What is Federal Work-Study?
The Federal Work-Study (FWS) Program is a need-based program which provides part-time employment opportunities to eligible students to help meet the costs of post-secondary education. Based on the results of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), eligible students are awarded an allotment which may be earned through part-time employment in FWS approved positions either on or off campus. The program is designed to provide students with an opportunity for employment arranged around class schedules. Students must be enrolled at least half-time to be eligible for this program. If you wish to be considered for this program, you should indicate this preference on the FAFSA or, if not awarded FWS in your initial award package, you should contact your financial aid counselor or the FWS Coordinator.
There are certain requirements in order to determine FWS eligibility. In order to be considered, students must:
- Have a current FAFSA on file with the Office of Student Financial Aid.
- Be enrolled at Mason in a degree or eligible certificate program.
- Demonstrate financial need based on the FAFSA.
- Be enrolled for at least half-time (six credit hours per semester for undergraduate and 4.5 for graduate).
- Meet Satisfactory Academic Progress.
- Be a U.S. Citizen, permanent resident or eligible non-citizen.
The program is designed to provide students with an opportunity for employment arranged around class schedules. FWS provides students an opportunity to earn money for their college expenses, gives inexperienced students a chance to learn the basics of the workplace, and provides students an opportunity to work in a field that may be of interest and helps prepare students to enter the workforce. George Mason University (GMU) also benefits from the unique talents and experiences students bring to the campus. A job contributes to more than just financial assistance for a student’s college education; it also offers the opportunity to gain valuable work experience and skills to assist with educational and career goals. The money a student earns through this program is not used to determine their financial need for the following school year.
There are various Federal Work-Study positions on and off campus. Obtaining a FWS position is a competitive process so an early start is essential to success. Students are encouraged to apply to as many positions as possible to increase their odds of finding a position.
Need help with your resume or cover letter? University Career Services is a great place to start, we encourage students to visit the UCS office or website.
Positions on-campus are a great way for students to earn their FWS award. Available opportunities include office and clerical support, student services, tutoring, athletics, laboratory and research assistantships, and various other positions through all of Mason’s campuses. Working in any one of Mason’s departments is a great way to build on-campus relationships, enrich a student’s community engagement and further a student’s opportunities post-graduation.
Students interested in working off-campus may apply to various positions with partner organizations. Students employed in this area gain valuable work experience by working in challenging work environments. Positions include administrative work, tutoring, community outreach, social services and various others. Although, these positions do require the use of personal or public transportation then pay a competitive hourly wage and offer flexible work hours to accommodate students’ school schedules.
Organizations that serve the wider community, not just George Mason University, its students or staff, are considered community service employers. Off-campus community service jobs can be with local non-profit, governmental and community based organizations that are designed to improve the quality of life for residents of the surrounding area. The federal share for community service positions is 75%. The remaining 25% must be covered by the organization. Off-campus organizations that participate as community service employers must have a current written agreement on file. Agreements must be renewed on a yearly basis, typically in June. As with campus jobs, a job description must be on file for all community service work-study positions.
Community Service positions aim to:
- Provide students with real life experience outside of the classroom
- Encourage students to consider careers in public service
- Provide community service organizations the opportunity to extend the population they service
- Allow students the opportunity to gain professional work experience
Students interested in open community service positions must apply to these positions via Handshake. Students hired for community service positions must follow all FWS guidelines as indicated in the Student Employment Guide. All employers must follow all guidelines in the supervisor guide.
To initiate the FWS (Federal Work-study) Process, follow these steps:
Get acquainted with the Student Employment Guide.
Apply for available positions through Handshake, GMU’s job and internship portal for students.
How to use Handshake
- Log-in to Handshake using your Mason Patriot Pass credentials
- Complete your profile by adding your work/volunteer experiences, skills and interest
- Upload your documents, including your resume, cover letter and job availability form
- Apply for jobs once your resume is approved
- Find open FWS positions by selecting “All Filters” and then selecting “Work Study”
Participate in interviews. Employers will contact selected students for interviews.
If offered a position, complete the GMU onboarding process as guided by your supervisor.
Before commencing work, submit the Student Employment Authorization and Responsibilities (SEAR) Form.
- The Pay Sheet is a document that students need to maintain in order to prevent exceeding their allotted work hours. Its purpose is to help students track their Federal Work-Study (FWS) award. To obtain a copy of the Pay Sheet, students can reach out to FWS@gmu.edu. It is the responsibility of the student to keep accurate records of their work hours.
Completing the SEAR form
- The SEAR form is initiated in Dynamic Forms using the link above.
- Students will need to provide their supervisor’s name and email, their award total, and their name and signature to complete their portion of the form.
Checking the status of your SEAR form
- Once a student submits their portion of the SEAR form, it will be sent to their supervisor automatically.
- Students can check the status of their form by logging into Dynamic Forms and selecting the “Forms History” option from the “My Forms” dropdown.
- The form’s location will be listed in the table, along with whose signature is still needed. Completed forms will have their status listed as “Processed.”
- It is essential for all employed FWS students to thoroughly read and familiarize themselves with all the guidelines provided.
Student Frequently Asked Questions
NO! FWS is an award to participate in an employment program where the funds are earned through work. The amount is not subtracted from your tuition bill and therefore will not need to be repaid if you choose not to participate.
YES! If you did not initially accept your FWS award on your award notification, but wish not to participate, please notify the OSFA in writing so that the funding can be given to someone who wishes to participate.
Your FWS salary will be at least the current federal minimum wage, but it may be higher, depending on the type of work you do and the skills required. You total FWS award depends on when you apply, your level of financial need, and the amount of FWS funds available. The amount you earn cannot exceed your total FWS award.
