Financial Aid Terms
The period during which school is in session, consisting of at least 24 units and 40 weeks of instructional time (for a non standard term).
The university office that is responsible for the billing and collection of university charges.
The date on which interest charges on an educational loan begin to accrue. See also Subsidized Loan.
See Private Loans.
The process of gradually repaying a loan over an extended period of time through periodic installments of principal and interest.
An item of value, such as a family's home, business, and farm equity, real estate, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, cash, certificates of deposit (CDs), bank accounts, trust funds and other property and investments.
An official document issued by a school's financial aid office that lists all of the financial aid awarded to the student. This letter provides details on the breakdown of your financial aid package according to amount, source and type of aid. The award letter will include the terms and conditions for the financial. You are required to sign a copy of the letter, indicating whether you accept or decline each source of aid, and return it to the financial aid office.
The academic year for which financial aid is requested (or received).
When a person is declared bankrupt, he is found to be legally insolvent and his property is distributed among his creditors or otherwise administered to satisfy the interests of his creditors. Federal student loans, however, cannot normally be discharged through bankruptcy.
The person who receives the loan.
See Cost of Attendance.
An increase in the value of an asset such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds and real estate between the time the asset was purchased and the time the asset was sold.
The practice of adding unpaid interest charges to the principal balance of an educational loan, thereby increasing the size of the loan. Interest is then charged on the new balance, including both the unpaid principal and the accrued interest. Capitalizing the interest increases the monthly payment and the amount of money you will eventually have to repay. If you can afford to pay the interest as it accrues, you are better off not capitalizing it. Capitalization is sometimes called compounding. See also Unsubsidized Loans.
Interest that is paid on both the principal balance of the loan and on any accrued (unpaid) interest. Capitalizing the interest on an unsubsidized Stafford loan is a form of compounding.
Consent to Obtain Credit Report
A pre-screen form to check parents credit for purposes of obtaining the parent plus loan.
(Also called Loan Consolidation) A loan that combines several student loans into one bigger loan from a single lender. The consolidation loan is used to pay off the balances on the other loans.
A cosigner on a loan assumes responsibility for the loan if the borrower should fail to repay it.
Cost of Attendance (COA)
(Also known as the cost of education or "budget") The total amount it costs the student to go to school, including tuition and fees, room and board, allowances for books and supplies, transportation, and personal and incidental expenses. Loan fees, if applicable, may also be included in the COA. Schools establish different standard budget amounts for students living on-campus and off-campus, married and unmarried students and in-state and out-of-state students.
A loan is in default when the borrower fails to pay several regular installments on time (i.e., payments overdue by 180 days) or otherwise fails to meet the terms and conditions of the loan. If you default on a loan, the university, the holder of the loan, the state government and the federal government can take legal action 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.
Occurs when a borrower is allowed to postpone repaying the 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. You can still postpone paying the interest charges by capitalizing the interest, which increases the size of the loan. Most federal loan programs allow students to defer their loans while they are in school at least half time. If you don't qualify for a deferment, you may be able to get forbearance. You can't get a deferment if your loan is in default.
If the 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.
Determines to what degree a student has access to parent financial resources.
For a child or other person to be considered your dependent, they must live with you and you must provide them with more than half of their support. Spouses do not count as dependents in the Federal Methodology. You and your spouse cannot both claim the same child as a dependent. (See also Independent.)
The release of loan funds to the school for delivery to the borrower. Payment will be made co-payable to the student and the school. Loan funds are first credited to the student's account for payment of tuition, fees, and other school charges. Any excess funds are then paid to the student in cash or by check.
Provides the borrower with information about the actual cost of the loan, including the interest rate, origination, insurance, loan fees and any other types of finance charges. Lenders are required to provide the borrower with a disclosure statement before issuing a loan.
Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT)
Used by some schools and lenders to wire funds for Stafford and PLUS loans directly to participating schools without requiring an intermediate check for the student to endorse. The money is transferred electronically instead of using paper, and hence is available to you sooner. If you have a choice of fund transfer methods, use EFT.
Someone who is not a U.S. citizen but is nevertheless eligible for Federal student aid. Eligible non-citizens include U.S. permanent residents who are holders of valid green cards, U.S. 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 an exchange visitor visa are not eligible for Federal student aid.
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.
See Loan Interviews.
See Loan Interviews.
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 school, taxable and nontaxable income and assets. The difference between the COA and the EFC is the student's financial need, and is used in determining the student's eligibility for need-based financial aid.
