Financial Aid Topics of Interest

Topics


Use NetPartner to Check Your Financial Aid Application Status and Review Aid Awards On-Line

We do not send paper financial aid award letters and notices about incomplete applications to current or matriculating new students. The College uses NetPartner software to permit students and applicants for admission to check the status of their financial aid applications on-line.  Financial aid awards for admitted and current students may also be reviewed on-line.  These records may be accessed in a secure website at amherst.edu/go/netpartner by entering your Amherst user name and password.

A link to this site is on our website home page at http://www.amherst.edu/~finaid.  Messages about financial aid may also be communicated to you via your CMS portal.

Keep Track of Your Federal FSA ID!

When you first complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, you will also create a FSA ID.  It’s important that you keep track of it.  The FSA ID is used for communications with the Department of Education — including completing future years’ FAFSA’s, electronically “signing” applications and promissory notes, completing required loan entrance and exit counseling, and accessing account information about your student loans in repayment.  If you have misplaced your FSA ID, you may retrieve your username or password on the log-in pages at www.fafsa.gov.

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Questions About Financial Aid Awards

 What If I Have Some Questions About My Award?

If you have a question about your financial aid award, please visit, call, or write the office to clarify things. Our staff is experienced in answering a broad array of questions regarding the application process, individual aid programs, the crediting of aid to student accounts, and general policy and procedures. In some cases a question may be referred to a dean for response if it involves interpretation of financial aid policy.

My Parents’ Contribution Changed From Last Year.  Why Is That?

Financial need is re-evaluated each year.  That’s the reason we ask you and your family  to complete application forms and submit income tax returns each year.  There are many factors that are considered in calculating a parents’ contribution.  Here are some that may play a significant role:

  • Income
  • Allowances against income
  • Assets
  • Family size
  • Number of children in college

Our on-line publication, “Notes Concerning Your Financial Aid,” has further discussion of these factors.

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How Do I Ask That You Reconsider My Financial Aid Award?

You may ask us to review your financial aid award and the way we calculated your family contribution.  Appeals must be submitted in writing.  Because Amherst’s aid program is need-based, the appeal must provide us a basis for reconsidering your application.  For example, if your family’s circumstances have changed or you believe we’ve overlooked a particular situation, you should include this in your letter.  We eventually have to quantify any adjustments, so it’s helpful to us for you to be specific about the change.  We will respond as promptly as we can.

What Does the College Expect Me to Save From Summer Employment?  What if I Don’t Save that Much?

In 2015-16, we usually expect a first-year student to be able to save $1,800 from summer employment; and a sophomore, junior, or senior $2,100.  The expectation may be as low as $1,200 for students from lower-income backgrounds and $600 for students who are independent of their parents.  If you don’t achieve this level of savings, you should tell us about the shortfall when you return to campus for the fall semester.  We’ll ask you to complete a “Student Income Contribution Appeal” form (available on our website), in which you tell us how much you earned and what expenses you had.  Normally, a shortfall can be made up from student loans or student employment.  Note, however, that once in your four years at Amherst, we will make up a shortfall with scholarship aid if the reason was your working in an unpaid internship or community service activity.  By “unpaid” we mean situations in which there is no income or financial support from any source, including fellowships or stipends.

My Financial Aid Award Letter Says I Was Selected for Verification.

What Do I Have to Do?

When you and your family complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the information that you provide is reviewed by U.S. Department of Education computers for completeness and consistency.  If there is some question, you may be selected for Verification.  You may also be selected on a random basis.  If Verification is required, this means we must get a verification worksheet from you, as well as copies of your and your parents’ federal income tax transcripts, or utilize the Data Retrieval Tool to access IRS information.  Verification worksheets are available in the Forms section of the office’s website.  Please complete the worksheet (including your and a parent’s signature, if you’re a dependent student) and return it to us promptly.  If Verification is required, federal financial aid cannot be disbursed to you until we receive and review the verification documentation.

Data Retrieval Tool to Access IRS Information

We strongly encourage you, in completing the FAFSA, to use the Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) to bring information from your income tax return directly from the Internal Revenue Service to the FAFSA.

During completion of your FAFSA on-line you will be given the opportunity to link to the DRT –

    • Enter your federal PIN number and click Link To IRS. You will not be asked to enter your PIN if you entered a PIN to begin your FAFSA.
    • Your FAFSA will be saved and you will be transferred to the IRS Web site.
    • On the IRS Web site, enter the requested information.
    • Once the IRS has validated your identification, your IRS tax information will display. You can either transfer your information from the IRS, or choose to return to FAFSA on the Web from the IRS Web site. If you do not transfer your information or choose not to return from the IRS Web site, you will have to login to open your saved FAFSA.
    • If you transfer your IRS tax information, questions that are populated with tax information will be marked with “Transferred from the IRS.”

