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Work-study vs. work college: What’s the difference?

Posted By Jamie Grant On March 23, 2017

WORKSTUDY VS WORK COLLEGE WHATS THE DIFFERENCE.jpgIt’s hard not to think about the high cost of tuition and wonder how you’re going to pay for college. The financial aid process can be dizzying with its grants, scholarships, private loans, part-time employment and awards — the list seems endless.

A lot of students consider taking a job to help cover some of the costs of tuition, fees and textbooks. Traditional work-study programs are a very popular option, but some colleges offer something called a Work College program.  

Note: Are you interested in learning more about the work college opportunity at  Silver Lake College — SLC Works? Visit our website and learn what SLC Works is  all about!

Not sure what the difference is between work study and a Work College? Read on to find out:

The Traditional Option: Federal Work-Study Program

The Federal Work-Study Program provides students with part-time employment while enrolled in school. Undergraduate, graduate and professional students are eligible to participate – whether they’re going to school full time or part time. Students can participate only if the Federal Work-Study program approves their school, and they must meet certain financial need requirements based off information provided through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Work-study programs provide employment on and off campus. Typical on-campus jobs include shelving books at the library, assisting in an office, serving food in the dining hall, tutoring, supervising recreation facilities and more. Less common off-campus jobs are usually at private nonprofit organizations or a public agency, though some schools do partner with private for-profit employers to provide work-study opportunities. In that case, those jobs must relate to the student’s academic studies.

One thing to keep in mind is the amount of financial aid students need and their academic schedule determines the hours of work students receive. If grades start slipping, a student’s work hours might be cut back, resulting in fewer dollars they can put toward their college tuition.

A Revolutionary Option: Work College Programs

While federal work-study Programs are awarded through federal financial aid, Work College Programs are institution-run. Work Colleges are four-year colleges that require all students to work on a part-time basis to gain real-world experience that applies to their studies and career goals.

The college sets up students with employment opportunities, and they do not base eligibility off students’ financial needs. Because let’s face it, college is expensive for almost everybody!  

Students’ work hours are built around their class schedules with employment geared to complement their academics. At a Work College, students gain practical skills that will provide them the experience necessary to smoothly transition to professional employment post-graduation.

In addition to the resume-enhancing benefits, the income students earn goes directly to reducing their tuition costs. Work College graduates have $21,330 less than the average national debt, and students are still eligible for grants, scholarships and other financial aid!

It’s important to remember that while work-study programs are optional for students who qualify, Work Colleges, like Silver Lake College, require all their students to participate. Silver Lake College’s program is called SLC Works and gives students tuition credits and bi-weekly stipends in exchange for 8-15 hours of work per week. Freshmen and sophomores work in positions that help them develop liberal arts skills like communication and critical thinking. Juniors and seniors move up into supervisory roles on and off-campus so that they can develop leadership and management skills – just the kind of experience employers are looking for in new hires.

Work Colleges like Silver Lake provide students with unique experiences that enhance their résumés and prepare them for successful careers in a competitive job market. And the financial freedom that comes from graduating with significantly less debt is hard to beat!

We hope that understanding the difference between these two programs will guide you in your college and financial aid decisions. Check out this free helpful guide to learn more about the Work College model and SLC works.

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Topics: Work College

About This Blog

Deciding where, when and by what means to go to college can be a difficult decision process. We want to help! The Silver Lake Blog is intended to be a resource as you navigate these choices, from what type of school to choose to how to finance your education. Watch this space for helpful tips. 


For free, downloadable resources for those considering graduate or undergraduate studies, visit our resource library!

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