Can I Collect Unemployment in New Jersey While Going to School?

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New Jersey residents are usually ineligible for unemployment benefits while attending school full-time. In certain instances, full-time students who meet established income levels or who are attending school through special programs may be eligible for unemployment benefits. Even if you are eligible for unemployment benefits while attending school, you may have a difficult time continuing to meet unemployment eligibility rules set forth by New Jersey’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Sufficient Wages

If you have sufficient wages to establish an unemployment claim from wages you earned while attending school, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits. According to the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, New Jersey residents must have worked at least 20 weeks and earned at least $7,300 during a 52 week period, also known as the base year, to be eligible for unemployment benefits. Wages for eligibility cannot come from a federal work-study position.

State-Approved Educational Programs

Students who are attending school or a training program approved by the Department of Labor and Workforce Development in an effort to improve their employment opportunities may be eligible for unemployment benefits. Students in state-approved programs are usually eligible because they are barred from working while enrolled in school, or their educational programs are set to end when their unemployment entitlement runs out. If you are enrolled in a state-approved educational program, an appointment will be scheduled for you to have an interview with an unemployment claims examiner. The examiner will evaluate your work history and qualifications to determine if you are eligible for unemployment compensation.

Work Availability

If you qualify for unemployment benefits and you are not enrolled in a state-approved educational program, you are still required to adhere to the work availability rules set forth by the Department of Labor and Workforce Development to remain eligible for unemployment benefits. According to New Jersey Unemployment Compensation Law, unemployment recipients in the state must remain available and able to work, which often requires registering for work and participating in re-employment programs. An individual who receives a suitable work offer must accept the re-employment opportunity, even if his new work schedule interferes with his school schedule. Exceptions are not made for full-time students; you may be required to drop a class or withdraw from school entirely to accept a work offer. Otherwise, refusal of work will result in ineligibility to receive unemployment benefits.

Considerations

Consider alternate options to unemployment compensation before risking your opportunity to attend school full-time. Contact your school’s work-study department about opportunities for work-study positions, or weigh the option of part-time employment as a substitute to drawing unemployment benefits. In addition to forfeiting your unemployment benefits for refusing a suitable work offer, if the Department of Labor and Workforce Development discovers that you had no intentions to remain available for re-employment, you could be forced to pay back any or part of the unemployment benefits you received.

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