UMass adjusts financial aid, reflected in students’ refunds

‘Whatever share of the cost of attendance that students paid from their own funds for room and meals was returned to them’

(Collegian File Photo)

(Collegian File Photo)

By Sophia Gardner, Assistant News Editor

University of Massachusetts students are speaking out on social media after receiving seemingly incorrect refund checks from the school. This comes after the University announced on March 27 that they would be refunding students for room and board fees based on the date that residence halls closed.

After receiving these refunds, some students expressed that their refunds were less than they had been expecting. “A lot of people have been noticing a drastic difference in the amount they’re supposed to be refunded and the amount they were actually given,” said Barbara Ferreira, a freshman biochemistry and psychology major, in a Facebook post.

The University explained that they had adjusted these refunds based on how much aid a student was receiving from UMass. “The adjustment is based on a student’s original, need-based financial aid award provided by UMass to help pay the full cost of attendance (COA),” said Ed Blaguszewski, Executive Director of Strategic Communications for the University. “The result is that whatever share of the COA that students paid from their own funds for room and meals was returned to them.”

Under these guidelines, if a student covered the entire cost of living and dining on campus, they should receive a full refund for the period between March 22 and the end of the semester. If students covered half of this cost and the other half was covered by aid provided by the university, the student should only receive a refund for the portion they covered themselves.

Students refunds were adjusted based only on need-based aid provided by the University. “No scholarships, federal grants, state grants, work study, waivers, or loans were factored into the formula,” said Blaguszewski.

Blaguszewski also said that every student’s refund was calculated the same way: “Room and board adjustments were determined in a straightforward, consistent way for all students.”

The University explained this adjustment in a FAQ sent out as part of the University’s COVID-19 newsletter on March 30. “Since your cost of attendance has decreased through this adjustment, the campus is adjusting your financial aid proportionally,” reads the newsletter.

Some students expressed that they did not realize that refunds would be calculated in this way: “I wasn’t aware that they would be subtracting aid from my refund,” said Ferreira. “They ended up subtracting $1,025 from my refund and I had no idea.”

She went on to say that she wasn’t the only one who felt this way. “A lot of people were surprised by the deductions in aid. No one knew about it,” she said.

Jordan Law, a senior hospitality and tourism student, expressed a similar concern: “I had no idea [that refunds would be adjusted for aid].”

Some students are also still struggling to calculate how much was deducted from their refund, and what aid it correlates to: “I did the math to figure out how much of my meal plan was left, I was expecting around $860 to be refunded to me,” said Law. “The adjustment said I’m getting $919 back but my refund is only for $600.”

Some students expressed that they disagreed with the decision to subtract financial aid from refunds: “I don’t think they should even be going back to adjust financial aid,” said Law.  “I was relying on my refund to help me through May.”

Sophia Gardner can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @sophieegardnerr.