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

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.


  • Due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, New York is extending the period covered by unemployment benefits by 13 weeks, for a total of 39 weeks. New York is also waiving the seven-day waiting period for unemployment insurance benefits for individuals who are out of work due to COVID-19 closures or quarantines.

Previous Wages Concerns

Unemployment benefits merit based. As of 2020, individuals are required to have earned at least $2,600 in covered wages during one calendar quarter 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.

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 that of 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 credit 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.