Can I Go to College & Still Draw Unemployment in New York?

by Michaele Curtis ; Updated September 26, 2017

Many New Yorkers who find themselves unemployed go back to school to further their chances of finding new employment. However, there is a myth that going to school disqualifies you from participating in the unemployment program. That’s not true but the New York State Department of Labor (DOL) requires that all claimants meet the same eligibility requirements. College students may have a hard time meeting the previous wages and availability requirements under certain circumstances.

College and Unemployment

There is no specific provision in the New York state unemployment compensation that specifically bars students from collecting unemployment benefits. The initial claim application does ask you whether you are currently enrolled in school but answering yes doesn’t disqualify your claim. As long as you can meet all of the eligibility requirements for New York’s unemployment compensation program, you can participate just like anyone else.

Previous Wages Concerns

Since unemployment benefits are merit based, the wages you earned before you filed your claim play an important part in determining your eligibility. You must have earned $1,600 in covered wages to claim. Covered wages are those that you earned from work insured by New York unemployment insurance. While most work performed under a traditional employee/employer relationship is covered, if you worked in any capacity for the school you were also attending as a student, it’s not. That excludes wages from most work study or financial aid sponsored positions.

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Availability Concerns

New York unemployment claimants must be available to search and take on work if offered a job. College students often have a set schedule of classes that keeps them from looking for work or being available to accept work. If you take night classes, online classes or less than a full-time load, your availability may be more than a full-time student. The DOL reviews each claim individually to determine if your classes would interfere with your availability to search for work or take on work.

Approved Training Exceptions

New York unemployment compensation law allows claimants who are receiving approved training to skip the job search and receive extra benefit weeks in some case. To qualify as approved training, it must take up at least 12 hours a week, be completed within two years and improve your ability to find employment in the New York job market. If you note on your initial claim application that you are a student and the DOL will contact you to go over the requirements.

About the Author

Michaele Curtis began writing professionally in 2001. As a freelance writer for the Centers for Disease Control, Nationwide Insurance and AT&T Interactive, her work has appeared in "Insurance Today," "Mobiles and PDAs" and "Curve Magazine." Curtis holds a Bachelor of Arts in communication from Louisiana State University.

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