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Employer FAQs

Are FWS student employees different from regular student temps?

From the employer’s perspective, the main difference boils down to funding. The Federal Work-Study Program (FWS) is a federally funded financial aid program that subsidizes the wages of students who are employed in part-time student temp positions at the university. The federal government pays 75% of students’ wages and the employer’s share is 25%. This wage sharing applies to any eligible student during the normal academic year (September – June) or so long as the student has not reached their earnings limit.

Students must meet federal and institutional FWS eligibility requirements. Not every student is eligible for FWS. From a student's perspective, compensation indicates they are earning a portion of their need-based financial aid with each paycheck. FWS compensation is only earned when students perform work and is not paid out at the end of the year. FWS is not a loan and does not have to be repaid. Income can be spent however the student desires. Note, that while a student’s financial need defines FWS earnings limits, a student’s hourly wage rate can only be based on the student’s skills as required for the job description.

Students paid FWS wages are subject to all federal, state, and local employment conditions regulated by the Human Resources office and should be treated no differently in employment practices and federal, state, or local employment regulations with few exceptions.

I want to re-hire my student employee from last year. What is needed to do to make sure my student is paid with the FWS subsidy?

Please check with Human Resources to inquire if the student's employment record is still active (i.e. not terminated). If the record is no longer active, please check with Human Resources to inquire what is necessary to re-hire the student. 

If the student's employment record is still active, we will update the account code to a designated FWS account on the chartstring used to pay the student. Please note, one or two pay cycles may pass before the account code is updated on the chartstring. Additionally, there is no FWS federal match during the summer months.  

What happened to the FWS Authorization Form?

Regulations do not require the use of such a form so it was discontinued with the 2023-24 academic year. You must, submit employment hire and re-hire (in instances when the employment record has been previously terminated) requests to Human Resources via their Human Resources Temporary Employee Request Form (OnBase) form.

Can supervisors see a student’s FWS eligibility, amount paid, and FWS amount remaining?

Supervisors and employers should request the information from the student, the student’s financial aid office, or the Federal Work-Study program.

Students may reference their FWS eligibility status in CAESAR > Financial Aid > Work-Study by Academic Year. 

Students may view their FWS earnings totals in CAESAR > Financial Aid > Work-Study Earnings by Date. Amounts are updated after each pay date. 

 If you or your student would like to confirm the amounts listed in CAESAR, please contact our office. 

Warning notices are sent to student employees and their supervisors when they are within $600 of earning their FWS earnings limit. Once a student has met their full FWS earnings limit, their wage must be paid 100% from our department budget. If your department does not have the financial means to pay a student without the wage subsidy, you must terminate the employment record. 

We and the student’s financial aid office will make every effort to increase a student’s FWS eligibility as displayed in CAESAR by converting rejected/not accepted subsidized loans or adjusting for unmet federal need if possible. This is not possible for all students, however.

Why did my student's FWS information change?

The Work-Study Program and the student’s financial aid office will make every effort to maintain or increase a student’s FWS eligibility as displayed in CAESAR by converting rejected/not accepted subsidized loans or adjusting for unmet federal need if possible. This is not possible for all students, however. Although rare, changes to a student's work-study allotment or eligibility do happen. Instances that trigger changes to a student's FWS earnings eligibility include:
  • Financial aid review for loss of income approvals (i.e. generally results in additional need-based aid grant add-ons to the existing financial aid),
  • Receipt of outside scholarship(s),
  • Enrollment less than full time as of the add/drop date,
  • Study abroad or other off-campus study program participation including co-ops,
  • Other financial aid adjustments.

Additionally, students may not work and earn FWS wages when they are on Leaves of Absences from Northwestern University or have satisfied degree requirements and have otherwise graduated. 

Students will be notified by their financial aid office any time an adjustment is made to their FWS information in CAESAR. Students should report this information to their supervisor. 

Why do I have to approve student employee timecards?

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employers to maintain accurate daily time and attendance records for non-exempt employees.

The Northwestern myHR Administration Managing Temporary Employees manual states, “Time must be reviewed and approved by a designated Time Card Approver every two weeks.” The askHR Service Center also sends a bi-weekly email to all timecard approvers reminding them to review and approve biweekly employees' timesheets. More information about the University’s time entry policy can be found at

Students paid with FWS wages must have their timecard certified by their supervisor (i.e., an official of the institution or off-campus agency) to verify or certify the correct hours worked before the student is to be paid (34 CFR 675.19(b)(2)(i)).

I was notified that my student employee is nearing their FWS earnings limit. What do I do?

Currently, you do not need to do anything.

