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Graduate Award Guide

Financial Aid Award Guide 

The Financial Aid and Scholarships Office works closely with students to make a priceless UC Berkeley education an affordable reality. At UC Berkeley, we are proud to say that nearly everyone is eligible for financial aid. This Graduate Award Guide will assist you in understanding and accepting the financial aid you have been offered.

The Financial Aid and Scholarships Office administers federal loans and work-study awards for graduate and professional students. If you are interested in being considered for federal loans or work-study, please complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).Students receiving merit-based awards including fellowships, fee remissions for teaching and research appointments, and department awards are encouraged to contact the Graduate Division or their academic department for more information about these awards. Federal regulations require that these awards are reported to the Financial Aid and Scholarships Office. The total of the financial aid awards you receive cannot exceed your student budget. It is possible, therefore, that these merit-based awards could reduce a component of your package of financial aid awards. We may need to reduce your federal loan and/or work-study award(s) by the amount of merit-based award(s) to ensure that your total awards do not exceed your student budget.

Understanding Your Award

Student Budget: Your Student Budget is an estimate of your total expenses based on your college or program’s academic year (tuition, fees, and living expenses). Most graduate program’s follow a nine month academic year but there are some that have slightly different program lengths. By federal law, a Student Budget may cover only student expenses for the terms defined as the academic year. Expenses for periods of non enrollment, spouse, and dependent living expenses cannot be included, with the exception of documented child care costs which may be added. Your eligibility for federal student loans will be the difference between your budget and any other merit-based or other grant awards you receive. You may submit a Cost of Attendance (COA) Adjustment Request with documentation of any educational expenses you have that exceed items in the standard budget. COA Adjustment Request Forms can be downloaded from the Forms section of this site.

Student Contribution: Your Student Contribution is calculated by a formula called Federal Methodology passed into law by Congress in 1992. Your Student Contribution is derived from the income and assets you report on your FAFSA. Your Student Contribution is not used to determine your eligibility for merit-based grant awards from your academic department or the Graduate Fellowships Office, or for most federal loans.  Your Student Contribution is only used to determine your eligibility for Health Professions Student Loans, Perkins Loans, and Federal Work-Study.

Other Resources: These are awards that have been reported by sources outside of the Financial Aid and Scholarships Office, including your academic department and the Graduate Fellowships Office.  If you have been notified of any awards not shown in this section, you are required to report them in MyFinAid (summer 2016) or in CalCentral (aid year 2016-17 and beyond). It is your responsibility throughout the year to report any Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) or Graduate Student Researcher (GSR) jobs, fellowships, or department awards (fees and/or stipend), travel grants, normative time grants, fee remissions, GSHIP waivers, or other aid not already shown in this section. Please note that if your department has only reported the fall semester portion of an award that you will also receive in the spring semester, it is important to add the spring semester award on My Finances as soon as you become aware of it. Outside awards may be reported to the Financial Aid and Scholarships Office at any time and you are encouraged to make sure that all of your awards are reported in a timely manner.

If you report changes in resources, your financial aid eligibility will be re-evaluated and we will notify you by email if your award is revised. If the Graduate Division, your academic department, or an outside agency reports awards that you have not previously reported to us, we will adjust your loan or work-study. You may be required to repay loans already disbursed if the total of your financial aid awards, including your outside aid, exceeds your student budget.

Financial Aid Awards: This is your initial offer of federal financial aid. Typical financial aid offers include a Federal Direct Loan and a Federal Direct Grad PLUS Loan to meet your need up to your student budget. Financial aid offers will not include other types of awards unless you, your department, or the Graduate Division's Fellowships Office have reported them to the Financial Aid and Scholarships Office.  See Types of Financial Aid below for loan details or information about how to request work-study.

Your financial aid offer may be revised if: 1) there are changes in your financial situation (e.g., funds or support from any source including the Graduate Division or your department), 2) there is a change in state or federal funding, 3) there is a change in your enrollment (e.g. fall & spring enrollment to fall enrollment only) or 4) there is an error in the offer.

