College is expensive. Really expensive. There's the tuition, of course, but there's also books, food, and housing—not to mention clothes, drinks, and other essentials. If you're a college student strapped for cash, you might think a part-time job is the answer to your prayers. But it could actually hurt you.
That's because if you work a part-time job, you get a paycheck. And every paycheck you earn is money in the bank. And when you fill out that Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you have to report the money you have in the bank.
When the Department of Education calculates your ability to pay for college, it pays lots of attention to your paycheck. Once you've earned more than $3,750, the Department of Education basically says "for every two dollars you earn from now on, we're going to cut your financial aid by one dollar."
Although it doesn't seem to make a lot of sense to punish hardworking kids, that's just the way it is. But there is a way to earn some money AND keep your financial aid. All you have to do is find a job whose income is excluded from your expected family contribution (EFC), meaning the amount your family is expected to pay for college.
Fortunately, although EFC neutral jobs are few and far between, there are a couple that are perfect for students. They are college work study and AmeriCorps. The money you earn from these two programs will not negatively impact your financial aid eligibility.
So, Step 1: Get a work study or AmeriCorps job.
Step 2: Earn that money.
Step 3: Stay tuned for more information about how to accurately report those work study or AmeriCorps earnings once you're ready to fill out next year's FAFSA.
It will be here sooner than you think.
Do you have a question for Brandon? You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.