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Financial Aid

Types of Aid

Most aid for graduate students is in the form of loans. You must be taking at least six credits in a degree-granting program to receive federal loans. You may also receive assistantships from the Graduate School or your department.

A loan is a form of financial aid that you must repay with interest, usually after you graduate or leave school. To be considered for federal student loans, you need to file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and you must meet all eligibility criteria required for receipt of federal assistance.

William D. Ford Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan is available to eligible students, regardless of family income or financial need. However, to receive this loan, you must:

  • Successfully complete a FAFSA or renewal FAFSA.
  • Be enrolled in at least six credits in a degree granting program (If you are a program fee student you may be eligible for a Direct Unsubsidized Loan if your credit hours of enrollment and research work on your degree requirements can be classified as equivalent to at least half time. The Graduate Registrar will certify your enrollment status upon notification from your graduate program director. Since there are no tuition charges for program fee students, loan funds may be used for indirect educational expenses and to pay for the program fee charge).
  • Complete a Direct Loan Entrance Counseling Form and Master Promissory Note if this is your first time borrowing a federal loan within ten years. Financial Aid Services will post these items on your To Do list on SPIRE.
  • Not have exceeded your lifetime aggregate direct loan limits. Financial Aid Services uses the National Student Loan Database Service (NSLDS) to determine your total loan aggregates. Refer to your FAFSA Submission Summary (FSS) for your loan aggregates, it is important for you to monitor your loan aggregates to ensure you do not borrow beyond your eligibility. The lifetime limit for graduate students is:
    • $138,500 (this includes loans borrowed as an undergraduate student and will include subsidized loans)

The annual limit for graduate students is $20,500 - When awarding the Direct Unsubsidized Loan it is assumed you may receive a Graduate Appointment. If you do not receive an Appointment, please let the Financial Aid Office know, as this may increase your loan eligibility.

The interest rate is fixed at 7.05%. Interest payments for Federal Unsubsidized Direct Loans begin the day the loan is disbursed and can be paid monthly, quarterly, or capitalized (adding the interest to the loan principle).

Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loan

The Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loan program enables credit worthy graduate students to borrow directly from the federal government to help pay for their educational expenses. You may borrow up to the cost of attendance minus financial aid. The interest rate is fixed and is set each year on July 1, but will never exceed 10.50%. PLUS Loans are disbursed directly to the student's UMass Amherst account, generally in two installments. The program charges interest on the loan from the date the first disbursement is made until the loan is paid in full. To apply for a Graduate PLUS Loan you must file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and submit a complete Graduate PLUS Loan Pre-Application and Entrance Counseling Form available on the Forms website to Financial Aid Services.

Borrowers of Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loans begin repayment 60 days after the second disbursement. However, your loan will be placed into deferment while enrolled at least half-time and for an additional six months after ceasing half-time enrollment. If the loan is deferred, interest will accrue on the loan during deferment. You may choose to pay the accrued interest or allow the interest to capitalized when the deferment period ends. A choice of repayment options allows you to repay the loan in a way that best suits your financial circumstances. Applications and detailed information on repayment options are available at Financial Aid Services.

Alternative Loans

File a FAFSA First!

Before considering private loan options, you should apply for federal, state and institutional financial aid, including federal student loans. If you are considering educational private loans, you should apply only after you have applied for financial aid and received notification from the Financial Aid Office. Go to FAFSA on the Web for more information.

Financial Aid Services at the University of Massachusetts Amherst strongly recommends that you fully research the alternative loan program and lender that best suits your financing needs. Please compare the benefits and costs of several alternative loan programs before you apply. To get the best interest rate and terms apply with a credit-worthy cosigner. To find out how to apply for an alternative loan visit the lender's website.

Below is a link to alternative educational loans for graduate students. The lenders included on each list responded to a public request for information (RFP). The proposals were evaluated and lenders selected based on the benefits the loan products offer to borrowers, including interest rates and fees, repayment benefits and terms, ability to apply, sign, certify and disburse electronically, quality of customer service to borrowers, problem resolution, loan management tools and availability of consumer information and web based service features. This is not a comprehensive list of all the educational loans available. Inclusion on this list is not an endorsement or recommendation by the University of Massachusetts Amherst. If you have worked with a lender not listed below, and has received excellent benefits and quality service from this lender, you may continue to do business with that lender. Financial Aid Services will process alternative loans for any lender selected by the student.

