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Make it Simple for Students to Max Out Their Work-Study Budgets

Did you know that roughly 700,000 students receive federal work-study subsidies each year? That's 1 in every 10 full-time, first-year undergraduates. And with an annual cost of about $1 billion, work-study grants cover up to 75 percent of the wages of student employees who typically work on campus 10 to 15 hours per week.

Whether you're a student or a manager, Federal Work-Study is not the easiest concept to get your head around. Worse still, as a manager, it may be even more difficult to manage a work-study budget throughout the semester. What's the easiest way to do this? That's the question we're going to help you answer.

Today, we're going to give you seven simple ways that you can help your students max out their work-study budgets. In order, they are:

  1. Shoot for consistency
  2. Take pay rates into account
  3. Keep track of wage changes
  4. Communicate with your students
  5. Practice organized budgeting
  6. Use forecasting to make budget predictions
  7. Constantly collect availability

But before we address this list, let's take a quick look at how work-study budgets impact students and managers, respectively.

The Impact of Federal Work Study Budgets on Students and Managers

If you're a student, you want to max out your work study budget. You want to work because you want to reach the total award you were granted by the federal government. Unfortunately, it isn't as simple as it sounds. Your employer and your institution will take your class schedule and your other commitments into account when they create your work-study schedule; likewise, they likely have dozens, if not hundreds of other students they have to work into their work-study budgets. As a result, under-scheduling among students with work-study is really common.

If you're a manager, you have to keep track of the work-study budget you've been given by your department and make sure no students exceed their award. At the same time, you understand that your students want to work so they can afford to buy things like textbooks and dinner. You want to help them get as many hours as possible.

That's where this post comes into play...

Shoot for Consistency

It's unlikely that you'll be able to set your students' schedules at the beginning of the semester and then leave them alone until next semester. Students' lives are ever-changing, and you need to be sensitive to that. That said, your students should have a pretty good idea what their commitments are at the start of each semester, and they should know how much their federal work-study award is for. These two pieces of information can help you determine approximately how many hours each student should be working per week.

You can make things easier on yourself by finding an employee scheduling app that takes max hours over a certain period of time into account. This allows you to assign a semester-long value to each student based on the number of hours they're able to work. From there, when you plug your students' names into your automated scheduler, you eliminate the possibility of overscheduling and make it difficult to underschedule your students.

Take Pay Rates Into Account

This seems like an obvious one, but it's important to account for exactly how much your employees are making per hour when you create your schedule. If you know your department's budget and how much money each student makes, you can create a perfect schedule not just once, but every week. While there will always be shift swaps and no call, no shows that throw a wrench into your well-oiled schedule, starting out with availability and pay rates in mind can help you weather these storms.

If your employee scheduling software allows you to account for wages when you're creating your schedule, this is a cinch.

Keep Track of Wage Changes

This is a very common problem work-study managers face.

In the past, we've had clients whose states raised the minimum wage. Unfortunately, they didn't plan for the change when creating their budget, and had significantly less money to distribute among their many work-study students throughout the semester. Think of how much difference even a quarter per hour wage increase can make throughout the course of a semester: that's a lot of dough.

Keep track of wage changes made at state and federal levels. Consider them when you plan your budget. This is the best way to make sure you don't run into budgeting issues when the semester rolls around.

Communicate with Your Students

Your employee scheduling app should take your work-study budget, your students' work-study awards, and state or federal wages into account, sure. But you'll want to make sure you find one that makes communication easier, too.

Telling your students where they are in terms of maxing out their work-study budgets is necessary for every manager. Your students should be able to check on this themselves, sure, but helpful reminders are invaluable. Your scheduling app should allow you to send out messages or notifications that alert students that they are in danger of exceeding their work-study hours. This'll allow you (and your employees) to follow up with the appropriate scheduling changes.

Practice Organized Budgeting

If you're a work-study manager, it's quite possible you've been given access to departmental budget outside of work-study funds. Carefully and effectively separating your work-study budget from any other funds you've been given access to is a key part of good budgeting.

Let's say you've been given additional money to sell refreshments at your school's lacrosse game. This money is separate and distinct from the money you've been given to pay your employee's wages. An effective employee scheduling app will help you separate these budgets accordingly, ensuring students are paid from the correct funds while attendees enjoy candy bars and pop.

Use Forecasting to Make Budgeting Predictions

Just as you should keep track of your employees' hours and wages, you should use forecasting to make predictions about whether or not you're going to exceed your budget.

Making predictions is an effective way to know whether or not you should start changing your schedule. Likewise, you should be using forecasting to help your students make predictions about whether or not they are going to exceed their federal awards. Keeping a diligent eye on the future is the best way to schedule effectively week to week.

Constantly Collect Availability

To help you maximize your students' work-study budgets and manage your own, you should collect employee availability early and often. Send your students notifications and messages that let them know you're creating the next segment of their work-study schedule. This will alert you to any changes in their availability. Trust me: there will be a student or two whose schedules change. Having this information in advance will allow you to effectively manage hours and your departmental budget when you sit down to create your schedule.


Work-study budgeting is a double-edged sword.

On one hand, you want to spread your budget as evenly as possible throughout the semester. On the other, you also want to help your students maximize their federal awards. Finding the right employee scheduling software can go a long way in helping you negotiate the two. If you'd like to see how SubItUp can help alleviate your work-study budgeting burden, check us out today!


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