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Payroll and Timekeeping Policies


Timekeeping functions and policy enforcement are administered by Human Resources and Payroll. Below we have provided some additional guidance and clarification as it pertains to students earning Federal Work-Study wages. Additional schedule Timekeeping policies are outlined on the Student Employment website. 


As noted on the previous page, most students work 6-10 hours per week.

To be compliant with the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), Northwestern Human Resources prohibits temporary employees from working in excess of 1,000 hours in a rolling 12-month period. We recommend that students paid FWS wages work no more than 20 hours per week during the academic year (fall, winter, and spring quarters) excluding academic breaks (winter recess and spring break) in which a student may work up to full-time (37.5 hours).

Recording Time Worked

On-Campus Student Employees

To ensure students receive their wages on time, students should enter and approve their hours in the Workforce Timekeeping System by the dates listed on Payroll's Bi-Weekly Cut-off and Pay Date schedule, unless an earlier date or time has been assigned by the supervisor.

If students have pre-arranged with their supervisor to work past the 5 p.m. deadline, hours should be estimated and entered by the cut-off date listed. 

  • If your department uses a time clock, swipe in and out of each shift with your WildCARD. If edits are required, notify your supervisor before 5 p.m. CST on the second Friday of the pay period, unless otherwise noted.

Off-Campus Student Employees

In addition to the instructions above, students who work off-campus MUST also submit the Off-Campus Time-Card Approval Form by 5 p.m. on the second Friday of the pay period, unless otherwise noted on the bi-weekly pay period and pay date schedule or as communicated by the Work Study Office. 

Timesheet Falsification

Falsification of a timesheet is a serious offense. In addition to immediate termination from your position as noted in the Termination & Workplace Issues information on the Student Employment website, consequences also include:

  • Immediate removal from the Federal Work-Study Program;
  • Unearned FWS wages will be canceled from your financial aid and will not be replaced with any federal or institutional need-based financial aid assistance;
  • The matter will be referred to the Dean of Students for appropriate disciplinary action.

Before being allowed to return to the Federal Work-Study Program, a written petition, requesting permission to return, must be submitted to the Financial Aid Office. If approval is granted to return to the Federal Work-Study Program, your current employer is not required to re-hire you as a work-study employee.

Track Hours and Wages

Monitor your FWS earnings (CAESAR > Financial Aid > Work-Study Earnings by Date) after each pay date. You are responsible to monitor, track, and notify your supervisor regarding your FWS earnings progress. The Work-Study Program will notify you when you are approaching your earnings limit. Once you have exhausted your earnings limit, we will update your funding to regular student temp wages and we will notify you and your supervisor. Your employer will let you know if their budget allows for your continued employment under this accounting arrangement. Speak with your employer for further information.

Hours Calculator

Determine the maximum hours you may work each week based on the FWS amount listed in CAESAR and your hourly wage rate. The calculator is based on weeks of employment throughout the regular academic year, fall, winter, and spring quarters, and does not include winter or spring break for which you may work. FWS is not available in the summer months. The basic formula behind these figures is:

(Work-Study Allotment ÷ Weeks per Academic Year) ÷ Hourly Wage = Hours per Week

(Work-Study Allotment ÷ Weeks per Academic Year) ÷ Hourly Wage = Hours per Week

Work-Study Award Total Work Weeks Hourly Pay Rate Calculate Hours/Week
(Ex: 3600) (Ex: 30) (Ex: 14.00)  

If you work during winter or spring break, any wages earned will count toward your annual work-study allotment limit. 


All payroll processes and functions are managed by Northwestern Human Resources. In addition to the information noted below, please reference the Pay and Taxes webpage on the Human Resources website for additional guidance. 


Students are paid for hours worked in each two-week pay period and receive a bi-weekly paycheck. Alternatively, you may sign up for paycheck Direct DepositFederal Work-Study wages are not credited toward students' invoices. Students are paid at least the minimum wage

If there is a problem with your paycheck or you have not received your paycheck, ensure you and your supervisor have completed and submitted all required hiring documents before contacting Human Resources for further assistance. 

W-2 Wage Statement

W-2 Wage Statements are issued each calendar year by the Northwestern Payroll Office. The document outlines all income earned from Northwestern and all taxes withheld that year. You will need this document to file federal or state income taxes. 

Federal Work-Study wages must be reported as need-based income on your annual FAFSA. Northwestern will report your FWS wages to the Department of Education on your behalf but it is a good idea to have your W2 available when filling out the annual FAFSA. Federal Work-Study income is excluded from the need-based aid calculations and won't impact financial aid offered in subsequent years, unlike normal wages.  

If you haven't received your W-2 by February 15th visit Payroll's W-2 Reprint webpage.


Social Security and Medicare (FICA) taxes are withheld for students who are pursuing a degree. All other federal and Illinois State taxes are automatically deducted from your bi-weekly paychecks. 

Fringe Benefits

Federal regulations prohibit FWS wages from being used to pay fringe benefits. However, by Illinois law, you are permitted to accrue and use sick time. See more information about this policy on the Student Employment website Timekeeping webpage. 

Pay Increases

Merit and longevity pay increases are at the supervisor’s discretion. Speak with your supervisor to review your eligibility for a pay increase.

Pay Advance

Students must work to earn their FWS. Pay advances are not permitted. Additionally, students will not receive a payout of unearned FWS.ed to provide your earnings amounts on the FAFSA in future years.Close