The DRT cannot be used by someone filing as head of household; by those filing as “married, filing separately”; by someone filing an extension or amended return; or a resident of Puerto Rico or the associated states.  You can access DRT about two weeks after filing an electronic income tax return or six weeks after filing a paper return.  If you submit the FAFSA before filing income tax returns, you may later update the FAFSA information by following the FAFSA correction procedures to access your income information from the IRS using the Data Retrieval Tool.

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I’m Receiving An “Outside” Scholarship or Employer Benefit That’s Not Included In My Award Letter.  Do I Have to Report It?

Yes.  Under both federal rules and college policy, we must take into consideration any scholarship or grant aid you receive from outside sources, regardless of the amount.  We use outside scholarships and parent’s employer’s benefits to replace self-help –  student employment – in your financial aid award.  If your self-help is completely replaced by outside aid or employer benefit, any remainder will reduce scholarship aid that would otherwise be provided by the College.

We are frequently asked whether an outside scholarship can be used to replace a part of your family contribution.  Unfortunately, no.  An outside scholarship, grant, or employer benefit must be considered a resource in calculating your financial need.  This does not apply to unsubsidized Stafford Loans or outside (“alternative”) parent or student loans.

Do You Have a Sibling Attending College?

Please Have their Enrollment Confirmed to Us.

If you indicated in your aid application that a brother or sister will be enrolled in college or graduate or professional school, we ask that this be confirmed by your sibling’s institution.  We do this because the number of family members in college is a major factor in calculating the parent contribution.  Financial aid for the school year can’t be finally confirmed until we receive confirmation of your sibling’s enrollment.

Note that if an adjustment in your financial aid is required by a change in the number of family members enrolled in postsecondary education, it may affect financial aid for both the fall and spring semesters.

What’s “January Review”?

If your family’s financial situation had some uncertainties when we read your application for financial aid, we may have included a “January Review” notation with your aid award.  This means that your financial aid was confirmed for the fall term, but before it’s confirmed for the spring term, we must again review your family’s financial situation.  We’ll write to your family in December to ask for information about their income for the year then ending, and we’ll send you a copy of the letter.  The information we need may be in documents that will be used to prepare an income tax return for the year – such as earnings records (e.g., W-2 forms or year-end pay stubs); statements about interest, dividends, or other income; and records of payments made from unemployment compensation, disability, social security, or pension programs.  After we have reviewed your family’s updated financial situation, we will confirm your financial aid for the spring semester.  Your financial aid award will be revised if there is a substantial change in your family’s circumstances.

In some cases we have invited a “voluntary” January Review of family income.  If your family wants to update their income information for the “estimated” year, they may do so, but the choice is left to them.

January Reviews will be conducted until February 12 of each year. If information is not available by that time, reduced income will be refleced in your award for the following year.

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Applying for Renewal of Financial Aid

Applications for renewal of financial aid are usually available in mid-February.  Information is posted on our website under “Renewal & Upperclass Applicants,” and the application must be completed on-line at amherst.edu/go/netpartner, look for the "apply on-line" tab.  Students are eligible to receive financial aid at Amherstfor a total of eight semesters, although a student who is approved for a ninth semester of enrollment at the College may also receive aid.  The application deadline line is April 25.

Renewal of financial aid is based on: 

  • Filing a complete application for renewal of aid, including all required forms
  • Continuing to show need for financial aid.
  • Maintaining satisfactory academic progress toward your degree.

If You Are Planning on Studying Away…

Students who are planning on studying away from Amherst – study abroad or at another U.S. institution – should set an appointment in the spring semester with Dean Kate Gentile to discuss their plans and how financial aid can help.  Please call our department secretary at (413) 542-2296 to set an appointment.  Information about study away from the College is available from our webpage located at https://www.amherst.edu/offices/financialaid/studyabroad_aid.

Plan Ahead for Aid Refunds and Advances

If you have a credit balance on your student account, you may request a refund of the excess amount, or if your financial aid will result in a credit balance, you may request an advance on your aid.  But please plan ahead in making your requests. Checks for financial aid refunds and advances are prepared by the Comptroller’s Office only once a week — on Thursdays.  We must submit check requests by the close of business on Tuesdays.  Checks for advances and refunds are mailed to students’ post office boxes.

Note that refunds and advances cannot be requested until the first day of classes in the term, and that any outstanding paperwork or electronic procedures (such as entrance interviews or promissory notes) must be completed before funds may be made available.

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What Happens to My Financial Aid If I Live Off Campus?

 Your financial aid is not affected by your living off campus.  We use the same student expense budget for both on- and off-campus residents.  The same contribution is expected from you and your family, and your aid will remain the same – regardless of your residence.

