How Did We Arrive At The Aid Offer You Received?

Your financial aid eligibility at Amherst College is based on your calculated financial need. Within the resources of the College, the amount of financial aid that you are offered is equal to the difference between your student expense budget and your family contribution. Financial aid eligibility is determined annually based on year-specific financial aid application materials and relevant year income tax documentation.

Three word balloons that say cost of attendance minus family contribution equals calculated financial need

Student Expense Budget / Cost of Attendance

The student expense budget / cost of attendance used to calculate your financial need includes (direct) expenses billed each semester by the college including the Comprehensive Fee (tuition, fees, housing and meals) and indirect expenses incurred by most college students such as personal expenses and transportation. The student expense budget used to calculate your financial need is shown in the offers link of the Financial Aid Portal.

Admitted students who had "Budget: Estimated"  on the messages link of the Financial Aid Portal, have had their student expense budgets updated to the actual costs for 2024-25. Any changes in fees or allowances will be reflected in the final financial aid offer. Any financial need resulting from the budget update will be met with an increase of Amherst College Scholarship to continue to meet 100% of calculated need.  

For the current 2024-25 student budget, please see our Tuition and Fees page.

Health Insurance

Amherst College requires that all students either participate in the College's health insurance plan or have comparable medical coverage. If you are already covered by your family's insurance, our expectation is that you will continue to be covered by it. Health insurance coverage provided through a state Medicaid program may not be available outside of the state, and a health maintenance organization (HMO) may not be available outside its primary geographic area. If your family does not have health insurance or substantially equivalent coverage that is available to you in Massachusetts, you may request additional scholarship aid to pay for the College's health insurance plan. Both your student expense budget and grant aid will be increased by the cost of the College’s health insurance plan.

Student Loan Fees

Amherst aid packages do not include any loans as part of the initial offer, but if you elect to borrow a Federal Direct Stafford Loan, or if your parents borrow a Federal PLUS Loan, an additional allowance may be made in your student expense budget for required loan origination fees.

Other Adjustments to the Student Expense Budget

The Office of Financial Aid is allowed discretion in developing a realistic budget for the particular situation of an independent student. If you are an independent student, the budget shown in your financial aid offer notice may reflect adjustments we have made to the standard budget to accommodate your circumstances.

Family Contribution

Your financial aid offer shows our calculation of resources available to you. This calculation is based on the application information you submitted to Amherst College. The estimated family contribution was calculated according to the College’s need analysis policies and procedures, and adjusted in individual cases by Amherst College policy. Federal financial aid eligibility has been calculated according to the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended.

The calculated expected family contribution will determine what portion of the total (direct and indirect) costs will be the responsibility of the family or will be paid by financial aid funds. Personal expenses are usually paid from student employment earnings during the school year. 

If you will receive benefits or scholarships from a government agency, such as the Veterans Administration, or from other outside organizations, these must be reported to the Office of Financial Aid and must be included in your resources. Outside scholarships will not replace the family contribution.

Except in unusual situations, the College will not award financial aid to you without taking into consideration your parents' financial circumstances. In the case of divorced or separated parents, each biological parent is expected to provide financial information.

Parental Contribution

The figure shown as your parent contribution is based on the information provided in your application for financial aid, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, the CSS PROFILE form, and other documents. In addition to considering your parents’ income and assets, allowances have been made for individual circumstances. In the case of divorced or separated parents, separate analyses of your parents’ resources have been made and are combined in the figure shown in the aid offer.

Many factors are considered in calculating the family contribution. Here are some that play a significant role:

  • Income: If your parents’ income increases, the expected contribution is likely to increase; if it decreases, the contribution is likely to decrease. Need formulas are adjusted each year for inflation.
  • Allowances against income: Need formulas consider various allowances against income. Some are basic – federal, state, and local income taxes; social security taxes; basic family living costs. Others are related to special circumstances—elementary or secondary schooling costs for student siblings, medical and dental expenses, funeral expenses, tax payment agreements, support of extended family, etc. Some of these expenses recur from year to year; some are non-recurring. If we made extra allowances in one year, they may not recur.
  • Assets: Certain family assets—home equity, other real estate equity, bank accounts, investments, businesses, and farms—are considered in calculating a parents’ contribution. The value or indebtedness of assets may change from one year to another, especially if assets are being expended to pay the parents’ contribution. The values may also change because of economic conditions. 
  • Family Size: As children grow older and move away from home, the number of persons in the family may decrease. A change in family size will have some effect on the parents’ contribution.
  • Number of Children in College: A major factor in Amherst’s institutional needs analysis formula is the number of children in an undergraduate degree or eligible certificate program. In general, Amherst’s calculated parents’ contribution takes into account the number of children in college. For example, if the number in college decreases from two to one, the Amherst parents’ contribution will increase. Conversely, if the number in college increases from one to two, the parents’ contribution for each child will decrease. The division is not equal if the costs of the colleges are significantly different. 
    The Federal Methodology does not consider the number of children attending college.

Student Contribution

A part of your family's contribution toward your student expense budget is your responsibility. The College expects you to contribute from your income (including earnings from summer employment), your past savings, and any other resources that are available to you. The expected amount of student income contribution is adjusted from year to year according to prevailing wage rates. In addition, 25 percent of your past savings and other assets (student asset contribution) is expected to be available to help defray your expenses.

If your earnings from employment are less than the standard expectation, the shortfall may be shifted to student employment during the academic year or to a need-based loan. The Office of Financial Aid may make an adjustment in your student income contribution if you complete a Student Income Contribution Appeal.

If a student receiving scholarship aid from the College does not achieve the expected income contribution from summer savings because of working in an unpaid internship or community service activity (not supported by College or other funding), once in four years at Amherst the student may request that the student income contribution shortfall be made up with scholarship aid.

Independent Students

Student (and Spouse’s) Income Contribution:

The calculated figure is based on information supplied by you (and, if you are married, your spouse) in your financial aid application materials. The student expense budget includes your educational and living expenses for the academic year. Allowances for your living costs during the summer are accommodated in need analysis. Your total student income and asset contribution is subtracted from your expense budget to determine your eligibility for financial aid at Amherst.

Independent students are expected to provide for their summer expenses through employment and/or governmental benefit programs, apart from financial aid.  Financial aid, other than student employment, will not be provided to cover summer expenses. 

Other Resources

There are several family financing options available to help provide financial flexibility and to make the cost of attending Amherst feasible. Student and parent loans, as well as payment plans, are available for Amherst families.

Appealing Your Aid Offer

Students with questions concerning their financial aid offer should contact the Office of Financial Aid. Appeals for reconsideration of an aid offer must be made in writing. The letter (or financial aid appeal form) should address special or unusual circumstances, unusual expenses, changing financial situations, or additional information not already presented in the financial aid application.

In some cases, new or more detailed explanations regarding your family’s financial situation can be considered and may result in an adjustment to your family contribution and aid offer. Appeals are reviewed by the deans, who give careful consideration to individual family circumstances while also maintaining equity in our treatment of all aid applicants.

Appeals regarding a decrease in income are considered by the submission of “recent year” tax forms and W-2s. For 2024-25, the “base year” is 2022; the “recent year” is 2023. Appeals regarding renewal aid offers will be considered after initial offers for renewal applicants are completed.

In cases where we are unable to make an adjustment to your family contribution, we can advise you of family financing options available to you and your family.