These definitions are from the Federal Aid website

Academic Year

A period of at least 30 weeks of instructional time during which a full-time student is expected to complete at least 24 semester or trimester hours, or at least 36 quarter hours, at an institution that measures program length in credit hours; or at least 900 clock hours at an institution that measures program length in clock hours.

Accrual Date

The day interest charges on an educational loan begins to accrue.

Award Letter

The official document, issued by the financial aid office, which lists all the financial aid awarded to the student. While award letters vary among institutions, the letter generally lists the expected family contribution, cost of attendance, and all the terms of the aid awarded.


The process of adding unpaid interest to the principal balance of an educational loan, thereby increasing the total amount to be repaid.

Citizen/Eligible Citizen

You must be one of the following to receive federal student aid:

  • U.S. citizen
  • U.S. national (includes natives of American Samoa or Swain’s Island)
  • U.S. permanent resident with an I-151, I-551, or I-551C (Alien Registration Receipt Card)

If you’re not in one of these categories, you must have an Arrival Departure Record (I-94) from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) showing one of the following designations:

  • Refugee
  • Asylum Granted
  • Indefinite Parole and/or Humanitarian Parole
  • Cuban Haitian Entrant, Status Pending
  • Conditional Entrant (valid only if issued before April 1, 1980)

Permanent residents of the Freely Associated States may be eligible for federal student aid. Citizens of the Freely Associated States are eligible for Pell Grants, SEOG, or Work Study only. A student with a nonimmigrant visa isn’t eligible for federal student aid or need-based aid from university unless he or she has a Form I-94 with one of the endorsements listed earlier. Nonimmigrant visas include the F-1, F-2, or M-1 Student Visa; B-1 or B-2 Visitor Visa; J-1 or J-2 Exchange Visitors Visa; H series or L series Visa (which allows temporary employment in the U.S.), or a G series Visa (pertaining to international organizations). Also, someone who has only a “Notice of Approval to Apply of Permanent Residence (I717 or I464)” cannot receive federal aid or need-based aid from the university or college.

College Scholarship Service Profile (CSS PROFILE)

This application must be completed by all students who wish to be considered for institutional financial aid at the University or college. Apply online at the CSS Profile website.


A loan program that allows a borrower to combine various educational loans into one new loan. By extending the repayment period (up to 30 years depending on the loan amount) and allowing a single monthly payment, consolidation can make loan repayment easier for some borrowers.

Cost Of Attendance

The student’s cost of attendance includes tuition, fees, and standard allocation designed to cover reasonable living expenses while attending school. The cost of attendance is determined by the school using guidelines established by federal regulations. (Also known as Cost of Education or Student Budget.)


Failure to repay a student loan according to the terms agreed to when you signed a promissory note. If you default, your school, the organization that holds your loan, the state, and the federal government can all take action to recover the money, including notifying national credit bureaus of your default. Your wages and/or tax returns may be garnished, and you will no longer be eligible to receive federal financial aid.


An authorized period of time during which a borrower may postpone principal and interest payments. Deferments are available while borrowers are in school at least half time, enrolled in a graduate fellowship program or rehabilitation training program, and during periods of unemployment or economic hardship. Other deferments may be available depending on when and what you borrowed. Contact your lender for additional details.

Dependency Status

The determination of a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) applicant as dependent or independent.


The release of loan funds to the school for delivery to the borrower. Disbursements for most loans are made in equal multiple installments, and made co-payable to the borrower and the school.

Eligible Program

A program of organized instruction or study that leads to an academic, professional, or vocational degree or certificate or other recognized educational credential.

Entrance/Exit Interviews

Counseling sessions borrowers are required to attend before receiving their first loan disbursement and again before leaving school.

Expected Family Contribution (EFC)

An amount that a student and parents can reasonably be expected to contribute toward college costs. For federal aid purposes, this amount is computed according to federal guidelines. For institutional aid purposes, this number is computed using the 568 Consensus Approach. EFC is subtracted from total costs of attendance to arrive at an estimate of a student’s demonstrated need.

Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

This application must be completed by all students who wish to be considered for financial aid at the university or college. Apply online at

Federal Direct Loan Program

Federally sponsored loan programs, which include the Stafford Loan, Graduate PLUS Loan, and the Parent PLUS Loan (for parents of undergraduate students).

Federal Methodology (FM)

The formulas used to determine a student’s eligibility for federal Title IV funds. The formulas take into account income, some assets, expenses, family size, and other factors. FM is written by Congress rather than a peer community assessment and is not updated regularly.

Financial Aid Advisor (FAA)

A representative of the Financial Aid Office that reviews a student’s application and awards aid, and helps the student in all aspects of the financial aid process.

Financial Aid Package

The total financial aid a student receives. Federal and non-federal aid such as grants, loans, work-study, and scholarships are combined in a “package” to help meet the student’s need.

Financial Need

The difference between what it costs to attend a particular college and the amount it has been determined that a student and her/his family can afford to pay toward those expenses. The term “demonstrated financial need” is typically used to describe an assessment based on Institutional Methodology for undergraduate need-based, institutional funding. The amount that an applicant can be expected to contribute is measured according to standardized formulas. These standardized formulas include the federal and institutional methodologies, and the 568 Consensus Approach.


An authorized period of time during which the lender agrees to temporarily postpone a borrower’s principal repayment obligation. Interest continues to accrue and usually must be paid during the forbearance period. Forbearance may be granted at the lender’s discretion when a borrower is willing to repay their loan but is unable to do so.