FAFSA PIN Number
A four-digit number that serves as your electronic signature on your FAFSA application.
The need analysis formula used to determine the EFC. The Federal Methodology takes family size, the number of family members in college, taxable and nontaxable income and assets into account. Unlike most Institutional Methodologies, however, the Federal Methodology does not consider the net value of the family residence.
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. There are two different federal processors serving specific geographic regions.
Money provided to the student and the family to help them pay for the student's education. Major forms of financial aid include gift aid (grants and scholarships) and self-help aid (loans and work).
Financial Aid Administrator (FAA)
A college or university employee who is involved in the administration of financial aid. Some schools call FAAs "Financial Aid Advisors" or "Financial Aid Counselors".
Financial Aid Office (FAO)
The college or university office that is responsible for the determination of financial need and the awarding of financial aid.
Financial Aid Package
The complete collection of grants, scholarships, loans and work-study employment from all sources (federal, state, institutional and private) offered to a student to enable them to attend the college or university. Note that unsubsidized Stafford loans and PLUS loans are not considered part of the financial aid package, since these financing options are available to the family to help them meet the EFC.
A first-year undergraduate student who has no unpaid loan balances outstanding on the date he or she signs a promissory note for an educational loan. First-time borrowers may be subjected to a delay in the disbursement of the loan funds. The first loan payment is disbursed 30 days after the first day of the enrollment period. If the student withdraws during the first 30 days of classes, the loan is canceled and does not need to be repaid. Borrowers with existing loan balances aren't subject to this delay.
In a fixed interest loan, the interest rate stays the same for the life of the loan.
During forbearance the lender allows the borrower to temporarily postpone repaying the principal, but the interest charges continue to accrue, even on subsidized loans. The borrower must continue paying the interest charges during the forbearance period. Forbearances are granted at the lender's discretion, usually in cases of extreme financial hardship or other unusual circumstances when the borrower does not qualify for a deferment. You can't receive forbearance if your loan is in default.
Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
Form used to apply for Pell Grants and all other need-based aid. As the name suggests, no fee is charged to file a FAFSA.
Financial aid, such as grants and scholarships, which does not need to be repaid.
A short time period after graduation during which the borrower is not required to begin repaying his or her student loans. The grace period may also kick in if the borrower leaves school for a reason other than graduation or drops below half-time enrollment. Depending on the type of loan, you will have a grace period of six months (Stafford Loans) or nine months (Perkins Loans) before you must start making payments on your student loans. The 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, and 2.0 is a C). Some schools use a 5.0 scale for the GPA.
A student who is enrolled in a Masters or PhD program.
A schedule where the monthly payments are smaller at the start of the repayment period and gradually become larger.
A type of financial aid based on financial need that the student does not have to repay.
Income before taxes, deductions and allowances have been subtracted.
A small percentage of the loan that is paid to the guarantee agency to insure the loan against default. The insurance fee is usually 1% of the loan amount (and by law cannot exceed 3% of the loan amount).
Most financial aid programs require that the student be enrolled at least half-time to be eligible for aid. Some programs require the student to be enrolled full-time.
The amount of money received from employment (salary, wages, tips), profit from financial instruments (interest, dividends, capital gains), or other sources (welfare, disability, child support, Social Security and pensions).
Income Contingent Repayment
Under an income contingent repayment schedule, the size of the monthly payments depends on the income earned by the borrower. As the borrower's income increases, so do the payments. The income contingent repayment plan is not available for PLUS Loans.
An independent student is at least 24 years old as of January 1 of the academic year, is married, is a graduate or professional student, has a legal dependent other than a spouse, is a veteran of the US Armed Forces, or is an orphan or ward of the court (or was a ward of the court until age 18). A parent refusing to provide support for their child's education is not sufficient for the child to be declared independent. (See also Dependent.)
A consumer loan in which the principal and interest are repaid on a regular (usually monthly) schedule. The payments are called "installments" and are all for the same amount.
Institutional Student Information Report (ISIR)
The electronic version of SARs delivered to schools by EDExpress.
Amount charged to the borrower for the privilege of using the lender's money. Interest is usually calculated as a percentage of the principal balance of the loan. The percentage rate may be fixed for the life of the loan, or it may be variable, depending on the terms of the loan. All federal loans issued since October, 1992 use variable interest rates that are pegged to the cost of US Treasury Bills.
Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
IRS Data Retrieval Tool
Allows students and parents to access the IRS tax return information needed to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Students and parents may transfer the data directly into their FAFSA.
Federal agency responsible for enforcing US tax laws and collecting taxes.
A type of financial aid which must be repaid, with interest. The federal student loan programs (FFELP and FDSLP) are a good method of financing the costs of your college education. These loans are better than most consumer loans because they have lower interest rates and do not require a credit check or collateral. The Stafford Loans and Perkins Loans also provide a variety of deferment options and extended repayment terms.
See Consolidation Loan.
The federal government cancels all or part of an educational loan because the borrower meets certain criteria (e.g., is performing military or volunteer service).
Students with educational loans are required to meet with a financial aid administrator before they receive their first loan disbursement and again before they graduate or otherwise leave school. During these counseling sessions, called entrance and exit interviews, the FAA reviews the repayment terms of the loan and the repayment schedule with the student. These interviews may be conducted in person, or through traditional U.S. mail.
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. The formula is as follows:
Cost of Attendance (COA) - Expected Family Contribution (EFC) = Financial Need
Financial aid that is need-based depends on your financial situation. Most government sources of financial aid are need-based.
This is income after taxes, deductions and allowances have been subtracted.
See First-Time Borrower.
Fee paid to the bank to compensate them for the cost of administering the loan. The origination fees are charged as the loan is disbursed, and typically run to 3% of the amount disbursed. A portion of this fee is paid to federal government to offset the administrative costs of the loan.
Aid or benefits available because a student is in school and is counted after need is determined. Outside scholarships, prepaid tuition plans and VA educational benefits are examples of outside resources.
A scholarship that comes from sources other than the school and the federal or state government.
The process of assembling a financial aid package.
Parent Contribution (PC)
An estimate of the portion of your educational expenses that the federal government believes your parents can afford. It is based on their income, the number of parents earning income, assets, family size, the number of family members currently attending a university and other relevant factors. Students who qualify as independent are not expected to have a parent contribution.
Parent Loans for Undergraduate Students (PLUS)
Federal loans available to parents of dependent undergraduate students to help finance the child's education. Parents may borrow up to the full cost of their children's education, less the amount of any other financial aid received. PLUS Loans may be used to pay the EFC. There is a minimal credit check required for the PLUS loan, so a good credit history is required. Check with your local bank to see if they participate in the PLUS loan program. If your application for a PLUS loan is turned down, your child may be eligible to borrow additional money under the Unsubsidized Stafford Loan program.
A federal grant that provides a limited amount of funds based on the student's financial need.
Paying off all or part of a loan before it is due.
The amount of money borrowed or remaining unpaid on a loan. Interest is charged as a percentage of the principal. Insurance and origination fees will be deducted from this amount before disbursement.
Education loan programs established by private lenders to supplement the student and parent education loan programs available from federal and state governments.
Professional Judgment (PJ)
For need-based federal aid programs, the financial aid administrator can adjust the EFC, adjust the COA, or change the dependency status (with documentation) when extenuating circumstances exist. For example, if a parent becomes unemployed, disabled or deceased, the FAA can decide to use estimated income information for the award year instead of the actual income figures from the base year. This delegation of authority from the federal government to the financial aid administrator is called Professional Judgment (PJ).
The binding legal document that must be signed by the student borrower before loan funds are disbursed by the lender. The promissory note states the terms and conditions of the loan, including repayment schedule, interest rate, deferment policy and cancellations. The student should keep this document until the loan has been repaid.
The repayment schedule discloses the monthly payment, interest rate, total repayment obligation, payment due dates and the term of the loan.
The term of a loan is the period during which the borrower is required to make payments on his or her loans. When the payments are made monthly, the term is usually given as a number of payments or years.
Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP)
A student must make this in order to continue receiving federal 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, and Federal Aid requirements and may loose Financial aid eligibility.
A form of financial aid given to undergraduate students to help pay for their education. Most scholarships are restricted to paying all or part of tuition expenses, though some scholarships also cover room and board. 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, athletic or artistic talent.
Scholarship Search Service
A service that charges a fee to compare the student's profile against a database of scholarship programs. Few students who use a scholarship search service actually win a scholarship.
A loan backed by collateral. If you fail to repay the loan, the lender may seize the collateral and sell it to repay the loan. Auto loans and home mortgages are examples of secured loans. Educational loans are generally not secured.