NO. When assigning work hours, your employer will consider your class schedule, your academic progress, your total award, and the needs of the employer. You will be allowed to work up to 20 hours per week while classes are in session, and up to 29 hours during breaks.
Students receive an hourly wage set by the employer (at least minimum wage). Schedules are determined by the student and the employer and timesheets are maintained through the department and are submitted to the payroll department twice a month. Per University policy all employees will be paid by direct deposit. Off-Campus students will be paid by their employer not the university.
NO. Because the work-study award represents money to be earned, it is not considered a credit against pending charges and will not show as a credit on your bill.
You are responsible for ensuring that you do not earn more than your FWS award total. Your department may notify you that you are approaching your limit, but you should monitor your total hours worked and total gross earnings. The department has the option of either continuing your assignment and paying 100% from their departmental budget or ending your assignment altogether.
YES. Federal Work-Study wages are taxable income. It is in your best interest to file a federal tax return with the IRS by April 15th. You will receive W-2 forms from GMU for your work-study earnings in January. Off-campus students will receive their W-2 from their employer.
Federal Work-Study wages are excluded from consideration in the determination of your expected family contribution. Your FWS are reported as part of your AGI and income from work on the FAFSA.
Federal Work-Study (FWS) is a federally subsidized program which provides part-time employment opportunities to eligible students to help meet the costs of postsecondary education. Based on results of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), eligible students are awarded an allotment which may be earned through part-time employment in FWS approved positions either on or off-campus.
FWS funds provides qualifying on and off-campus organizations the ability to hire GMU students at minimal cost.
While initially all employers are charged 100% of wages, reimbursement is federally subsidized at 75% for a FWS student’s wage, while departments and off-campus organizations must cover the remaining 25%.
Current Mason students are able to work with most departments on-campus. The Federal Work-Study program will subsidize 75% of a student’s wage while the department covers the remaining 25%. In order to participate in the FWS program, please verify that your unit has been offered FWS funding for the current fiscal year. If you are unsure as to whether your department has a FWS fund please contact your unit’s fiscal liaison or your department, school or college’s fiscal director. If funds are not available please contact the FWS Coordinator for additional assistance. Supervisor Handbook Before proceeding the supervisor must read the Supervisor Handbook for current policies and procedures.
The hiring process is fairly simple. Please follow the check list below when hiring a student:
Submit On-Campus Job Description(s) to FWS Office
- Post open position(s) to Handshake
- Select desired candidates for interviews
- Offer position to selected candidate(s)
- Have student complete a Student Employment Verification form and submit to OSFA
- Complete required onboarding process for Human Resources and Payroll
- Set up the student employee’s EPAF
- Wait for OSFA to approve EPAF
- Student can officially begin working
Mason’s eligible FWS students have the opportunity to work with off-campus non-profits, local schools and government agencies. The Federal Work-Study program will subside 75% of a student’s wage while the organization covers the remaining 25%. In order to participate in the FWS program organizations must add hired FWS students to their payroll and reimbursement will follow the subsequent month.
Organizations interested in pursuing a FWS partnership with Mason must complete the Off-Campus Employer Interest form. Once the form is complete it must be submitted to the FWS Coordinator for review via email. The FWS Coordinator will reply with our decision and if approved, the Off-Campus Agreement and various other forms will be sent to the organization for review and submission.
Before proceeding the supervisor must read the Supervisor Handbook for current policies and procedures.
The hiring process is fairly simple. Please follow the check list below when hiring a student:
- Submit Off-Campus Job Description(s) to FWS Office.
- Post open position(s) to Handshake.
- Select desired candidates for interviews.
- Offer position to selected candidate(s).
- Have student complete a Student Employment Verification form and submit to OSFA.
- Set up student on own payroll system following the organizations own policies and procedures.
- Student may begin working.
Employer Forms and Resources
Pay Sheet Tracker: It is the responsibility of the student to keep track of their own hours worked to ensure overage does not occur. The Pay Sheet Tracker is designed to assist students with keeping track of their FWS award.
Student Employment Verification Form - This form must be picked up at the Office of Student Financial Aid's front desk by the student.
Employer Frequently Asked Questions
As an on-campus department, how do I get FWS funding?
Funding is granted to department’s on-campus during the beginning of the fiscal year. If you are unsure as to whether your department has a FWS fund please contact your unit’s fiscal liaison or your department, school or college’s fiscal director. If funds are not available please contact the FWS Coordinator for additional assistance.
What happens when a student’s FWS award runs out?
It is the responsibility of the student and supervisor to ensure that a student does not earn more than their allotted amount. If a student does surpass their award please contact the FWS Coordinator. If a student is eligible for additional need and funds are available an increase maybe granted, but is not guaranteed. If it is not possible the student’s overage must be reallocated.
Can multiple people be administrators to do a job posting on Handshake?
Yes, the initiator of the posting must grant permissions.
Why has a student’s EPAF not been approved?
EPAF’s are approved by the FWS Coordinator once a week on Fridays. During the peak hiring season (mid-August to late September) EPAF’s are approved once a day. If an EPAF has not been approved, please verify with your student employee that their Student Employment Verification form has been submitted to the OSFA. EPAF’s will not be approved until the form is received.
Why can’t my student view their timesheet?
There are a few reasons why a student may not be able to view their timesheet.
- Their EPAF has not been created or approved.
- Their approved employment date has expired (based on EPAF end date).
- If neither of these is the answer please contact payroll.
Is my student employee eligible for FWS?
Please have the student contact the FWS Coordinator for eligibility.