A type of financial aid award based on need or merit that is not repaid by the student.

Grace Period

The period between the time a borrower leaves school or drops below half-time and the time they are obligated to begin repaying their loans – usually six or nine months, depending on the type of loan.

Institutional Methodology

A nationally accepted standard used by many colleges, universities, graduate and professional schools, and private scholarship programs for assessing a family’s financial eligibility to receive funding from the school to help meet the Cost of Attendance. While similar to the federal methodology, IM includes a comprehensive review of assets, income, family size, home equity, and other factors. Institutional Methodology also permits more generous treatment of medical/dental expenses, elementary and secondary school tuition payments, and child support payments in determining a family’s total available income to pay for Cost of Attendance. The 568 Consensus Approach uses the IM as a base for its calculations.

Institutional Student Information Report

The Institutional Student Information Report (ISIR) is the name for the electronic version of Student Aid Report (SAR) delivered to schools by the FAFSA processors.


A fee charged for the use of borrowed money. Interest is calculated as a percentage of the principal loan amount. The rate may be constant throughout the life of the loan (fixed rate), or it may change at specified times (variable rate).

IRS Tax Return Transcript

A fee charged for the use of borrowed money. A detailed document obtained from the Internal Revenue Service which lists most line items from your tax return (Form 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ) as it was originally filed, including any accompanying forms and schedules. An IRS Tax Return Transcript can be ordered online at


A financial institution (bank, savings and loan, or credit union) that provides the funds for students and parents to borrow educational loans. Some schools are also lenders.

Loan Replacement Grant

Grant funds replace need-based loans in the initial award package for eligible dependent undergraduate students. The eligible grant amount represents the student’s self-help portion normally given in the form of a loan. More info here.

Merit-Based Aid

Financial aid that is awarded based on a student’s academic, leadership or artistic merit, or some other criteria, and does not depend on financial need. Merit-based awards may look at a student’s grades, test scores, special talents, or extracurricular activities to determine eligibility. The University or college’s athletic program is guided by NCAA Division III regulations and does not offer athletic scholarships. To apply for University merit-based aid, please contact your admissions office.

Need-Based Aid

Financial aid that is awarded based on a student’s financial circumstance. Need-based aid can be awarded in the form of grants, loans, or work-study. Students who believe their families will need help in supporting their educational costs are encouraged to apply for need-based aid at the time they apply for admission to the University.

Needs Analysis

A process of reviewing a student’s aid application to determine the amount of financial aid a student is eligible for. Completing a needs analysis form is the required first step in applying for most types of financial aid.

New Borrower

A borrower who has no outstanding (unpaid) loan balances on the date (s)he signs the promissory note for a specific educational loan. New borrowers may be subject to different regulations than borrowers who have existing loan balances.

National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS)

The National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) is the national database of information about loans and grants awarded to students under Title IV of the Higher Education Act (HEA) of 1965. NSLDS provides a centralized, integrated view of Title IV loans and grants during their complete life cycle, from aid approval through disbursement, repayment, delinquency, and closure.

Parent Contribution

A portion of the expected family contribution that is derived from the parents’ family income, assets, state and federal taxes, an allowance for family living expenses, and the costs of other family members in college.

Pell Grant

For undergraduate students, first baccalaureate degree only. Eligibility is based on federal methodology. The amount of the award ranges from $486 to $5,550 subject to Congressional appropriations, and will be reduced for students who enroll less than full time.

Perkins Loan

Perkins Loans are for graduates and undergraduates who are enrolled at least half-time. Awards are based on financial need as demonstrated by the information provided on your aid application and on the availability of funds. Preference is given to students with exceptional need and meet filing deadlines.


The amount borrowed. Interest is charged on this amount, and guaranty and origination fees will be deducted prior to disbursement.

Promissory Note

The legal document borrowers sign when they get an education loan. It lists conditions under which the money is borrowed and the terms under which borrowers agree to repay the loan with interest. Borrowers should keep the borrower copy of their promissory notes until the loans are fully repaid.

Repayment Schedule

Discloses the borrower’s monthly payment, interest rate, total repayment obligation, due dates and length of time for repaying the loan.

Self Help

Financial aid self-help awards are available via programs that require the student to either repay the assistance or work for the assistance. Loans and Work-Study are examples of self-help awards.

Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (SEOG)

Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant is for undergraduate students, first baccalaureate degree only. Federal grant awarded based on a federal formula using data provided in your aid application. Priority is given to students who are eligible for Federal Pell Grants.

Student Contribution

In addition to the amount parents are asked to contribute, students are also expected to help meet a portion of their own educational costs each year. A student’s minimum contribution may come from prior-year earnings, summer employment, savings, and educational benefits.

Student Aid Report (SAR)

A form sent to the student after submitting the FAFSA to the federal processor. The SAR shows the information that was processed and indicates Pell Grant Eligibility.

Subsidized Loan

A loan based on financial need for which the federal government pays the interest that accrues while the borrower is in an in-school, grace, or deferment status. For Direct Subsidized Loans first disbursed between July 1, 2012, and July 1, 2014, the borrower will be responsible for paying any interest that accrues during the grace period. If the interest is not paid during the grace period, the interest will be added to the loan’s principal balance.

Unsubsidized Loan

A loan for which the borrower is fully responsible for paying the interest regardless of the loan status. Interest on unsubsidized loans accrues from the date of disbursement and continues throughout the life of the loan.


A process of review to determine the accuracy of the information on a student’s financial aid application. Students are selected for verification by the federal Central Processing System (CPS) when their FAFSA applications are processed.