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Financial Aid

What is Work Study?

About Work Study
How does it fit in my Financial Aid package?
How Much Can I Get?
Who Gets Priority?
Off-Campus Employment
Community Service
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What is Work Study?

Work Study is a need-based financial aid award. It is not a grant (you must work to earn it), and it is not a loan (you don't have to repay it). Students must qualify for need-based financial aid to receive Work Study. Funds are limited, so not all qualifying students will receive an award. Work Study awards are available during the academic year and we do not offer summer Work Study.

The Work Study program subsidizes a student's hourly wage, which creates jobs that would not otherwise exist and helps leverage available dollars to provide more hours for needy students. It is basically a "pot" of money set aside to pay a portion of your hourly wage. Jobs must be approved by the Financial Aid office.

For the student, it is much like working any other job: you work a number of hours in a pay period, at some wage rate, and receive a paycheck for your earnings that you use however you wish. For the employer, however, the Work Study program reimburses a large percentage of your wage, which makes it very attractive to hire Work Study students! Work Study students are in great demand by employers, so eligible students can often pick the job of their choice.

How Does Work Study Fit in My Financial Aid Package?

Work Study is not for everyone (though everyone who is enrolled at least half time may work on campus as a regular non-Work Study student employee!). Because it is a need-based financial aid award, it has to fit within your financial aid package. Each person has a unique financial aid file. That means some students must be willing to allow reduction of some loan funds to accommodate a Work Study award, if they have an aid package that completely fills their financial aid budget. You do not have to request a special loan reduction, your loans will be automatically adjusted when Work Study is awarded, if necessary.

Reducing loan to accept Work Study is great if you can afford to wait until you have earned the money through your paychecks, rather than getting it in a lump at the beginning of each quarter in your financial aid refund from loan funds (and of course, having to pay it back later!). Accepting Work Study in place of loan funds will reduce your student loan debt. Work Study does NOT "pay off" loans, it is awarded INSTEAD of loan; basically you are trading "loan help" for "work help." Work Study NEVER reduces grants or scholarships, only loans!!

Some students are able to accept a Work Study award without giving up any loans, because they have room within their financial aid need on top of all their other awards to accept Work Study employment. However, if you have a totally full aid package, and you need to work in addition to all loans you are offered, you would usually be better off looking for a Regular Student Employment job, because you can earn wages from a non Work Study job in addition to all other aid you are receiving. Work Study is often (but not necessarily) in place of other financial aid.

The formula for determining eligibility for Work Study is this: Total Cost of Attendance (COA) minus Expected Family Contribution (EFC) minus any "gift" aid (grants, waivers, scholarships) equals Work Study eligibility. If this eligibility is filled by need-based loan (typically Subsidized Direct Student loan or Perkins loan), then you can either borrow less loan, and work for the money instead, or in many cases, if you still want the loan, we can switch some or all of the Subsidized loan to Unsubsidized Direct Student loan (a non-need based loan that can fill EFC) and award Work Study.

How Much Work Study Can I Get?

Work Study awards are tailored to the student's job. The amount of award will depend on how many hours you will work, your hourly wage, and your eligibility for Work Study. Work Study awards usually range from $1,000 - $5,000 for an academic year, depending on your hourly wage and the number of hours per week you intend to work.  There is no minimum number of hours, so even if you only have a small amount of financial need and want to work only a few hours per week, you can still get an award.

Who Gets Priority for Work Study Funds?

Priority is given to students who are offered jobs relating to their major course of study, and/or high skill level jobs, off campus community service jobs, off campus jobs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and to those who request funds before they run out for the year. Work Study is a limited fund, so once the awards are gone for the year, you cannot receive an award even if you are eligible unless we receive more funding mid-year.  After funds have run out, we start a waiting list in case we receive more funding. Only Washington State residents are eligible for State Work Study (SWS) funds. Non-residents will be awarded Federal Work Study, depending on funding availability and other financial aid eligibility factors.

