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Budget Better in 2020: How to Manage Your Financial Aid Refund

Author: Financial Success | Image: Financial Success


New decade, new you? The Spring 2020 semester is about to begin and we wanted to share a few pointers regarding managing those financial aid refunds. First things first –check your Ubill! Aid most likely has applied to your bill and refunds will be appearing in your direct deposit accounts shortly.

What’s a refund? A refund is created if the financial aid applied is greater than the university bill. All financial aid, with the exception of work-study, is applied to your U-Bill first. Once the bill is paid in full, any left-over financial aid is typically refunded back to you, the student. You’ll want to make sure you establish the bank account to receive this money through your AccessPlus account. Once logged into AccessPlus, under the “Student” tab, select “Direct Deposit”. There you’ll enter the bank account number and routing number where you would like the refund or credit balance deposited.

However, not all students receive a refund. If you are living on campus, you may receive a small refund for books or supplies but your housing, food, tuition and fees will be included on your Ubill. 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. It’s important to remember that financial aid is disbursed on a semesterly basis so the refund you received in August is intended to last until January. The refund you receive in January is intended to last you until May. This is probably one of the biggest challenges students face from a money management standpoint!

If you receive a large financial aid refund at the beginning of the term, it may be tempting to spend it all very quickly, so budgeting is crucial!
Below are some tips to help ensure you manage that refund effectively:

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 aid, especially if your aid is consisted mainly of loans.

2. Create a budget to help your refund last. Only plan for your refund to cover the necessities, like books, rent, utilities and food. If you need money for something other than those items, try to find an alternative route such as using money from your part time job instead.

3. Divide your semester refund by 5 to determine how much you’ll have for a monthly budget. This will be important when determining your monthly bills such as rent, utilities and food. Don’t know where to start? Check out this link to find budgeting basics.

4. Place your refund in a separate bank account other than the one you use for every day spending. That ensures you may be less likely to spend the money with the swipe of your debit card.

5. Keep in mind your cost of attendance. If you’ve been awarded the maximum in financial aid for one school year, in most cases, we will be unable to increase your financial aid if you run out of money towards the end of the semester (even if it’s a loan!)

Wishing all students a great semester in 2020 and starting the New Year off on the right [financial] foot!