|A student's dilemma: Work more,
get less free money
Work less and bank more?
If it sounds too good to be true, that's because it is. Barry Simmons,
financial aid director for Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State
University, says that the size of a student's financial aid package
depends on a variety of factors, many of which are completely outside
of the student's control. The security of having a safe supply of
cash is worth more than the possibility of receiving free money.
Besides, he says, students shouldn't overlook the intangible benefits
"I wouldn't not work because it might result
in less aid," says Simmons. "Work ethic is something that
everyone needs. Having a job is a great way to network, which is
essential for future employment." Instead of focusing on college,
Simmons suggests looking at the bigger financial picture. Skipping
out on the hard labor now could win you a slightly higher government
check; however, you'll be missing out on invaluable work experience
and business contacts that could land you your first post-grad career.
Jobs with no strings
To get the best of both worlds -- a real job, as well as a salary
that won't subtract from your financial aid package -- Simmons suggests
taking advantage of the two types of employment that are exempt
from the FAFSA formula. The first and most common type is work-study.
Designed to give students an extra monetary boost, those who land
work-study jobs put in up to 20 hours per week on or off campus
and receive an hourly wage that has absolutely no impact on financial
aid eligibility. The catch is that work-study positions are limited
and students must financially qualify to receive placement.
Americorps, the other FAFSA-exempt program, doesn't
take student financial status into consideration at all when granting
positions. Partnered with more than 3,000 nonprofit, community and
faith-based organizations, Americorps places willing volunteers
in yearlong service positions across the country. Whether feeding
the homeless or fighting illiteracy, all Americorps members receive
a $4,725 reward which can only be used for educational purposes
upon completion of the program.