Can I Use Work Study Off-Campus?

Yes! Work Study jobs can be off-campus where the employer has entered into a formal agreement with CWU and some restrictions will apply. If you know of an off-campus employer you want to work for, and the job is in your major area or an area of career interest, but they can't afford to hire you, contact the Financial Aid office to inquire about the off-campus Work Study program. You can develop an off campus position yourself that will advance your career goals.

We especially encourage employment with non-profit organizations which provide a community service.  We also encourage employment with for-profit employers who offer jobs in science, mathematics, engineering, computer science, and other technology related jobs.  In order to work at a for-profit business, the job must be related to your major, minor, or career interests.  We cannot contract with organizations that are religiously or politically affiliated, and we cannot approve jobs that appear to replace or displace regular employees.

Financial Aid Work Study has standard agreements with many local off-campus employers, which are usually set up or renewed over the summer and are ready for fall employment. It is possible to set up off-campus agreements in mid-year, though it usually takes several weeks to complete the process, particularly during peak times, so plan ahead. We may not be able to accommodate your off-campus request at the last minute. and if it is during fall rush time (early September to mid-October), you can plan on it taking at least until mid-October before the agreement can be processed, and possibly longer if extensive follow-up is needed.

Check the Job Board located on the first floor of Bouillon Hall and the Wildcat Career Network for current listings with approved employers. You do not have to wait until fall quarter to begin the process. If you are at a CWU Center, jobs are specially identified on our Job Board and Wildcat Career Network to help you find only those openings that are not in the main Ellensburg area.

Community Service Jobs

CWU encourages all students to perform jobs which provide a community service and Work Study is available to help fund them. These positions are paid just as any other Work Study job would be, but in addition, provide a community service. If you know of a non-profit off-campus employer who would like to hire you for a community service job, please contact the Financial Aid office to obtain an Off Campus Prospective Work Study Employer packet. It will contain information and details, as well as participation contracts. If the employer is already contracted with the Washington Student Achievement Council (WSAC), all you will need is a current Job Description (in CWU Job Description format) and your completed WSPAF form. Most, but not all organizations are eligible.  We have contracts with organizations all over Washington state.

Work-Study awards are made on a funds-available basis and are contingent on the student’s available financial aid "need" and continued eligibility for financial aid per the Financial Aid Satisfactory Progress policy. Students are not guaranteed an award. Awards are made only after the student submits the completed WSPAF form that has been filled out by the student and their off campus employer or the on campus employer has submitted the Upload Spreadsheet. The student and their employer will be notified if we are unable to fulfill the student’s request.

Overall Process:

  • Student must fill out the FAFSA (Federal Application for Financial Aid)
  • Financial Aid will award the student to determine how much "need" a student has based on the student's FAFSA. This initial award is not the work-study award, it determines the amount of "need" the student has and if there is enough room in the student's award to award work-study. This is done before a student gets their job.
  • Student finds a Financial Aid office approved work-study job. Student will find off-campus jobs on the Job Board located on the first floor of Bouillon Hall and on the Wildcat Career Network. Students may find and apply to on-campus jobs through

Off-Campus Jobs: Students looking for off-campus jobs will apply to those position and go through the employer’s hiring process. When the employer decides to hire the student, the employer and student will download and complete the WSPAF together, and the employer will return to


  • The off-campus employer and student employee are also required to complete a Release of Information form. This form can be found in the linked forms.
  • The student's WSPAF is then processed, the work-study award is determined and awarded to eligible students.
  • Students and employers will then be notified if the WSPAF has been approved and a work-study award has been made.

On-Campus Jobs:  We have gone paperless for on-campus work-study. Students looking for on-campus jobs will apply to those position on This process is all done online, so the Work-Study office will be sent the job offer from HR and will either approve and award or deny work-study for the student. If you are eligible, the hiring supervisor is notified of your Work-Study award and they will notify you that you were hired for the work study position

• Note: Funds are limited, so not all qualifying students will receive an award.

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