Undergraduate Financial Aid
Glossary of Terms
Below you'll find definitions for many of the terms you might hear during the financial aid process. Our office aims to make the financial aid process as clear as possible; please reach out to us with any questions you have along the way.
Terms and Definitions
Cost of Attendance (COA): The estimated cost of attending this institution for one academic year. This amount includes the following:
Expected charges for one year of attendance:
- Tuition – charges assessed for classes
- Fees – charges assessed for other college services
- Housing and meals (formerly known as room and board) – for resident students
- Estimated living expense – allowance for rent, utilities and food for off-campus living
- Estimated transportation costs
- Estimated books and supplies
- Miscellaneous costs
Direct Costs: Expenses the student/family pays to the college.
Enrollment Level: Level of the degree-granting program in which a student is enrolled. Basic levels of enrollment include: undergraduate (bachelor’s degree or certificate); post-bachelor’s (such as teacher certification); graduate (master's degree or professional degree); and post-graduate (such as students enrolled in a doctoral program). The amounts and types of financial aid a student is eligible for is determined, in part, by their enrollment level.
Enrollment Status: Academic workload (or course load), as defined by the institution, that a student is carrying for a defined academic period. This normally relates to the number of credits or clock hours taken by a student during a given academic period. For most traditional undergraduate term-based schools:
Full-time status – at least 12 credits
Three-quarter-time status – at least 9–11 credits
Half-time status – at least 6–8 credits
Expected Family Contribution (EFC): A measure of how much the student and his or her family can be expected to contribute to the cost of the student's education for the year. The EFC is calculated according to a formula specified in the law and is based upon the information provided by the student and his or her family during the FASFA filing process. It is not indicative what a student will pay.
Family Financial Responsibility: Many schools award institutional scholarships and grants based upon a more comprehensive calculation of family financial circumstances using information provided on the CSS PROFILE or the university’s own financial aid form. This can result in a higher (or lower) financial responsibility for the student (and his/her family) than the FAFSA might indicate with its Expected Family Contribution (EFC) estimate.
Federal Pell Grant: A grant provided by the federal government to qualified undergraduate students who demonstrate exceptional financial need and have an Expected Family Contribution below a threshold designated annually by the U.S. Department of Education, based on the amount of program funds appropriated by Congress.
Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG): A grant provided by the federal government to qualified undergraduate students who demonstrate exceptional financial need. Priority is given to Pell Grant recipients, and funds must be awarded by the school in lowest EFC order.
Federal Work-Study (FWS): A program that provides part-time employment to students attending institutions of higher education who need the earnings to help meet their costs of postsecondary education and encourages students receiving FWS assistance to participate in community service activities.
Gift Aid: Funds awarded to the student that do not have to be repaid unless the student fails to meet certain terms, such as a service requirement specified as a condition of the grant. Gift aid includes awards with titles such as grants, scholarships, remissions, waivers, etc. Gift aid can be awarded based upon many factors, including (but not limited to) financial need, academic and athletic excellence, musical and theatrical talent, affiliation with various groups, or career aspirations.
Grant: Gift aid awarded to the student that does not need to be repaid. Grants are typically based on financial need.
Indirect Costs: Expenses incurred as a result of attendance that the student/family may pay to a third party (merchant, landlord, etc.) other than the college.
Educational Loan: A form of financial aid that must be repaid with interest. Educational loans have varying interest rates and repayment terms. Students and/or parents are required to sign a promissory note when accepting an educational loan.
Student Loan: Funds awarded to the student that must eventually be paid back to the lender by the student.
Federal Direct Student Loan: Loan funds provided to the student by the U.S. Department of Education, through the school. Repayment begins six months after the borrower ceases to be a student on at least a half-time basis. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the annual application. There are two types of Federal Direct Student Loans: subsidized and unsubsidized. Students with financial need can qualify for a subsidized loan, and the government pays the interest on the loan while the student remains enrolled at least half time. Students who don’t demonstrate financial need qualify for an unsubsidized loan, and interest accrues while the student is in school.
Private Loan: A loan from a private or state-affiliated lender used to pay for up to the annual cost of education, minus any financial aid received. Private loans usually require the applicant to be credit-worthy or have a co-signer and have varying interest rates, fees and repayment options. Repayment of interest and/or principal can begin immediately, or, very often, lenders offer the option for in-school deferment. Please check with your lender of choice regarding re-payment terms.
Federal Parent Loan (PLUS): A federal loan program that allows parents who have no adverse credit history to apply for up to the Cost of Attendance each year less any financial aid. PLUS loans must be repaid with interest.
Net Cost: Amount of direct and indirect costs remaining after all gift aid (scholarship and grant) is subtracted.
Out-of-Pocket Cost: Difference between the cost of attendance and all gift aid. Out-of-pocket cost can be covered through a variety of sources, including savings, income and educational loans.
Scholarship: Gift aid awarded to the student that does not need to be repaid. Scholarship awards are typically based on merit or a combination of merit and need, such as academic excellence, talent, affiliation with various groups or career aspirations.
Self-Help: Financial aid in the form of loans or student employment. Loans are used to help pay the remaining net costs after gift aid is deducted. Student employment earnings (including work-study awards) are not deducted from the billed cost but can be used to help cover indirect costs and are paid in the form of wages to the student.
Verification: Process to confirm the accuracy of data provided by the applicant on the FAFSA. To complete the verification process, students are required to provide certain documents to the school for review.
Financial Aid Questions
We‘re here to help provide additional information and answer your questions about the financial aid process.