By Kelly Mayes

Having a part-time job in college can be a balancing act for many students, but some may find the flexibility they need if they qualify for the Federal Work-Study Program.

This program, offered by about 3,400 colleges in the U.S., awards grants for undergraduate and graduate students who qualify to gain valuable work experience pertaining to their career.

Peyton Etheridge, a first-year intended public relations student at the University of Georgia, has worked in the front office of the Odum School of Ecology this year. The Federal Work-Study program has been a good option for her.

“I would definitely recommend Federal Work-Study to anyone who qualifies for it,” said Etheridge. “Since I’m living on campus it’s so much easier to work on campus as opposed to a fast-food joint because I don’t have a car here.”

Etheridge said the program puts students first, recognizing they are in school to learn. Providing they communicate with their supervisors and meet hourly requirements, the schedule can be flexible, she said.

Students participating in Federal Work-Study must prove through their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) that their family’s income is low enough for them to qualify. They are then awarded a grant for Federal Work-Study based on their family’s income and have the option of applying to work at various positions at their university.

Participating universities provide a list of on-campus positions available for students and award grants that are paid bi-weekly throughout the semester.

According to the University of Georgia Fact Book, in 2018 the university provided 373 undergraduate Federal Work-Study awards totaling $750,405.

Students can only work a certain amount of hours per week depending on what their award allows them to be paid. Etheridge said that while this lightens her financial burden, sometimes it is not enough to cover all of her expenses.

John Grable, professor of financial planning, housing and consumer economics at UGA, said pre-planning is essential if they want to participate in programs such as Work-Study. Students who know they are in need of assistance should begin looking for opportunities before they enter college, he said.

“Having a job can be good for the pocketbook and also just good for college performance,” said Grable.

While some students may believe a part-time job takes away from the college experience or hurts their academic performance, Grable said that may be offset by establishing relationships that could help students get a job in the future.

Grable also pointed to a 2014 study by researchers at Winona State Universityindicating that students who have a job in college often perform better academically when they work less than 11 hours a week.

According to Grable, working a reasonable amount can provide structure to college life because students allocate their time intentionally to balance work and classes.

“Literally, just this week I had a paper that I had worked very last minute on and I was able to call out of work to work on my paper,” said Etheridge. “They always tell me to put school first if I have a hard assignment or anything going on in student life.”

Kelly Mayes is a journalism student at the University of Georgia.