Registration for the military draft. Male students who are US citizens and have reached the age of 18 and were born after December 31, 1959 must be registered with Selective Service to be eligible for federal financial aid. If the student did not register and 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 registration should call 1-847-688-6888.
An organization that collects payments on a loan and performs other administrative tasks associated with maintaining a loan portfolio. Loan servicers disburse loans funds, monitor loans while the borrowers are in school, collect payments, process deferments and forbearances, respond to borrower inquiries and ensure that the loans are administered in compliance with federal regulations and guarantee agency requirements.
Interest that is paid only on the principal balance of the loan and not on any accrued interest. Most federal student loan programs offer simple interest. Note, however, that capitalizing the interest on an unsubsidized Stafford loan is a form of compounded interest.
Simplified Needs Test
If the parents have an adjusted gross income of less than $50,000 and every family member was eligible to file an IRS Form 1040A or 1040EZ (or wasn't required to file a Federal income tax return), the Federal Methodology ignores assets when computing the EFC. If you filed a 1040 but weren't required to do so, you may be eligible for the simplified needs test. Details on the eligibility requirements appear on the Simplified Needs Test Chart. (Please note that starting in 2004, the AGI threshold for IRS Form 1040A and IRS Form 1040EZ changed from $50,000 to $100,000. Nevertheless, a threshold of $50,000 is still used for the simplified needs test.)
Student Accounts Office
See Accounting Department.
Student Aid Report (SAR)
Report that summarizes the information included in the FAFSA and must be provided to your school's FAO. The SAR will also indicate the amount of Pell Grant eligibility, if any, and the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). You should receive a copy of your SAR four to six weeks after you file your FAFSA. Review your SAR and correct any errors on part 2 of the SAR. Keep a photocopy of the SAR for your records. To request a duplicate copy of your SAR, call 1-800-433-3243.
The amount of money the federal government expects the student to contribute to his or her education and is included as part of the EFC. The SC depends on the student's income and assets, but can vary from school to school. Usually a student is expected to contribute about 35% of his or her savings and approximately one-half of his summer earnings above $1,750.
With a subsidized loan, such as the Perkins Loan or the Subsidized Stafford Loan, the government pays the interest on the loan while the student is in school, during the six-month grace period and during any deferment periods. Subsidized loans are awarded based on financial need and may not be used to finance the family contribution. See Stafford Loans for information about subsidized Stafford Loans. See also Unsubsidized Loan.
Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant
Federal grant program for undergraduate students with exceptional need. SEOG grants are awarded by the school's financial aid office. To qualify, a student must also be a recipient of a Pell Grant.
The number of years (or months) during which the loan is to be repaid.
Title IV Loans
Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 created several education loan programs which are collectively referred to as the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP). These loans, also called Title IV Loans, are the Federal Stafford Loans (Subsidized and Unsubsidized), Federal PLUS Loans and Federal Consolidation Loans.
Title IV School Code
When you fill out the FAFSA you need to supply the Title IV Code for each school to which you are applying. This code is a six-character identifier that begins with one of the following letters: O, G, B, or E. The Financial Aid Information Page provides a searchable database of Title IV School Codes.
Test Of English As A Foreign Language (TOEFL)
Most colleges and universities require international students to take the TOEFL as part of their application for admission. The TOEFL evaluates a student's ability to communicate in and understand English.
A student who is enrolled in a Bachelors program.
Interest income, dividend income and capital gains.
In an ideal world, the FAO would be able to provide each student with the full difference between their ability to pay and the cost of education. Due to budget constraints the FAO may provide the student with less than the student's need (as determined by the FAO). This gap is known as the unmet need.
A loan not backed by collateral, representing a greater risk to the lender. The lender may require a co-signer on the loan to reduce their risk. If you default on the loan, the co-signer will be held responsible for repayment. Most educational loans are unsecured loans. In the case of federal student loans, the federal government guarantees repayment of the loans. Other examples of unsecured loans include credit card charges and personal lines of credit.
A loan for which the government does not pay the interest. The borrower is responsible for the interest on an unsubsidized loan from the date the loan is disbursed, even while the student is still in school. Students may avoid paying the interest while they are in school by capitalizing the interest, which increases the loan amount. Unsubsidized loans are not based on financial need and may be used to finance the family contribution. See Stafford Loans for information about unsubsidized Stafford Loans. See also Subsidized Loan.
Contributions to IRAs, Keoghs, tax-sheltered annuities and 401k plans, as well as worker's compensation and welfare benefits.
