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Federal Work-Study (FWS) Funded Graduate Assistantship Student Information Sheet, Academic Year 2022-2023

Federal Work-Study (FWS) is a financial aid program through which the federal government subsidizes the compensation of appointed students who qualify for FWS on the basis of financial need. Federal Work-Study Funded graduate assistantship appointments are a special subset of the traditional FWS program, using FWS funds for a portion of the assistantship stipend. The nature of work and financial compensation is the same as that for other graduate assistantships.  The value of the assistantship is included as part of the student’s total financial aid package and can therefore affect the student’s eligibility for other aid, particularly student loans.

Federal Work-Study Funded Graduate Assistantships are need-based assistantships. Therefore, students must com­plete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine if they are eligible to be appointed to a FWS funded position.

Eligibility for Federal Work-Study does not guarantee that a student will receive an assistantship appointment. Students should check with their departments about the availability of assistantships. If a FWS funded graduate assistantship is not available, a student may still be eligible for other aid, and should check with the Office of Student Financial Aid (OSFA).

Questions about Federal Work-Study may be addressed to Kimberly Hamilton at the Office of Student Financial Aid at (217) 333-7603 or

The campus tuition waiver policy applies to FWS funded assistantship appointments. The full policy can be found in the Graduate College Handbook. Questions about the policy can be directed to the Graduate College at 333-0036 or Please see Illinois Human Resources for tuition waiver taxation information.

This program is jointly administered by the Graduate College and the Office of Student Financial Aid (OSFA).

Steps to Follow

1. Complete and submit the 2022-2023 Free Applica­tion for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine eligibility for a FWS funded position.

For the fastest results, file the FAFSA electronically. FAFSA on the Web may be accessed from the OSFA website or directly at

In response to the completion of the FAFSA, the Office of Student Financial Aid issues an electronic financial aid award letter. The initial letter will not include notification of a Federal Work-Study funded appointment. If the FWS funded appointment is approved by the Office of Student Financial Aid, a revised electronic financial aid letter would be sent.

2. Identify a FWS funded position within your department or with another unit on campus.

The appointing unit will complete and submit a FWS Funded Graduate Assistantship Appointment Request Form to the OSFA by April 22, 2022. FWS funded graduate assistantship descriptions carry a "pending availability of funds" notice, and therefore cannot be interpreted as a firm commitment on the part of the department.

The Office of Student Financial Aid will review the FWS Funded Graduate Assistantship Appointment Request Form to determine eligibility for FWS funding. If the FWS funded appointment is approved, the Office of Student Financial Aid will issue a revised financial aid award letter.

3. You may need to file a Special Circumstances Form with OSFA.

Students whose income will decrease significantly upon enrolling in graduate school should go ahead and file the FAFSA. After receiving the Student Aid Report (SAR) from the federal processor, students may complete a Special Circumstances Form to reflect the decline in in­come. The Special Circumstances Form is available online at the OSFA website. The completed form and supporting documents can be submitted to OSFA via fax (217-265-5516) or mail. The OSFA will then reevaluate the student’s aid eligibility using the estimated 2022 income instead of the actual 2020 income. It will take approximately four weeks to process the Special Circumstances Form. If the aid eligibility is affected by the Special Circumstances Form, the OSFA will issue a letter re­flecting the revised aid eligibility.