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Financial Aid

Receiving Aid

Application Review

After you complete your FAFSA, review your FAFSA Submission Summary (FSS) for accuracy and to ensure UMass Amherst is listed to receive the information electronically. You may need to respond to requests for documentation before you can be awarded.

Graduate Students receive aid decisions beginning mid-July and ongoing. If you are a returning graduate student, Financial Aid Services must check your file for Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP). Once this is confirmed, Financial Aid Services can finalize decisions. If your file is complete and you are in good academic standing, you will receive your award notification by email. You can access your financial aid award through your SPIRE account.

Your award is determined in accordance with the laws, regulations and appropriations of the U. S. Congress, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. It is subject to adjustment or cancellation in the event of changes to these laws, funding or your eligibility.

When you receive your email award notification, you need to log in to SPIRE to review the financial aid you are eligible to receive for the upcoming academic year. From this point, you need to follow a few important steps.

  1. Review your award in SPIRE carefully.
  2. Check your To Do List in SPIRE to see if additional documents are needed to finalize your award.
  3. You must complete a promissory note for each of your loans in order for the funds to be credited to your tuition bill.

If you receive Federal Direct Student Loans (unsubsidized), and you are a first-time borrower, you must complete a Master Promissory Note (MPN) and an Entrance Interview Form before the funds can be credited to your tuition and fee bill. You will only need to complete the MPN for Direct Loans one time - it is valid for 10 years and for any subsequent loans you may receive.

If you wish to receive a Grad PLUS Loan, you must fill out the Grad PLUS pre-application form and submit it to Financial Aid Services.  If your loan is approved, you must complete a Master Promissory Note (MPN).  If you borrow another PLUS loan in the future, you will need to fill complete a new Master Promissory Note.

Once you have received and reviewed your financial aid award letter, you may appeal the award if you did not receive your maximum eligibility and your Cost of Attendance (COA) is higher than what we estimate for you.  

Components of the default/standard COA are listed under "Costs" on our website. Students can also view their COA in the Financial Aid section of their SPIRE account. Any of the following circumstances may result in an increase to your Cost of Attendance and may result in the granting of additional unsubsidized loans:

  • You do not have an assistantship or fellowship.
  • Living expenses off campus that are higher than the allowance in the standard Cost of Attendance per semester (including rent/mortgage and utilities; you cannot include groceries in your appeal).
  • Additional expenses for books, supplies, or a computer purchased for educational purposes.
  • Dependent care expenses.

To initiate an appeal, please download and complete the appropriate appeal form which can be found in the Forms section of our website. You will need to include a written explanation and supporting documentation detailing your situation, and will be subject to a verification process. To ensure that your appeal is processed accurately, Financial Aid Services will request special documentation.

The U.S. Department of Education requires that students receiving federal financial aid meet the UMass Amherst academic status standards ensuring academic progress toward a degree or certificate program of study.

At the end of each semester, including summer, Financial Aid Services checks the SAP for all students regardless of whether or not the student receives aid. To meet the UMass Amherst academic status standards, you must maintain a minimum grade point average of 2.0 and maintain the necessary credit hours to ensure graduation within ten semesters. If you do not maintain these standards you will, at a minimum, be placed on financial aid warning for one semester. Then, if you do not meet the academic status standards after a warning period, you may become ineligible to receive federal, state and/or institutional financial aid.

SAP Appeals

If you have lost, or are in danger of losing financial aid because you have failed to maintain SAP after the warning period, you may enter into an appeal process. To begin the process, download the SAP Policy Information and Appeal Form (available in the Forms section).

Send the completed Appeal Form to:

Financial Aid Services
243 Whitmore Admin. Bldg.
181 Presidents Drive
Amherst, MA 01003-9313

Many students receive educational financial aid awards—including scholarships, grants, waivers, or educational loans—through sources other than Financial Aid Services. If you receive non-university aid awards, you must report them. Report your additional resources using the Report Outside Aid button in SPIRE.

If you receive aid through another source after receiving your UMass Amherst award, Financial Aid Services may be required to adjust your need-based aid. In most cases the additional aid will be applied toward your remaining need before your loans, work-study, grant, or scholarship aid is reduced.

