Working & borrowing

UC expects all undergraduates seeking financial aid to cover part of their cost of attendance through a combination of employment and loans.

“Self-help aid” refers to money that is borrowed through student loans or earned through work-study programs or other jobs. 


Having a job while pursuing your UC education is one way to meet your student contribution and reduce the amount you'll have to borrow. UC expects that a typical student will work part-time (10-20 hours per week) during the school year, and full-time during summers.

There are a couple of ways to approach having a job while pursuing your UC education:


Your financial aid package may include work-study funds. Work-study is a form of student employment limited to part-time during the school year, and students usually work no more than 20 hours a week.

Other part-time jobs

Regardless of whether or not you qualify for work-study, you can likely find a part-time job either on or off campus, typically earning between $8 and $12 an hour.


Many students and parents choose to borrow money for college. Taking out loans can help you to work less and graduate sooner, but it's important to do your research on the types of loans that are right for you. Education loans are available to families at all income levels.

Student loans

Federal student loans are available to most students who are U.S. citizens, permanent residents and eligible non-citizens regardless of income. Federal student loans, unlike private loans, are required by law to provide a range of flexible repayment options and loan forgiveness benefits which private lenders are not required to provide.

For most students and families who decide to borrow, federal student loans are the best option.

Learn more about federal student loans »

Unlike federal loans, private loans are administered by private lenders — either banks or private institutional lenders — who set the terms for the loans. This can mean they have different criteria for both loan eligibility and loan rates (they can have a range of interest rates and fees). Before you decide to apply for a private student loan, we encourage you to do your research and contact UC campus financial aid officers who can guide you through your options.

You can also get a better sense of how to manage your loans after graduation by using a student loan calculator. It determines how you can repay your loans based on the expected income associated with your intended major.

See the Brookings Institution's student loan calculator or the Department of Education's calculator »

Parent loans: PLUS loans

Federal PLUS loans are available to most families who do not have an adverse credit history, but you need to file a FAFSA to obtain one, even if you don't expect to receive "need-based" financial aid. The maximum that a family can borrow is the total cost of attendance minus all other financial aid. Family repayment can be reduced or deferred until a student and any siblings leave college.

Finding the right balance for you

The right balance between working and borrowing is different for every student. For some students, working 20 hours per week is manageable. Others may choose to borrow more and work less. It's up to you to strike a balance that makes sense for you.

Other factors can influence how much you work and borrow:

  • Reducing expenses: Students who spend less than the total cost of attendance reported on their financial aid offer reduce the amount they will need to earn or borrow. See tips on controlling costs »
  • Private scholarships: There are thousands of scholarships funded by sources outside the university that award money based on academic performance, community service, special talent or other personal characteristics. Consult with your high school career center or counselors for help finding scholarship opportunities, or do some research online.