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Financial Aid

Receiving Aid

Application Review

After you complete your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (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.

New Students

Admitted students will receive financial aid packages after UMass Amherst has received your FAFSA. You will receive an email when your award is available to view in SPIRE.

Returning Students

Returning students receive aid decisions beginning in the middle of June and ongoing. We will email you when your award is available in SPIRE.  Check your SPIRE To Dos and submit all requested documents. If your application is selected for verification you will not receive financial aid until the verification is completed.

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 into SPIRE to review the types and amounts of 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 (subsidized or 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.

Once you have received your financial aid offer, you may appeal your aid eligibility if you / your family have been impacted by some specific circumstances that affect your ability to pay for college, or if your current financial situation is not accurately reflected in your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. 

If your situation aligns with a circumstance described below and you believe it merits a review of your eligibility for aid, download and complete the appropriate appeal document from the Forms section of the website.  A written explanation and supporting documentation detailing your situation is required, and your file will be subject to a verification process.  Additional documentation requests will show in the student's SPIRE To Do List.

If you are unsure if your circumstances merit an appeal, please contact Financial Aid Services to discuss your situation.

Appeal requests will not be processed before the student has received their initial financial aid offer.  Not all appeals will result in an increase in financial aid.  A reduction in the Student Aid Index (SAI) does not guarantee an increase in aid.  Financial Aid Services does not consider appeals based on the student’s academic merit or based on financial aid offers from other schools.

Appeal for Special Circumstance

Students and families facing significant financial hardship may be eligible for additional financial aid through the Special Circumstance Appeal process.  Appealable circumstances may include:

  • Loss of income due to unemployment or underemployment for eight weeks or longer
  • Divorce or separation after filing the FAFSA
  • Death of spouse or parent
  • Expenses related to special education needs of aid applicant’s sibling
  • Medical expenses not covered by insurance

Please note categories that will not be considered for appeal include but are not limited to:

  • Home repairs
  • Private school tuition (unless related to sibling’s special education needs)
  • Credit card debt
  • Mortgage payments, real estate taxes, rental expenses, etc.
  • Weddings or other major purchases
  • Car payments
  • Payments made toward student or parent loans

Appeal to Increase Cost of Attendance

The Cost of Attendance (COA) is the “budget” that defines the total amount of financial aid that a student can receive.  Financial Aid Services creates a default / standard COA for all students based on their residency, career, and enrollment status.  The 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. 

Students may request an increase to their COA if they have incurred educationally-related expenses that are not included in the standard COA. Increasing the COA does not typically make the student eligible for additional grant funding, but may allow the student to borrow additional student or parent loans or to receive scholarship or grant funding from their academic department or a source outside the university without impacting their existing financial aid awards.

Students may appeal their COA for the following:

  • Book and educational supply expenses exceeding $600 per semester
  • Purchase of technology/computer/computer equipment for educational purposes
  • Dependent care or disability-related expenses
  • Travel expenses related to an internship, co-op, study abroad, domestic exchange, or other educationally-related activities
  • Monthly living expense such as rent, utilities, etc. exceeding the housing allowance included  in the standard COA

Appeal to Change Dependency Status

Students’ dependency status is determined using the information the student provides on their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form.  Most traditionally-aged undergraduate students are automatically considered dependents of their FAFSA contributors, and aid eligibility is determined using student and parent financial information.  For more information on the questions that the FAFSA uses to determine a student’s dependency status, see this page: Dependency Status.

Students may appeal their dependency status if they have experienced trauma, abandonment, abuse, neglect, or other irreconcilable differences with their parent(s), or if the student or their parent is currently experiencing or has recently experienced homelessness or the risk of homelessness.

Please note that the following circumstances are not, on their own, sufficient to change dependency status:

  • Student is financially self-sufficient
  • Parent(s) refuse to pay for educational expenses
  • Student is independent for tax-filing purposes

Please review the dependency appeal types below, and if you believe that you may qualify for a dependency appeal, please schedule an appointment with a financial aid counselor.

     >Dependency Appeal-Risk of Homelessness

Students may be considered independent for financial aid purposes due to homelessness or risk of homelessness if:

  • The student lacks housing with their parent(s) that is safe, stable, and always available
  • The student or their parent are living in temporary accommodations, emergency housing, a shelter for the homeless, or are otherwise displaced from permanent and stable housing

If your circumstances have resulted in not having a safe, stable place to live, please complete and submit the Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Form available on the Forms page our website.  We may request a written statement that provides a brief explanation of your circumstances and/or supporting documentation in order to process your dependency appeal.  Any document requests will be posted in your SPIRE To Do List. 

If you are unsure if your living situation meets the definition of homelessness or at risk of homelessness, or if you need information on the resources that are available to students who may be experiencing a risk of homelessness, please schedule an appointment with a financial aid counselor.

     >Dependency Appeal-Other Circumstances

Students may be considered independent for financial aid purposes based on other circumstances if:

  • The student has experienced physical or emotional abuse while under the parent’s care
  • The student has been abandoned or severely neglected by the parent(s) 
  • Irreconcilable differences exist within the family
  • The parent(s) is mentally incapacitated
  • The parent(s) are incarcerated or are in a long-term rehabilitation or care facility
  • The student is otherwise estranged from the parent(s)

To submit an appeal, please submit the Appeal for Dependency Status Change form available on the Forms page on our website, a written statement that briefly explains your circumstances, and one supporting document from a third party that corroborates your statement.  Our staff will review your appeal and will To’s Do’s in your SPIRE To Do List if additional documentation is needed.

If you have questions, or need assistance, please schedule an appointment with a financial aid counselor.

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 monitors satisfactory academic progress (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 10 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 become ineligible for financial aid because you have failed to maintain the minimum requirements of SAP after the warning period, you may submit an appeal. 

For information about the appeal process review 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. 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 is 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.