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Beginning August 2021, changes will be made to the timing and method of some student award payments to ensure the University is compliant with federal and state regulations. Starting in 2020, a workgroup including members from The Graduate School, Office of Scholarships and Student Aid, University Finance (Accounts Payable, Cashier, Payroll), the Chancellor’s Office, Office of Sponsored Research and Information Technology Services took a comprehensive look at how financial aid payments are made, and they identified some changes that need to be made to ensure compliance.

Tracking the payments

Students at Carolina are involved in many types of activities and receive opportunities and payments from a variety of sources including federal or state aid, scholarships, training grants and awards. Most of these payments are considered financial aid, and as such, the sum of these payments should not exceed the cost of attendance for that student. If the financial aid a student receives exceeds their cost of attendance, the University is out of compliance.

What’s considered financial aid?

Any money paid to support a student’s academic progress is considered financial aid unless it is compensation for work performed, like being a teaching assistant or reimbursement of expenses for travel performed on behalf of the University. For example, if a graduate student travels to represent the University at a meeting for high school seniors who were accepted to UNC, the student’s reimbursement for travel expenses wouldn’t be considered financial aid since it is for work performed on behalf of the University.

Key Changes and Impacts

  • Training grants to students are financial aid and will be entered in GradStar. The grants will show up on the Student Center account in ConnectCarolina.
  • Awards for fellowships, scholarships, prizes and contests, research studies and internship opportunities, including stipends, and travel for the student’s academic benefit are financial aid and will be processed in GradStar. Some of these payments are currently processed incorrectly as vouchers.
  • GradStar will be updated to show more detail about each type of student payment.
  • The payment schedule for students on training grants will change from monthly to once per semester. Departments will enter four payments (fall/spring/summer I/summer II) for training grants rather than twelve monthly payments per student.
  • The volume of payments previously processed in Accounts Payable will decrease because the payments will move to GradStar.

Besides ensuring the University follows federal and state regulations, these changes will benefit students in a few ways.

  • No more waiting for the monthly check. The total amount a student receives is not changing, but they’ll receive the money at the start of fall and spring semesters. This should make budgeting finances for the semester easier.
  • Award payments will be reported on the 1098-T Tuition Payments Statement. Awards applied to student expenses tend to receive a more favorable tax treatment than 1099 MISC or W-2 compensation.

Student Advisors and other campus employees who work with student payments will be invited to an informational webinar on May 20. Be on the lookout for the invitation. For more information, visit the GradStar webpage on The Graduate School website.

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