Adjusted Gross Income (AGI): Your or your family's wages, salaries, interest, dividends, etc., minus certain deductions from income as reported on a federal income tax return.
Award Letter: An offer that states the type and amount of financial aid the school is willing to provide if you accept admission and register to take classes at that school.
Award Year: The school year for which financial aid is used to fund your education.
Capitalization: The addition of unpaid interest to the principal balance of a loan. When the interest is not paid as it accrues during periods of in-school status, the grace period, deferment, or forbearance, your lender may capitalize the interest. This increases the outstanding principal amount due on the loan and may cause your monthly payment amount to increase. Interest is then charged on that higher principal balance, increasing the overall cost of the loan.
Cost of Attendance (COA): The total amount it will cost you to go to school—usually stated as a yearly figure. COA includes tuition and fees; room and board (or a housing and food allowance); and allowances for books, supplies, transportation, and loan fees. It also includes miscellaneous and personal expenses.
Deferment: A postponement of payment on a loan that is allowed under certain conditions and during which interest does not accrue on Direct Subsidized Loans, Subsidized Federal Stafford Loans, and Federal Perkins Loans. All other federal student loans that are deferred will continue to accrue interest. Any unpaid interest that accrued during the deferment period may be added to the principal balance (capitalized) of the loan(s).
Dependency Status: The determination of a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) applicant as dependent or independent.
Dependent Student: A student who does not meet any of the criteria for an independent student. An independent student is one of the following: at least 24 years old, married, a graduate or professional student, a veteran, a member of the armed forces, an orphan, a ward of the court, someone with legal dependents other than a spouse, an emancipated minor or someone who is homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
Direct Loan: A federal student loan, made through the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program, for which eligible students and parents borrow directly from the U.S. Department of Education at participating schools. Direct Subsidized Loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, Direct PLUS Loans and Direct Consolidation Loans are types of Direct Loans.
Direct PLUS Loan: A loan made by the U.S. Department of Education to graduate or professional students and parents of dependent undergraduate students for which the borrower is fully responsible for paying the interest regardless of the loan status.
Emancipated Minor: An individual (under the age of 18) who has legally been determined to be an adult by a court in his or her state of legal residence.
Endorser: An endorser is someone who does not have an adverse credit history and agrees to repay the loan if the borrower does not repay it.
Enrollment Status: An indication of whether you are a full-time or part-time student. Generally, you must be enrolled at least half-time (and in some cases full-time) to qualify for financial aid.
Entrance Counseling: A mandatory information session which takes place before you receive your first federal student loan that explains your responsibilities and rights as a student borrower.
Exit Counseling: A mandatory information session which takes place when you graduate or attend school less than half-time that explains your loan repayment responsibilities and when repayment begins.
Expected Family Contribution (EFC): This is the number that is used to determine your eligibility for federal student financial aid. This number results from the financial information you provide in your FAFSA, the application for federal student aid. Your EFC is reported to you on your Student Aid Report (SAR). This number is not an amount that you are expected to pay for the college.
FAFSA: Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The FREE application used to apply for federal student aid, such as federal grants, loans, and work-study.
Federal Pell Grant: A federal grant for undergraduate students with financial need.
Federal Perkins Loan: A federal student loan for students who demonstrate financial need.
Federal Processor: The organization that processes the information submitted on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and uses it to compute eligibility for federal student aid.
Federal School Code: An identifier that the U.S. Department of Education assigns to each college that participates in the federal student aid programs. In order to send your FAFSA information to a school, you must list the school's Federal School Code on your application. A list of Federal School Codes is available at fafsa.ed.gov.
Federal Student Aid ID (FSA ID): Your FSA ID is a username and password that you create to give you access to federal student aid online systems. It serves as your identifier to allow access to personal information in various U.S. Department of Education systems and acts as your digital signature on some online forms.
Financial Aid Award: The total amount of financial aid (federal and nonfederal) a student is offered by a college.
Financial Need: The difference between the cost of attendance (COA) at a school and your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). While COA varies from school to school, your EFC does not change based on the school you attend.
Foster Care: A temporary living arrangement for dependent children when their parent(s) or another relative cannot take care of them.
Grace Period: A period of time after borrowers graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time enrollment where they are not required to make payments on certain federal student loans. Some federal student loans will accrue interest during the grace period, and if the interest is unpaid, it will be added to the principal balance of the loan when the repayment period begins.
Graduate Assistantship: There are two types of graduate assistantships: teaching assistantships (TA) and research assistantships (RA). TAs and RAs receive a full or partial tuition waiver and a small living stipend. TAs are required to perform teaching duties. RAs are required to perform research duties, not necessarily related to the student's thesis research.
Graduation Rate: Measures the progress of students who began their studies as full-time, first-time degree- or certificate-seeking students by showing the percentage of these students who complete their degree or certificate within a 150% of "normal time" for completing the program in which they are enrolled.
Graduate Student: A student who is enrolled in a Master's or Ph.D. program.
Grant: Financial aid, often based on financial need that does not need to be repaid (unless, for example, you withdraw from school and owe a refund).
Homeless: An individual is considered homeless if he or she lacks fixed, regular and adequate housing. You may be homeless if you are living in a shelter, park, motel or car, or temporarily living with other people because you have nowhere else to go. Also, if you are living in any of these situations and fleeing an abusive parent, you may be considered homeless when completing your FAFSA even if your parent would provide support and a place to live.
Home School: Students in the Degree Partnership Program are asked to declare a “Home School.” This is simply the school the student wants to receive their financial aid from. Students cannot receive federal aid from two schools at the same time.
