kinds of jobs are available in the work-study program?

    Most on-campus student positions are available to students who wish to earn their work-study offers. WMU also offers off-campus opportunities with community service agencies and local schools. Some students choose jobs in fields related to their major course of study. Others choose positions of personal interest that complement their educational experience.

  • Where should I look for a job?

    You may find a position by browsing Handshake online. You may also find unique opportunities by talking with campus staff, instructors and other students. For personal assistance with your job search, please contact Career and Student Employment Services at (269) 387-2745.

  • What if I don’t want to work?

    If you do not wish to earn your work-study offer, please cancel your offer by completing the student financial aid adjustment form. Other students may be waiting for funds to be released, and they will benefit from your early response.

Student quote

  • I had to learn how to be adaptable at times and think outside the box while also learning how to delegate tasks on a team and be as efficient as possible. These skills are going to help me in my future as a doctor. I learned a lot about who I actually am and saw how much I actually thrive under pressure.

    Grace Filpi, B.S.'22, worked as assistant program manager for Fall Welcome

For employers

If you employ students under the federal work-study program, either on- or off-campus or through the America Reads, America Counts tutoring program, you will need access to a variety of information. We cover it all with complete details on hiring students, processing payroll and following University guidelines.

Financial aid eligibility

Students earning federal work-study must meet and maintain general financial aid eligibility criteria, including Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP).


Offers may be canceled if no paycheck has been issued within the first four weeks of the semester or session.

Monitor payroll

Payrolls should be closely monitored by departments to verify that student earnings are charging federal work-study and not departmental accounts.



Program process for hiring students


Frequently asked questions