When I first started writing this blog, I thought about the kinds of things I would want to know as a prospective, or even current student enrolled at UNC Asheville. These things, I imagined, might include what campus life is like, what Asheville and its surrounding areas look like, and what kinds of things there are to do around here. Looking back on previous posts, I think I've done a pretty good job of these things, touching on some scholarly, recreational, and cultural topics related to our community here. However, there are some more technical topics I've been wanting to write about for a while. One of these has to do with how to use financial aid (either in the form of federal aid or private scholarships) to live off campus. The 2011-2012 school year is my first living alone off campus, and so is my first time experiencing paying for my own housing and grocery expenses. At first, I was pretty concerned about how the financial aid I am receiving would be applied towards my expenses, but when I got the low down from our financial aid office, things became, in an instant, clear and straightforward. I know that for transfer students, finding on-campus housing is a bit difficult (although we're adding a new dorm--post to come), so this post should be useful to you all as you consider how you're going to make ends meet.
Here's what you need to know: When you receive financial aid, it is actually made payable to the university itself. I, for example, am receiving scholarship money from Lowe's. When Lowe's writes a check for the money (once in the fall and once in the spring), it is made out to UNC Asheville. The same holds true for federal aid awards. At the beginning of each semester, the financial aid money students receive, are processed by the university's cashier's office and paid to the university, typically covering the cost of tuition and/or housing and miscellaneous expenses. For those of us living off campus, and therefore not making payments for room and board, there will be a deficit (you may also have leftover money if the amount of your award is greater than the cost of attendance, although you can adjust the amount of federal aid you are receiving to prevent this from happening). This leftover money is then administered in the form of "refund checks" written to the particular student in question. The money is then able to be deposited into one's bank account and used to cover the cost of that individual's housing and grocery needs for the semester. The university writes these refund checks at the very beginning of each semester and sends out an e-mail notification when these checks are available to be picked up.
I got my refund check on Tuesday and realized that this, although a routine part of student life, was something with which new students might not be familiar. Have any questions about related topics? Leave them in the comments below. Hope this helps everyone!