The Financial Aid and Scholarships Office will normally reduce unpaid direct loan prior to reducing paid direct loan. This means your spring refund from your directo loan could be less than the fall refund if new award information was added to your aid package after fall direct loan paid to your account. (Note: This will be done the CARS system for transactions relating to spring 2016 and summer 2016 only; future transactions will take place in CalCentral.)

Accepting Your Financial Aid

Go to MyFinAid (summer 2016) or CalCentral (aid year 2016-17 and beyond) to view, accept or decline your awards and/or to request a work-study award. Review your financial aid offer to ensure all fellowships, department, or other outside awards have been reported. These awards are automatically accepted for you.

Federal student loans are available to most students regardless of income and provide a range of repayment options including income-based repayment plans and loan forgiveness benefits, which other education loans are not required to provide. You may accept all, a portion of or none of your loan(s) at this time. You are under no obligation to accept the loans offered to you. We strongly encourage you to borrow only what you need to meet your educational expenses. You may accept some now, and request an additional loan later. Students enrolled at least half-time in both the fall and spring semesters have until April 1 to accept loans. 

Read the instructions in the online financial aid portal carefully:

Report any changes in your enrollment plans, and

Report any outside resources you will be receiving that are not already displayed.

If you accept a Federal Direct Loan you need to:

Complete a Direct Loan Master Promissory Note (MPN) at (unless you received a Direct Loan within the past 12 months).

Complete Direct Loan Entrance Counseling at (unless you completed this requirement in a previous year). You may choose the combined Direct Loan / Grad PLUS option.

If at any time you choose to request a Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loan you need to:

Complete a Direct Loan Master Promissory Note (MPN) at (unless you received a Direct Loan within the past 12 months).

Complete Direct Loan Entrance Counseling at (unless you completed this requirement in a previous year). You may choose the combined Direct Loan / Grad PLUS option.

If you accept a Federal Perkins Loan, you will receive an email instructing you how to complete the required Master Promissory Note and Loan Entrance Interview.

Receiving Your Financial Aid Award

Approximately one week before the beginning of each semester, your financial aid awards (excluding work-study earnings and some private loans) will be awarded. To receive your financial aid award, you must meet these requirements:

You have accepted one or more awards.

You have signed any required Master Promissory Notes.

You have completed an entrance interview if you are a first-time borrower.

Your financial aid file is complete. You can find out in My Finaces about any missing documents in the "Required Documents" section.

You are enrolled in at least 6 units.

You have cleared any registration holds.

You are making satisfactory academic progress.

You are not overawarded.

Your financial aid funds will be applied first to University charges. Any excess aid that remains after the charges on your account have been paid in full will be refunded to you. You are strongly encouraged to complete the online Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) here (through summer 2016) or in CalCentral (fall 2016 and beyond), authorizing the direct deposit of financial aid refunds into your bank account. If you do not apply for direct deposit at least 10 business days before the beginning of the enrollment period, your refund will be held at Cal Student Central, 120 Sproul Hall, for pickup. You will receive an email advising you of when your refund is available either via EFT or as a paper check ready for pickup.

If your aid is delayed because you do not meet eligibility requirements, you can expect your aid to disburse to your account after you establish your eligibility.

Note: CARS will be used for spring 2016 and summer 2016 only. For those students still using a Campus Accounts Receivable System (CARS) account (summer 2016 only), approximately one week before the beginning of each semester, your financial aid awards (excluding work-study earnings and some private loans) will be automatically applied to your CARS account if you meet all of the requirements listed above. For fall 2016 and beyond, billing will be done in CalCentral.

Staying Eligible for Financial Aid

Satisfactory Academic Progress
Financial aid regulations require that students meet specific Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) requirements to maintain eligibility for financial aid. Review our SAP policy for more information.