Before your financial aid funds can be disbursed to your student account, you must meet the disbursement criteria specific to the aid program(s) you have accepted. Detailed descriptions of these aid programs are available on SPIRE with your financial aid award and in the publication Guide to Understanding Financial Aid available to download on the Forms section of this site. Unless otherwise stated, your financial aid funds are evenly split between the fall and spring terms.

Many grants require full-time enrollment (12 credits for undergraduate students, nine credits for graduate students). However some grants will be adjusted by a prorated amount for less than full-time enrollment. You must be enrolled at least half time (six credits) for the William D. Ford Direct Loan to disburse to your account and you must also have a valid Promissory Note and Entrance Interview Form (if required) on file.

Once you have resolved all eligibility issues (including verification and satisfactory academic progress) your financial aid for the upcoming term will be disbursed no earlier than 10 days prior to the start of classes. Your financial aid will be credited to your UMass Amherst tuition and fees, room and board (if living on campus), and miscellaneous fees. Final adjustments due to changes in your credit load will occur shortly after the add/drop ending date of each term which may impact a balance due. 

Refunds and Excess Express

If the amount of financial aid and other credits on your bill exceed tuition, fees, and other charges, you may receive a refund. You may use your refund for off-campus living expenses, indirect expenses, or any other education expenses for the term. You will either receive an excess check or you can arrange for direct deposit into your bank account through Excess Express. You can make these arrangements with the Bursar’s Office.


  • Before the Bursar’s Office may release your excess funds, you must complete your Direct Loan Master Promissory Note and Entrance Counseling on
  • If you are receiving a Graduate Appointment or any other waivers not listed on your Award Summary, please report them to Financial Aid Services. This will minimize any delays in releasing your excess funds.
  • If you are a graduate student on Program Fee, update your enrollment status (half time or full time) with the Graduate Records Office. The Bursar's Office will confirm your eligibility online before releasing your refund.

Taxable Income

The funds that you receive from scholarships, benefits, fellowships and grants that, combined, exceed the cost of tuition, fees, books, and required equipment and supplies, are considered taxable income. This includes Federal Pell Grants but not federal loans.

For example, any amount that you use to pay for room and board or any stipends for living expenses are taxable. You are responsible for your own record keeping, so that you can complete your tax forms properly. You may want to keep a receipt file of educational purchases.

For more detailed information, consult the IRS, your income tax form instruction booklet, or your personal tax adviser.

The Bursar's Office will bill you for tuition, room and board, and all mandatory fees. The fall payment due date is usually the beginning of August and the spring payment due date is usually the beginning of January. If the balance us not paid in full by the due date a late fee may be assessed.

You have several options for paying your bill. Visit the Bursar's Office for full details on billing and payments.

UPay Monthly Payment Option

UMass Amherst also offers students the option to enroll in a payment plan through the Bursar's Office to pay your tuition and fees. By paying a one-time enrollment fee, you will be able to set up a plan with multiple payment installments each semester. 

For information on how to enroll in the UPay payment plan please visit the Bursar's Office or call 413-545-2368.

Important Tips

  • Never disregard a billing statement.
  • Carefully read everything you receive from the Bursar's Office.
  • Create a file for your UMass Amherst billing statements and any correspondence or notes regarding the statements. Also, include any information pertaining to your financial aid.
  • Keep copies of all bills for tax reporting purposes.
  • It is very important to be aware of the payment due date and UMass Amherst policies. It is advisable not to wait until the payment due date to contact the Bursar's Office with questions regarding your billing statement.

Each term the financial aid office will finalize your enrollment at the end of the add/drop period each term. During summer term this window is shorter. This date is referred to as census date for financial aid. Your financial aid may be adjusted as a result of a change to your enrollment. You will be sent an email if your award is updated. You could owe additional money to the university if your award is reduced.

Enrollment Levels (for financial aid purposes)

  • Full-time 12 or more credits for undergraduate, 9 or more for graduate students*
  • 3/4 time 9 to 11 credits (undergraduate only)
  • 1/2 time 6 to 8 credits
  • less than 1/2 time 1 to 5 credits

*Graduate degree candidates may be considered full time regardless of the number of registered credits provided their Graduate Program Director or Department Chair/Head certifies they are working full time on research.