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Glossary of Financial Aid Terms


Academic Year – The period in which school is in session, consisting of at least 32 weeks of instructional time. The school year typically includes a Fall Term (from August through December), a Spring Term (from January through May), and a Summer Term (from May through July).

Award Letter – An official document issued by the Financial Aid Office that lists all of the financial aid awarded to the student. This letter provides details of the source and amount of aid you have been awarded. You are not required to sign or return the letter.


Business Office – The COA office that is responsible for the billing and collection of College charges and the disbursement of Federal and State financial aid.


Campus-based Aid – Financial aid programs that are administered by the College. The Federal government provides COA with a fixed annual allocation, which is awarded by the Financial Aid Office to deserving students. Such programs include the Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant and the Federal Work-Study Program. Note there is no guarantee that every eligible student will receive financial aid through these programs, because funding is limited.

Custodial Parent – If a student’s parents are divorced or separated, the custodial parent is the parent with whom the student lived the most during the past 12 months. The student’s need analysis is based on financial information supplied by the custodial parent.

Default – A loan is in default when the borrower fails to pay several regular installments on time or otherwise fails to meet the terms and conditions of a loan. If you default on a loan, legal action may be taken to recover the money, including garnishing your wages and withholding income tax refunds. Defaulting on a government loan will make you ineligible for future federal financial aid, unless a satisfactory repayment schedule is arranged, and can affect your credit rating.
Deferment – Deferment occurs when a borrower is allowed to postpone repaying a loan. If you have a subsidized loan, the federal government pays the interest charges during the deferment period. If you have an unsubsidized loan, you are responsible for the interest that accrues during the deferment period. Most federal loan programs allow students to defer their loans while they are enrolled in school at least half-time. You can’t get a deferment if your loan is in default.
Delinquent – If a borrower fails to make a payment on time, the borrower is considered delinquent and late fees may be charged. If the borrower misses several payments, the loan goes into default.
Direct Subsidized Loans (SUB) – Direct Subsidized Loans are awarded on the basis of financial need. The Federal government will pay the interest while a student is enrolled at least half-time (at least 6 credit hours), during the grace period or during deferment periods. Your school will determine if you are eligible for a Direct Subsidized Loan.
Direct Unsubsidized Loans (UNSUB) – Direct Unsubsidized Loans are not based on financial need. Interest is charged during all periods, including while you are in school and during grace and deferment periods.



Eligible Non-Citizen – Someone who is not a US citizen, but is nevertheless eligible for Federal student aid. Eligible non-citizens include US permanent residents who are holders of valid green cards, US nationals, holders of Form I-94 who have been granted refugee or asylum status and certain other non-citizens. Non-citizens who hold a student visa or and exchange visitor visa are not eligible for Federal student aid.

Enrollment Status – An indication of whether you are a full-time student (12 credits or more) or three- quarter-time student (9-11 credits), half-time student (6-8 credits), or less-than-half-time student (1-5 credits). This includes Fall, Spring, and Summer semesters.

Expected Family Contribution (EFC) – The amount of money that the family is expected to be able to contribute to the student’s education, as determined by the Federal Methodology need analysis formula approved by Congress. The EFC includes the parent contribution and the student contribution, and depends on the student’s dependency status, family size, number of family members in college, taxable and non-taxable income and assets. The difference between the Cost of Attendance and the EFC is the student’s financial need, and is used in determining the student’s eligibility for need-based financial aid.


Federal Work-Study (FWS) – A Federal program that provides students with part-time employment during the school year. Eligibility for FWS is based on need. Money earned from a FWS job is not counted as income for the subsequent year’s need analysis process.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) – The Form used to apply for Pell Grants and other need-based aid. As the name suggests, there is no fee charged to file a FAFSA. An on-line FAFSA application can be found at The Department of Education’s web-site - www.fafsa.gov.


Grace Period - So that you don't have to start making payments on your loan right after you leave school or drop below 6 credit hours, each of your Direct Subsidized and Direct Unsubsidized Loans has a 6 month "grace period" that starts the day after you stop attending classes or drop below half-time enrollment. You don't have to make payments during this grace period; however interest does continue to accrue on any unsubsidized loan. PLUS loans do not have a grace period.

