How Aid Works

​Disbursements & Refunds

In a continued effort to make Financial Aid processes more clear, the following is a breakdown of how aid is applied to your student account.

When you receive aid, all of your accepted financial aid for a current term will apply toward charges on your account before refunds are issued. This means, Financial Aid will apply to the oldest charges in the current or prior term of the same academic year first.

For example, the 2023-2024 academic year includes: Fall 2023, Spring 2024 and Summer 2024.

  • Fall 2023 financial aid can apply toward Fall 2023 charges;
  • Spring 2024 financial aid can apply to Fall 2023 and Spring 2024 charges;
  • Summer 2024 aid can apply toward all three terms.
  • Financial Aid applies to the oldest charges on the account before applying toward current charges.

It is important to note that:

  • Financial Aid from the current term will not pay future terms (e.g. Fall 2023 aid will not pay Spring 2024 charges);
  • Financial Aid will not apply toward future academic years (e.g. Summer 2023 aid will not pay Fall 2023 charges); and
  • Financial Aid will not apply toward prior year charges (e.g. Fall 2023 aid will not apply to Summer 2023 charges as Fall 2023 is part of the 2023–2024 academic year, and Summer is the last term in the 2022–2023 academic year.

This last point is key as students may be under the impression that Fall 2023 aid will pay off remaining Summer 2023 charges, which is not the case.

If charges from the prior academic year are not paid, they can result in financial holds that may impact your ability to enroll in future courses.

Note: There are some exceptions in that some specific awards can bypass charges on the account and refund directly to the student. It is important to monitor your account regularly because these awards result in refunds, leaving charges on your account unpaid.


Webinar: When You Get Paid & Things About Aid

This webinar was hosted on July 18th, 2023 and covers disbursements, refunds, and other financial aid specific details you will want to know to start your year of right! 

Reduced Courseload Information: Cal Grant & Pell Grant

There are a few things you should be prepared for when you are a Cal Grant and/or Pell Grant recipient and take a reduced course load.

At the start of the semester, Cal Grants and Pell Grants are awarded assuming you are enrolled in at least 12 units, but they pay differently.

  • Cal Grants pay based on enrollment. For example, if you are enrolled half-time and your full time Cal Grant award is $6,285.00, then only half ($3,142) of the awarded amount for the semester ($6,285) will pay. Your refund will be smaller at the start of the term.
  • The full amount of the awarded Pell Grant pays at the start of the semester, regardless of enrollment.

We capture your enrollment level at the end of the 5th week of classes and adjust Cal Grants and Pell Grants accordingly. If you remain enrolled at the same reduced level as the start of the term, here’s what to expect:

  • The amount of your Cal Grant award will be reduced to match your enrollment. Since only a portion of your Cal Grant paid initially, this will not create an invoice.
  • The amount of your Pell Grant award will be reduced to match your enrollment. Since the full Pell Grant paid at the start of the term, this can result in an invoice on your bill.

Depending on funding availability, we may award a combination of institutional gift aid, loans or work-study to offset the reduction.

  • Any awards off-setting the reduction in Cal Grant will result in a potential new refund if you do not have any outstanding charges on your account.
  • Any awards off-setting the reduction in Pell Grant will go towards paying the invoice created by the award reduction.

Timing is key!

​It is important that you monitor your account every time you get a refund to make sure you do not owe anything. If you do have outstanding charges after you receive a refund, it will be your responsibility to pay the invoice.

The impact of taking a reduced course load on your actual awards may differ from what is described above. Contact Cal Student Central to find out how your individual awards may change.

​Disclosure: UC Berkeley reserves the right to adjust awards to correct any awarding errors. Changes to qualifying information or revisions of federal, state or institutional policy may result in updates to aid eligibility and adjustments of financial aid awards. Information is subject to change.