Old Chapel at UMass Amherst
Financial Aid

Understanding Financial Aid

Paying for a college education can be expensive and stressful. It is important to understand how financial aid works so you and your student can enjoy this time and minimize your financial worries.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

  • Must be filed each year.
  • Priority deadline to submit the FAFSA is March 1.
    • The UMass Amherst FAFSA priority date is March 1 to receive your financial aid offer early in the cycle. If the student is having challenges submitting the FAFSA, submitting after March 1 will not affect offered funding. State and scholarship agencies have varying deadlines that the student is encouraged to meet. 
    • Estimated tax information (prior year tax return and W-2s) may be used to initially submit the FAFSA. Once taxes have been filed update the FAFSA.
  • All award notifications will be sent to the student via email. The award will be posted to the student’s SPIRE account. Paper award letters will not be mailed.
    • Financial Aid Services begins awarding incoming first-year and transfer undergraduate students in April.
    • Financial Aid Services begins awarding undergraduate upperclassmen in June.
  • If the FAFSA is selected for verification, additional documents will be requested.
    • Submit requested documents within 30 days.
    • Remind your student to check his/her "To Do List" in SPIRE for any requests.
    • If the requested documents are not received and processed by Financial Aid Services, your student will not be eligible for financial aid.
    • If changes need to be made to the FAFSA as a result of verification, the award may be adjusted. The initial award is only as accurate as the information provided on the FAFSA.
    • The award is tentative until all eligibility requirements are met and verification has been completed, if selected.
      • Upperclassmen will not receive an award until all requested documents are received and processed.
      • Incoming students may receive an award with outstanding documents, however, the award will not be finalized until all requested documents have been received and processed.
    • Awards will not be disbursed if there are outstanding documents and will be canceled approximately 15 days after the start of classes.

The University of Massachusetts determines how much financial aid a student receives based on two major factors:

  • Cost of Attendance: This is comprised of your student’s billable expenses (tuition, fees, room and board) and non-billable expenses (books, travel, miscellaneous expenses)
  • Student Aid Index (SAI): This is the number determined by the Department of Education from your FAFSA.
    • We subtract your Student Aid Index (SAI) from your student’s Cost of Attendance (COA) to determine your student’s need:

          - SAI

We use the student’s need to formulate a financial aid package. A student’s financial aid package may be comprised of any combination of federal, state, and institutional aid.

*Due to limited funding, we are not able to meet a student’s full need with financial aid. This means that there is almost always a gap between a student’s need and what is actually awarded. Other factors that may affect your student’s financial aid award include:

  • Tuition credit
  • Outside scholarships
  • Enrollment status
  • Residency
  • Other resources

You have a few options when deciding how you will pay for the expenses that are not covered by your student’s financial aid.

  • If you have a college savings plan, this is the time to use it. You should speak with your financial advisor about how the funds should be disbursed.
  • The Bursar’s Office offers a UPay Payment Plan. It is interest free with a one-time enrollment fee at the time of enrollment.
    • You must enroll each year (if you choose the 10 month payment plan) or each semester (if you choose the 5 month payment plan).
  • You may apply for a Parent PLUS Loan on the Forms section of this website, or an Alternative Loan. These loans are not need-based. You can apply for any amount up to your unmet Cost of Attendance (Cost of Attendance – Financial Aid Awarded to Student = Unmet Cost of Attendance) regardless of your Expected Family Contribution.

Although in many cases it is the parent(s) paying the bill, the university will only contact the student with critical information, updates, and requests. It is the student’s responsibility to forward this information to you if he or she wishes to do so.

Because college is a very busy and often stressful time for students, we encourage you, as the parent, to stay in touch with your student and make sure you are being updated frequently. Ask your student if there are any outstanding items on his or her “To Do List”, or if he or she has received any emails from UMass recently.

You may also contact our office with questions, as long as your student has added you to the FERPA Privacy Waiver.