How do I get my student loan refund check?

August 1, 2011 by Kenneth O'Connor

7 comments

A student’s journey through college can come with a lot of expenses. That’s why students are allowed to access refund checks to pay for some of these expenses.

Decking out a dorm can be expensive, watch your budget!

As a result, getting hands on a loan refund check becomes very important for many students as the semester begins. Here are some things you should know about when it comes to getting a refund check.

1. What is a refund check from a college? A refund from a college is a result of having more total funding on your account than the actual balance due. Funding on your account comes from a combination of sources including, financial aid, scholarships, student loans, and cash payments.

2. How do they get processed?

Getting a student loan refund check follows specific steps:

First: The office of financial aid must award all of the student’s financial aid and student loans. While awarding this funding, it is the financial aid department’s responsibility to make sure they meet the federal regulations for the cost of attendance (full article on cost of attendance). A normal cost of attendance for college includes the cost of tuition, room, board, transportation, books and miscellaneous expenses. When added together, the cost of attendance is always greater than the actual charges on the tuition statement. The cost of attendance is established as a maximum amount of total funding that can pay to a student account during any academic period, and is meant to prevent students from borrowing far more than they actually need for reasonable living expenses.

Raise awareness on your campus about responsible student loan refund management

Second: The student must make sure they complete all required paperwork for their financial aid to pay correctly. This includes the award letter, any loan promissory notes required, and any financial aid verification documentation if required. If you are trying to secure your refund check, but are still missing key documents, the refund check will not be released to you.

Third: For most students looking to get a refund check, there is a supplemental student loan that must first pay to the account. When regular financial aid is not enough to cover the entire bill, students turn to an alternative loan or a parent plus loan to cover it. Many times the refund check can only be made available after this additional loan pays out. There is a specific procedure followed to make this happen.

  • A. The student successfully applies for the additional loan by completing the application correctly. They are approved.
  • B. The school acknowledges the additional loan by certification. During loan certification, the financial aid office confirms the correct loan amount and that the student indeed attends the school. The school is free to reduce the loan amount to fit within the cost of attendance. So if a student applies for a $20,000 student loan, but can only fit $10,000 within the cost of attendance, then the loan is reduced.
  • C. The lender receives the certification and sends money to the school either electronically, or by paper check.
  • D. The school receives the loan funding and pays it to the student’s account along with other financial aid sources. All of the student accounts showing an excess of funding are put to a review called a “mismatch.” This is done to ensure that each student is receiving the correct amount of refund money and has not exceeded the cost of attendance with their total funding.
  • E. A refund check is sent to the student. This is done either electronically, or by paper check depending on the school. If done electronically, the student needs to complete a registration with the school for electronic funds transfer (EFT) with their checking account.

Common problems and resolutions:

All your paperwork is late: If you waited until the last minute to file your FAFSA and/or apply for student loans, anticipate that your refund check will not be available until later in the semester. Talk to your financial aid office to find out the turn around time. If they cannot give you a specific date, try to find a range, like sometime during the month of October. If you are really late, the refund may take until November, or possibly until the end of the semester.

You submitted paperwork, but something was wrong: Maybe you forgot to sign something, or forgot to submit a very important form. You may think everything is complete, but it turns out you missed something. Make sure you review all documents, and follow up with your financial aid office early in the semester to make sure things are in order.

Lesson learned: If you are looking for a refund check, submit all required info early, and follow up often to make sure everything is in order. If you are late this year, patiently work with your financial aid office so that everything is done and you know a refund is on the way.

UPDATE: Check out this handy info-graph on our Pinterest page to track down the status of your funding: http://pinterest.com/pin/537617274237291108/

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  • Wendy Rozell

    How can a school issue not one, but two refund checks (one for Spring and one for Summer semesters) and at the end of second semester let you know that you were not entitled to them and now you owe $2400.00? And then offer no explanation as to how it happened? I thought they weren’t supposed to issue refunds unless they had received the money from the lenders and applied the balance of tuition/fees – and THEN issue a check for the remainder of the loan? I am struggling with this right now. Am I wrong to feel this is unfair?

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  • L RODRIGUEZ

    What if you recently changed your address and in your student loan website there is no option to change your address, will my refund check arrive in the wrong adress?!

  • ConfusedStudent

    If Sallie Mae distributes the loan on 01/17/2013, why does the school tell me that I won’t receive any of it until 02/11/2013? My tuition and books are paid for by other means…WTF?!

  • YORKLM2

    I am STILL waiting on my refund check!! Everyday I come into my school,there’s another sign hanging in financial aid’s office saying the checks will arrive at a later and later date! I could not be more FRUSTRATED!! I just paid for everything myself n quit my full time job to attend school full time,now I find out I’ve done this for almost 2 months for nothing! Where’s my money??Im paying it back,why is it still not here??Im gonna end up losing my home! Ive already had my cable shut off,and my electricity is next! With a 6 yr old child.

  • ASU’16

    My refund check has posted to my account. How long does it takes for the money to post to my discovery card?

  • http://www.custudentloans.org/college-resource-center/ Ken

    Congrats on your funding being made available. Consult with your school’s business or bursar office to see what’s involved in adding money to your school card. Maybe you need to transfer money to the school for that to take effect?