If you live off campus and you complete the necessary paperwork in the Dean of Students Office, your term bill will be reduced by a credit for room, board, and residential life fees.  Any scholarship, grant or loan aid from the College or outside organizations will be applied to your student account for tuition and student activities and Campus Center program fees.  If your scholarship, grant and loan aid doesn’t cover all of your billed fees, the balance of your bill would be paid by your family contribution along with your room and board costs.  If your financial aid exceeds the tuition and required fees expenses, the aid in excess of your billed fees will be available to help cover your living costs, such as, rent, food, utilities, etc.  The rest of your living costs and other out-of-pocket expenses (books, supplies, personal expenses, and travel) would be borne by you and your family – that is, from your family contribution and student employment earnings. 

If there is aid (pending credit) on your student account after the billed tuition and fees have been covered, the funds will be available after the first day of classes of each term.

Help Available for Book Costs              

If you receive scholarship help from the College and the cost of required books and supplies exceed $1,000 for the academic year, your scholarship aid can be adjusted for the difference.  To ask for an adjustment, you should send the Office of Financial Aid a listing of your courses and the total cost of books and supplies (including lab fees) for each class.  If you have questions, contact the aid office.

 Students who are having difficulty with book expenses may have some options in rearranging self-help (work and loan) in their aid awards.  If you didn’t achieve the summer savings amount that we used in calculating your financial aid or if you want to shift some work to loan in your aid package, consult us to see if a change is possible.  Also, if you are working, you may take an advance on your earnings by borrowing a no-interest short-term loan, which can be repaid from your student employment income.

Financial Aid for Music Performance Courses

Students who receive scholarship aid from the College and who enroll in music performance courses for academic credit will receive additional scholarship aid to cover the extra tuition expense.  Students who are receiving scholarship aid from the College and who enroll in non-credit music performance courses may request Amherst Student Loan assistance to cover the extra tuition expense.  Contact the aid office for more information.

Support for Unreimbursed Medical and Dental Costs

If your total parental contribution (not adjusted for number of children in college) is $5,000 or less, you may qualify for assistance with medical and dental expenses that are incurred during the academic year and that are not covered by health insurance.  We expect that you will seek reimbursement through health insurance before you ask for help with these expenses from financial aid resources.  Please consult the financial aid office for further information.

May I Get Financial Help to Purchase a Personal Computer?

Yes.  If you have financial need, you may borrow a long-term student loan for purchase of a reasonably priced, education-related computer.  Appropriate software and equipment (e.g., network card, printer, etc.) may also be included.  The College sends information about recommended computer packages in the summer.  You may, however, propose other alternatives to us.  Direct purchase must be made while you are a student or in the summer immediately before your first year of college. More deails on computer purchases can be found here.

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You May Owe Income Taxes on Scholarship and Grant Aid

If your scholarship and grant aid in a given calendar year exceeded tuition, fees, and required books, you should report the excess scholarship and grant amount in your income tax return.  (This doesn’t apply to loans.  Earnings from student employment are taxable like any other wages.)  Information about taxes on scholarship and grant aid is posted on our website.

An international student’s tax situation is usually more complex.  The College is required by law to withhold taxes from scholarships and issue a Form 1042-S to each student indicating the amount of potentially taxable scholarship and the amount withheld.  In some cases, tax treaties affect the amount that may be taxed.

Student Employment Reminders 

Forms and Taxes

To be employed by the College, you must complete three forms –

Social security taxes (F.I.C.A.) are not withheld from student earnings for employment on campus during the academic year.  However, F.I.C.A. taxes must be withheld from any off-campus earnings and summer employment on campus.

Limits On Work Hours

In general, a student employee should not work more than 20 hours a week during any week in which classes are held, and no more than 40 hours a week at other times, including summer.  U.S. students who exceed these limits may jeopardize their status as a “full-time” student under Internal Revenue Service rules, which may affect the ability of their parents to claim federal education tax credits for them and may subject them to FICA taxes during the school year.  International students who exceed these limits may jeopardize their student visa status.

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Working On Campus

If you work on campus, the department you’re working for must complete an employment form and send it to the Office of Financial Aid.  Each student worker must be assigned to a specific position in a specific department at a specific hourly rate.  Once we have your department, position, and rate in the computer, no further paperwork is needed unless there’s a change in any of these three items.  If the paperwork is not submitted on time, your paycheck will be delayed.  Submitting this information is the responsibility of the employing department, but when you begin work in any new position, with a new department, or if your hourly wage rate changes, it would be helpful if you ask the department you work for whether they’ve sent in the paperwork for you.

Working Off Campus Under Work-Study

If you are eligible for the Federal Work-Study program, you may be employed off campus by an eligible non-profit organization or government agency in work that is “for the public good.”  If you’re interested in off-campus FWS employment, visit the financial aid office for information about available positions.  Note that off-campus Work-Study positions are available in the summer as well as during the academic year.  Note that earnings during Interterm are included in the academic year ceiling for Federal Work-Study.