US Department of Education (ED or USED)
Government agency that administers several federal student financial aid programs, including the Federal Pell Grant, the Federal Work-Study Program, the Federal Perkins Loans, the Federal Stafford Loans and the Federal PLUS Loans.
In a variable interest loan, the interest rate changes periodically. For example, the interest rate might be pegged to the cost of US Treasury Bills (e.g., T-Bill rate plus 3.1%) and be updated monthly, quarterly, semi-annually or annually.
Verification is a review process in which the FAO determines the accuracy of the information provided on the student's financial aid application. During the verification process the student and parent will be required to submit documentation for the amounts listed (or not listed) on the financial aid application. Such documentation may include signed copies of the most recent Federal and State income tax returns for you, your spouse (if any) and your parents, proof of citizenship, proof of registration with Selective Service, and copies of Social Security benefit statements and W2 and 1099 forms, among other things.
Financial aid applications are randomly selected by the Federal processor for verification, with most schools verifying at least 1/3 of all applications. If there is an asterisk next to the EFC figure on your Student Aid Report (SAR), your SAR has been selected for verification. Schools may select additional students for verification if they suspect fraud. Some schools undergo 100% verification.
If any discrepancies are uncovered during verification, the financial aid office may require additional information to clear up the discrepancies. Such discrepancies may cause your final financial aid package to be different from the initial package described on the award letter you received from the school.
If you refuse to submit the required documentation, your financial aid package will be cancelled and no aid awarded.
For Federal financial aid purposes such as determining dependency status, a veteran is a former member of the US Armed Forces (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines or Coast Guard) who served on active duty and was discharged other than dishonorably (i.e., received an honorable or medical discharge). You are a veteran even if you serve just one day on active duty - not active duty for training - before receiving your DD-214 and formal discharge papers. (Note that in order for a veteran to be eligible for VA educational benefits, they must have served for more than 180 consecutive days on active duty before receiving an honorable discharge. There are exceptions for participation in Desert Storm/Desert Shield and other military campaigns.)
ROTC students, members of the National Guard, and most reservists are not considered veterans.
Since the 1995-96 academic year, a person who was discharged other than dishonorably from one of the military service academies (the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, the Naval Academy at Annapolis, the Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs or the Coast Guard Academy at New London) is considered a veteran for financial aid purposes. Cadets and midshipmen who are still enrolled in one of the military service academies, however, are not considered veterans. According to the US Department of Education's Action Letter #6 (February 1996), "a student who enrolls in a service academy, but who withdraws before graduating, is considered a veteran for purposes of determining dependency status".
Having a DD-214 does not necessarily mean that you are a veteran for financial aid purposes. As noted above, you must have served on active duty and received an honorable discharge.
Ward of the Court
A ward of the court is someone under the protection of the courts. The ward of the court may have a guardian appointed by the court. The legal guardian is not personally liable for the ward's expenses and is not liable to third parties for the ward's debts.
Although a ward of the court can have a legal guardian, having a legal guardian does not automatically make the child a ward of the court. A legal guardian can be appointed by parental consent through a power of attorney. A legal guardian must have been appointed by the court for the child to be a ward of the court. When a guardian is appointed by the court, the parent no longer has the authority to revoke the guardianship.
Often a minor becomes a ward of the court when the court determines that the child will be subject to abuse or neglect if they remain with the parent or if both of the student's biological or adoptive parents are deceased.
Note that a child does not automatically become a ward of the court upon being incarcerated. The key issue is whether the court assumed custody of the child because it found that the parents are unable to properly care for the child. Likewise, emancipation does not make a student a ward of the court. Neither incarceration nor emancipation of the student is sufficient on its own to make the student independent.
The key issue for financial aid purposes is that when a child becomes a ward of the court, no parent or other person is financially responsible for the child. Legal guardians and foster parents are not financially responsible for a ward of the court. Adoptive parents, on the other hand, are financially responsible for the child.
If the student is declared a ward of the court before the end of the award year, the student is considered to be an independent student for the award year and the student's status would need to be updated.
The school financial aid administrator should ask for a copy of the court order that declared the child a ward of the court. If there is any confusion as to whether the child is a ward of the court or not, the financial aid administrator should ask for a letter from the judge clarifying whether the child is a ward of the court.
Note that a child can be a ward of the court and still have contact with his or her biological parents or even still be living with the parents (albeit under court supervision). The biological parents, however, are no longer empowered to make any decisions on behalf of the child.