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Managing Financial Aid Refunds

Author: Financial Success | Image: Financial Success

The 2014-15 year is off and running!  The buses are full, the sidewalks are busy and students are working hard!

By this time of the semester, most students should have received their financial aid refunds.  A financial aid refund would be created if the financial aid received is greater than the university bill.  All financial aid, with the exception of work-study, is applied to the student’s u-bill first. Once the bill is paid in full, any left over financial aid is refunded back to the student, preferably through their direct deposit account.  Students can establish an account to receive their refunded balance through their AccessPlus account.  Once logged into AccessPlus, under the “Student” tab, select “Direct Deposit“.  The student can enter the bank account number and routing number where they would like the refund or credit balance directed.  This is the preferred method because it helps ensure accuracy, privacy and efficiency when refunding money.  

If you are living on campus, you may receive a small refund for books or supplies but your housing, food, tuition and fees should be paid for the semester.  If you are living off campus, you may receive a larger refund that is intended to cover books, housing, food and utilities throughout the semester after your tuition and fees are paid.

Financial aid is disbursed on a semester basis so the financial aid you received in August is intended to last until January.  The financial aid you receive in January is intended to last you until May.  

If you receive a large financial aid refund at the beginning of the term, it may be tempting to spend it all very quickly or on one or two items, but that is not the intent of financial aid.  Financial aid is intended to cover education related costs.  These costs include tuition, fees, housing, meals, books and basic living expenses.

It is important to budget your financial aid refund to last several months.  Each semester, your financial aid is expected to cover approximately 4 months.

Below are some tips to help ensure your refunds are lasting the entire semester:

  1. If you do not need all of your refund, you can contact the Office of Student Financial Aid to return all or a portion of your refund, especially if it is the result of a loan.
  2. Be aware and cognizant of what your refund is truly intended to cover.  
  3. Create a budget to help your refund last.  Only plan a refund to cover the necessary items like books, rent, utilities and food.  If you need money for something other than those items, reconsider the necessity of the purchase.
  4. Divide your refund by 4, this is how much of your refund you can allot to each month of the semester.
  5. Place your refund in a separate account other than the one you use for every day spending.  This way, you may be less likely to use the money for unnecessary purchases.
  6. Keep your refund in a safe and secure place such as a bank account and not as cash in your room.
  7. Don’t spend a refund until you actually have the refund. A lot of times students may plan on a large refund long before it arrives. During that expectation period, you may purchase items you don’t need because you are expecting a refund and will pay for it later when the refund it received.

Remember, if you don’t need your refund, contact the financial aid office to return all or some of it.  You do not have to borrow all of the loans awarded to you and you do not need to keep all of the refund you receive.  If you ever have questions about your financial aid or loans, make sure you contact the Office of Student Financial Aid to discuss your questions or concerns with an adviser.