Independent Student: An independent student is one of the following: at least 24 years old, married, a graduate or professional student, a veteran, a member of the armed forces, an orphan, a ward of the court, or someone with legal dependents other than a spouse, an emancipated minor or someone who is homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
Interest: A loan expense charged for the use of borrowed money. Interest is paid by a borrower to a lender. The expense is calculated as a percentage of the unpaid principal amount of the loan.
Interest Rate: The percentage at which interest is calculated on your loan(s).
IRS Tax Return Transcript: 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 irs.gov.
Legal Guardianship: A relationship created by court order, through which the court appoints an individual other than a minor's parent to take care of the minor. A legal guardian is not considered a parent on the student's FAFSA. In fact, a student in legal guardianship does not need to report parent information on the FAFSA because he or she is considered an independent student.
Lender: The organization that made the loan initially; the lender could be the borrower's school; a bank, credit union, or other lending institution; or the U.S. Department of Education.
Lifetime Eligibility Used (LEU): The amount of all Federal Pell Grant aid (in percentage) awarded to you divided by the amount of Pell Grant aid you would have been eligible to receive based on full-time enrollment. The amount of Federal Pell Grant funds a student may receive over his or her lifetime is limited by federal law to be the equivalent of six years of Pell Grant funding.
Loan Servicer: A company that collects payments on a loan, responds to customer service inquiries and performs other administrative tasks associated with maintaining a loan on behalf of a lender. If you're unsure of who your federal student loan servicer is, you can look it up on nslds.ed.gov.
Master Promissory Note: A binding legal document that you must sign when you get a federal student loan. The MPN can be used to make one or more loans for one or more academic years (up to 10 years). It lists the terms and conditions under which you agree to repay the loan and explains your rights and responsibilities as a borrower. It’s important to read and save your MPN because you’ll need to refer to it later when you begin repaying your loan or at other times when you need information about provisions of the loan, such as deferments or forbearance.
Matriculate: A student matriculates in college when he or she enrolls in college for the first time.
Merit-based: 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.
National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS): A centralized database, available at nslds.ed.gov, which stores information on federal grants and loans. NSLDS contains information on how much aid you've received, your enrollment status, and your loan servicer(s). You can access NSLDS using your Federal FSA ID.
Need: The difference between the COA and the EFC is the student's financial need- the gap between the cost of attending the school and the student's resources. The financial aid package is based on the amount of financial need. The process of determining a student's need is known as need analysis.
Need-based: 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.
Net Price: An estimate of the actual cost that a student and his family need to pay in a given year to cover education expenses for the student to attend a particular school. Net price is determined by taking the institution's cost of attendance and subtracting any grants and scholarships for which the student may be eligible.
Origination Fee: Fee paid to compensate for the cost of administering the loan. The origination fees are charged as the loan is disbursed.
Outside Scholarship: Also called “private scholarship.” A scholarship offered by a private organization, not the government or a college. Outside scholarships are offered by all kinds of groups, individuals, corporations and nonprofit organizations.
Out-of-state Student: A student who is attending a college or career school outside of his or her state of legal residence.
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.
Post Baccalaureate: Also referred to as Post-Bac, which is a student who has completed one undergraduate degree and is pursuing an additional undergraduate degree.
Principal: The total sum of money borrowed plus any interest that has been capitalized.
Priority Deadline: The date by which your application – whether it’s for college admission, student housing or financial aid – must be received to be given the strongest consideration. Since financial aid is often limited, meeting the priority date is important to be eligible to receive funds.
Private Loan: A non-federal loan made by a lender such as a bank, credit union, state agency, or school.
Professional Student: A student pursuing advanced study in law or medicine.
Renewable Scholarships: A scholarship that is awarded for more than one year. Usually, the student must maintain certain academic standards to be eligible for subsequent years of the award. Some renewable scholarships will require the student to reapply for the scholarship each year; others will just require a report on the student's progress toward a degree.
Room and Board: An allowance for the cost of housing and food while attending college or career school.
Satisfactory Academic Progress: A school’s standards for satisfactory academic progress toward a degree or certificate offered by that institution.
Scholarship: Money awarded to students based on academic or other achievements to help pay for education expenses. Scholarships generally do not have to be repaid.
Self-Help Aid: 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.
Special Conditions Appeal: A formal request to have a financial aid administrator review your aid eligibility and possibly use Professional Judgment to adjust the figures. For example, if you believe the financial information on your financial aid application does not reflect your family's current ability to pay (e.g., because of the death of a parent, unemployment or other unusual circumstances), you should definitely make an appeal.
State Aid: Financial aid from a student's state of legal residence.
Student Aid Report (SAR): A summary of the information you submitted on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You receive this report (often called the SAR) via e-mail a few days after your FAFSA has been processed or by mail within 7-10 days if you did not provide an e-mail address. If there are no corrections or additional information you must provide, the SAR will contain your EFC, which is the number that's used to determine your eligibility for federal student aid.
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.
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.
Unmet Need: The difference between your expected family contribution (EFC) and the total cost of attendance for a particular college.
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.
Verification: The process your school uses to confirm that the data reported on your FAFSA is accurate. Your school has the authority to contact you for documentation that supports income and other information that you reported.
William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program: The federal program that provides loans to eligible student and parent borrowers under Title IV of the Higher Education Act. Funds are provided by the federal government to eligible borrowers through participating schools.
Work-Study: A federal student aid program that provides part-time employment while you are enrolled in school to help pay your education expenses.