Once the student has exhausted their earnings limit, we will notify you and we will update their account funding to regular student earnings, account code 60120, on your department chartstring whereby you will pay 100% of the student’s hourly wage. The student may continue working with no issues. If, however, your department is unable to support this budget expense, you are welcome to terminate the employment relationship and the employment record in the myHR system. If employment is contingent upon FWS eligibility and the student is eligible the following academic year, you may rehire the student at the appropriate time.  

If the student has exceeded their earnings limit, federal regulations permit up to a $300 overpayment from the FWS account. Anything over the $300 threshold is the employer’s liability and our office will submit a journal to reimburse the FWS account for the overpayment difference. Students are not required to repay FWS overpayments except when the student is proven guilty of timecard fraud.

Can students work during periods of non-enrollment (i.e. winter and spring break, summer)?

Students may work up to full time (37.5 hours) during winter and spring breaks on the condition that the student must be planning to enroll for the next immediate quarter following the academic break.  Earnings count toward a student's total work-study earnings limit and therefore may result in the student reaching their work-study earning limit sooner than expected. Note, no special or supplemental hourly wages are assessed for holidays that may fall during these academic breaks. If a student will be working remotely during winter or spring breaks, they must receive proper supervision of their work and certification that they have worked and earned their hours, follow all applicable institutional protocols for teleworking, and follow federal, state, and local employment conditions. 

The FWS wage subsidy is generally not available during the summer months regardless of enrollment status. Student funding will be updated to non-FWS wages in June after the last academic year pay period. If your student employee will be working during the summer, the department will pay the student's full wages.


Is remote work permitted for students earning FWS wages?

Federal Work-Study (FWS) regulations do not prohibit telework or telecommuting. However, regulations (34 CFR 675.19(b)(2) and 675.20(b)(1)) do require that there is proper supervision of the student’s work and certification that the student has worked and earned the FWS amounts he or she will be paid. Additionally, please check with Human Resources or your department or school leadership to ensure students follow all applicable institutional and department protocols for teleworking, as well as to make sure all federal, state, and local employment conditions are followed.

Can a student be paid FWS wages to study while working?

If the nature of the position includes some "downtime,” the student employee, at the supervisor's discretion, may be allowed to use work time to study or do schoolwork. 

Can a student who is working in an unpaid or volunteer position be paid with FWS wages?

A student may not be paid FWS wages unless the employer/department would normally pay a person (FWS eligible or not) for the same position to perform the same duties and responsibilities. 

For students enrolled in an independent study and looking to turn their research into a paid position via their FWS eligibility, federal regulations state that “…a student employed in an FWS job and receiving academic credit for that job may not be… paid unless the employer would normally pay a person for the same job.” Note, students are prohibited from working during scheduled class or lab times. Because of the blurred nature of independent study "class time" many departments prohibit this option altogether. 

All paid student employment opportunities should be posted to the Northwestern Student Job Board to allow equal opportunity for all interested and qualified candidates to apply. 

How many weekly hours can my student employee work?

Northwestern Human Resources prohibits any temporary employee, including student employees, from working more than 1,000 hours in a rolling 12-month period. Exceeding this limit may qualify the student for the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) assurances. FWS wages do not pay fringe benefits covered under ERISA.   

For this reason, students paid FWS wages may work up to 20 hours per week during the academic year excluding academic breaks. Most students work between 6-8 hours per week on average. 

What should I pay my student employee?

See information about wages on the Student Employment website. 

Can students have multiple jobs that pay them FWS wages?

Yes. However, working multiple jobs may lead to a student reaching their FWS earnings limit sooner. Additionally, if an employee works 1,000 hours in a rolling 12-month period, they may qualify for the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). Northwestern Human Resources prohibits any temporary employee, including student temp employees from working more than 1,000 hours in a rolling 12-month period. If an employee reaches that limit, they must either stop working or be transferred into a benefits-eligible staff position.

What positions can't pay a student with FWS wages?

Federal regulations prohibit FWS wages if a student's jobs entails constructing, operating, or maintaining any part of a building used for religious worship or sectarian instruction. Additionally, for students employed off campus and/or in community service-defined positions, their work must be in the public interest (34 CFR 675.22(a) and 34 CFR 675.22(b)). Work is not in the public interest if-
(1) It primarily benefits the members of a limited membership organization such as a credit union, a fraternal or religious order, or a cooperative;
(2) It is for an elected official who is not responsible for the regular administration of Federal, State, or local government;
(3) It is work as a political aide for any elected official;
(4) A student's political support or party affiliation is taken into account in hiring him or her;
(5) It involves any partisan or nonpartisan political activity or is associated with a faction in an election for public or party office; or
(6) It involves lobbying on the Federal, State, or local level.