Grade Point Average (GPA) - An average of a student’s grades, converted to a 4.0 scale (4.0 is an A, 3.0 is a B, 2.0 is a C, and 1.0 is a D). Grades of W, PA, PB, and PC do not affect an existing GPA. Federal Satisfactory Academic Progress requirements require that all grades be included in the GPA calculation, regardless of Repeats or Fresh Start exclusions allowed by a college, and regardless of the source of payment.

Grant – A type of financial aid based on financial need that students usually do not have to repay. Students that withdraw completely from a semester may have to repay part of their grant, as calculated by the Federal Return of Title IV Funds policy.


Half-Time – The Federal Work-Study program requires that participating students be enrolled at least half-time (6, 7, or 8 credit hours).


Loan Fees (also called Origination Fees) - All loans have loan fees (also called origination fees) that are deducted proportionately from each loan disbursement you receive.


Master Promissory Note (MPN)
- the MPN is a legally binding agreement that requires you to repay your loan to the Department of Education. The MPN must be signed by the student borrower before loan funds are disbursed by the lender. It contains the terms and conditions of the loan and explains how and when it must be repaid. Students should keep the MPN and any other loan documents in a safe place for further reference.


Need – the Difference between the Cost of Attendance and the EFC is the student’s financial need – the gap between the cost of attending school and the student’s resources. The process of determining a student’s need is known as need analysis.

Need-Based – Financial aid that is need-based depends on your financial situation. Most government sources of financial aid are need-based.


Outside Resource – Aid or benefits available from other sources because a student is in school. Outside scholarships, WIA benefits, and VA educational benefits are examples of outside resources.

Outside Scholarship – A scholarship that comes from sources other than the school, Federal government, or State government.


Pell Grant – A Federal grant that provides funds based on the student’s financial needs


Satisfactory Academic Progress – A student must maintain this status in order to continue receiving Federal or State aid. If a student fails to maintain an academic standing consistent with the school’s SAP policy, they are unlikely to meet the school’s graduation requirements.

Scholarship – A form of financial aid given to students to help pay for their education. Scholarships are a form of gift aid and do not have to be repaid. Many scholarships are restricted to students in specific courses of study or with academic or artistic talent.

Selective Service System – Registration for the military draft is completed with the Selective Service System. Male students who are US citizens, have reached the age of 18, and were born after December 31, 1959, must be registered with Selective Service System to be eligible for Federal financial aid. If the student did not register , is past the age of doing so (18-25), and the school determines that the failure to register was knowing and willful, the student is ineligible for all Federal student financial aid programs. The school’s decision as to whether the failure to register was willful is not subject to appeal. Students needing help resolving problems concerning their Selective Service System registration should call 1-888-655-1825.

Statement of Educational Purpose – A legal document in which the student agrees to use the financial aid for educational expenses only. The student/parent must sign this portion of the FAFSA before Federal need-based aid can be processed. Electronic signatures can be submitted using the FSA ID.

Student Aid Report (SAR) – Report that summarizes the information included in your FAFSA. The SAR will also indicate the amount of Pell Grant eligibility, if any, and the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). If you provided a current e-mail address on your FAFSA, you will receive an e-mail shortly after you submit your FAFSA application. There will be a link for you to review your submitted information. If you did not provide a current e-mail address on your FAFSA, you will be mailed a SAR within several weeks of submitting your FAFSA. Review the information recorded on your FAFSA and correct any errors you identify.

Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) – Federal grant program for undergraduate students with exceptional need. FSEOG grants are awarded by the Financial Aid Office. Qualified students must be Federal Pell Grant recipients. FSEOG funds are limited and are awarded to eligible students who apply early.


Tax Form 1098-T – The Business Office issues IRS Tax Form 1098-T to report amounts billed for qualified tuition and related expenses that a student must pay to be enrolled at or attend an eligible educational institution.

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