Questions About Summer Work

Work Off-Campus in the Summer With Federal Work-Study

Students may work off-campus during the summer under the Federal Work-Study program.  In general students may work for non-profit organizations and government agencies in jobs that are “for the public good.” 

Savings From Off-Campus Summer Work-Study

Students may work off-campus during the summer under the Federal Work-Study program.  In general students may work for non-profit organizations and government agencies in jobs that are “for the public good.”  Fuller details, including limitations, are available on the office’s website.  

The purpose of the Federal Work-Study program is to help students with educational expenses.  Because of this, students who work under the FWS program are expected to save as much as possible toward their academic year expenses, but the program allows reasonable expenses for living costs during the summer.  An initial financial aid award letter will show the full amount that you’re authorized to earn under the off-campus Work-Study contract, with no adjustment for expenses.  We expect most students to submit a “Student Income Contribution” appeal at the end of summer so that we can adjust the expected savings for the summer’s living expenses.

Applications are also available from the office or on the Web site.  Off-campus positions require us to contract with the employing organization for a set amount of earnings and a specified time period of employment, so particular attention must be paid to those parts of the application.   The organization usually pays “matching” funds equal to 10 percent of your wages plus employer expenses for FICA taxes (7.65 percent) and workers’ compensation insurance (2 percent).  The remaining 90 percent of student wages is paid from federal and College funds.  Student employees must have FICA taxes withheld for summer employment.

Summer “Fellowships for Action” funds available through the Center for Community Engagement or Career Center may sometimes be used to provide the matching funds usually paid by the employing organization.

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International Students Who Work on Campus in the Summer

International students often spend the summer at the College.  The usual expectation is that international students will earn enough to support themselves during the summer.  Earnings beyond a reasonable level of expenses (typically $3,000) are usually considered to be savings for the following academic year.  If you will be working on campus this summer and earn more than this amount, a contribution from your earnings will be expected toward next year’s educational costs.  Please confer with us about what savings will be expected of you.

Beware of Earnings Limits in Off-Campus Work-Study

Students working off-campus under the Federal Work-Study program during the school year or in the summer should monitor their earnings total so that they won’t go over their authorized earnings limits.  Federal rules require us to contract with the employing organization for a set amount of earnings.  Students can’t be paid more than the contract allows.  We can advise you if you have questions about your earnings to date and what remains on your contract.

Seniors Going to Graduate or Professional School

Apply for Amherst College Fellowships

Amherst College has several fellowship funds for alumni/ae to use to pursue graduate studies.  A listing of fellowships appears in the College Catalog and more information is available from the Fellowships Office Web site — https://www.amherst.edu/academiclife/support/fellowships. Seniors who want to apply for Amherst College Fellowships may obtain application materials from the Fellowships Office, 213 Converse Hall, or the Office of Financial Aid.

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Help Is Available for “Senior Expenses”

Amherst scholarship recipients in the graduating class who have “senior expenses” can ask for assistance from the financial aid office.  Senior expenses include graduate school application and testing costs, resume preparation, and unreimbursed interview costs, such as travel expenses. 

Students whose total parental contribution (not adjusted for number of children in college) is $5,000 or less may qualify for a Dean’s Discretionary Grant of as much as $400.  Additional expenses of as much as $2,000 may be covered through an Amherst College Loan.   For students who receive scholarship aid from the College and whose total parental contribution is more than $5,000, student loan assistance is available.  Federal aid funds can’t be used because the government says senior expenses aren’t part of current-year educational costs.

Note that academic expenses related to a thesis are a part of the books and supplies allowance.  If reasonable thesis expenses exceed the standard allowance, a student receiving scholarship aid from the College may request an adjustment in financial assistance.  Most additional thesis expenses are covered with scholarship aid.

Requests for assistance with senior expenses should be made in writing.  In most instances it is helpful to set an appointment with a financial aid dean to discuss your senior expenses or extraordinary thesis expenses.

Graduating Seniors with Federal Student Loans Must Do an “Exit Interview”

Graduating seniors who have borrowed a federal student loan while at Amherst are required to do an “exit interview” before they leave the College.  If you borrowed a federal Stafford Loan, you should do the exit interview on-line at https://studentloans.govThe link is also on our website.

If you borrowed a federal Perkins Loan or an Amherst College Loan, we will contact you in the latter part of your final semester to arrange an exit interview.

Consider the Benefits of Federal Student Loan Consolidation

A federal Direct Consolidation Loan allows you to combine one or more federal education loans into a new loan that offers you several advantages.

You may review your federal student loans at http://www.nslds.ed.gov.

More information is available from the Federal Direct Consolidation Loans website — http://www.loanconsolidation.ed.govYou should carefully review the benefits of your current federal education loan(s) before proceeding with a Federal Direct Consolidation Loan.

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 This page was last updated February 5, 2016.