For your convenience, we have provided telephone numbers and links to websites maintained by these lenders. UMass Amherst is not responsible for the availability, content, or accuracy of materials on third party websites. Please carefully read final loan agreements or promissory notes and understand their payment terms and other obligations.

Alternative Loan Options for Graduate Students

A Graduate Assistantship is your best option for finding a teaching or research assistantship is to contact your academic department. The Graduate Assistantship Office processes graduate appointments and associated waiver benefits. This office also posts assistantship opportunities when they become available (these assistantships are mostly through non-academic departments and are generally for administrative support). The Graduate Assistantship Office does not assign or determine who receives appointments.

Graduate Assistantship Office
Barlett Room 470

Graduate School Fellowship funds are allocated to the schools and colleges under a matching agreement between the Dean of the Graduate School and the academic dean. The departments select their fellowship recipients.

The Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant Program is federally funded and provides up to $4,000 annual grants to full-time graduate students who plan to become teachers. A graduate student may receive a total of two scheduled awards, or a total of up to $8,000, for a master’s degree program.

TEACH Grant recipients at the University of Massachusetts Amherst must meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • Complete a FAFSA.
  • Be a U.S Citizen or eligible non-citizen.
  • Be enrolled as a graduate student in an educator licensure program listed below.
  • Meet academic requirements (maintain a 3.25 GPA).
  • Apply for a TEACH Grant after successfully completing the first semester in their graduate licensure program.
  • Make an appointment with the School of Education Licensure Officer, Dr. Beverley Bell at (413) 545-2701 to determine your eligibility and receive an eligibility certificate. The certificate is required before meeting with the Financial Aid Office.
  • Sign a TEACH Grant Agreement and a TEACH Grant Counseling Form.

You must also fulfill the following conditions:

  • You must serve as a full-time teacher in a high need-field in a public or private elementary or secondary school that serves low-income students.
  • You must teach for at least four academic years within eight calendar years of completing the program of study for which you received the TEACH Grant.

NOTE: If you fail to complete this service obligation, all amounts of the TEACH Grant that you received will be converted to a Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan, and the interest on the loan will be charged from the date the original TEACH Grant was disbursed. You must repay this loan to the U. S. Department of Education.

Schools Serving Low-Income Students are listed in the U. S. Department of Education’s Annual Directory of Designated Low-Income Schools for Teacher Cancelation Benefits.

High-Need Fields in Massachusetts for 2023-2024 (subject to change):

  • English as a Second Language
  • Computer Science, Business, Marketing and Information Technology (BMIT)
  • Social Studies, History
  • Special Education
  • Mathematics
  • World Languages
  • Science
  • Language Arts


Please see the program description on for general information.

Most graduate students at UMass Amherst are hired through the appointment process as teaching assistants, research assistants, or interns. Your best option for finding a teaching or research assistantship is to contact your academic department. In certain cases, departments hire graduate students on an hourly basis. 

Graduate students with high financial need as determined by the FAFSA may be eligible to use Federal Work-Study for hourly employment. Assistantship positions cannot be funded with Federal Work-Study. Hourly graduate work-study positions and the associated pay rate must be pre-approved by the Graduate Assistantship Office before you may begin your employment. 

To request work study funds for the summer session, please complete a Summer Aid Application. To be considered for work-study funds during the fall/spring, contact Financial Aid Services.

If you plan to take courses over the summer, you may be eligible to receive financial aid to offset the costs. The financial aid programs available for the summer are Federal Direct loans, credit based alternative loans, and a limited amount of Summer Work-Study for eligible students. 

For more information on eligibility for summer financial aid, please click the link below.

UMass Amherst offers education abroad and exchange programs. These programs are available to all students and most financial aid can be used to pay the costs. Financial Aid Services will take into account the exchange information that you provide and will increase your cost of attendance to reflect the educational expenses of your program. Additional loans may be available to help you supplement your financial aid award in order to take advantage of study abroad opportunities.