Glossary & Terms

2024-25 Financial Aid Glossary & Terms

Other Financial Aid FAQs


Academic Year - A period of time schools use to measure a quantity of study. For example, a school’s academic year may consist of a fall and spring semester during which a full-time undergraduate student must complete 24 semester hours. Academic years vary from school to school and even from educational program to educational program at the same school.

Account Username and Password (FSA ID) - The username and password combination that serves as a student’s or parent’s identifier to allow access to personal information in various U.S. Department of Education (ED) systems and acts as a digital signature on some online forms.

Accruing Interest (on a loan) - The cost of the loan, represented by the interest which is added to the loan amount prior to the repayment period or prior to a payment installment.

Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) - All taxable income as reported on a U.S. income tax return.

Agreement to Serve or Repay - contract under which a student receiving a Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant commits to the specific obligation to teach for four complete years in a designated high-need field at a low-income elementary or secondary school within eight years of completing or ceasing enrollment in a TEACH Grant-eligible program.

Assets - Balance of cash, checking and savings accounts, time deposits, money market funds, real estate (excluding primary residence), vacation homes, income producing property, trusts, stocks, bonds, derivatives, securities, mutual funds, tax shelters, and qualified education benefits. Assets are considered in calculating the SAI.

Associate Degree - The degree given for successful completion of an undergraduate program of study at a two-year institution.

Bachelor's Degree - The degree given for successful completion of the undergraduate curriculum at a four-year college or a university. It is also called a baccalaureate degree.

Borrower - The individual who signed and agreed to the terms in the loan’s promissory note and is responsible for repaying the loan.

Budget - See Cost of Attendance.

Business/Farm Net Worth - The market value of land, buildings, machinery, equipment, inventory, etc. minus any debts for which the business/farm was used as collateral. Business/farm net worth is reported under assets on the FAFSA and is considered in the calculation of the student aid index (SAI) under the regular Federal Methodology formula.

Campus-Based Program - The term commonly applied to federal student aid programs administered directly by participating postsecondary institutions. Campus-based programs include: Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) and Federal Work-Study (FWS).

Capitalization (of interest) - The arrangement between borrower and lender whereby interest payments are deferred as they come due and are added to the principal amount of the loan.

Consolidation Loan - A loan made to enable a borrower with different types of loans or multiple loans to obtain a single loan with one interest rate and one repayment schedule. Certain postsecondary educational loans may be combined for purposes of consolidation, subject to certain eligibility requirements. A consolidation loan pays off the existing loans; the borrower then repays the consolidated loan.

Contributor -Any individual required to provide consent and approval for Federal Tax Information (FTI) and signature on the FAFSA. A contributor includes student, the student's spouse, a student's biological or adoptive parent, or the parent's spouse (stepparent).

Cost of Attendance (COA) - The estimated total cost of attending an institution for one academic year. This amount may include the following:

  • Estimated charges for one academic year of tuition and fees
  • Tuition – Charges assessed for classes and/or other coursework
  • Fees – Charges assessed for other college services (e.g. course or program fees)
  • Housing – Includes residence hall charges for on-campus students or an estimate of rent and utilities for an off-campus student
  • Food – Includes the cost of a meal plan and/or an estimate of the costs of food prepared at home
  • Estimated transportation and parking costs
  • Estimated costs for books and supplies
  • Purchase or rental of a computer
  • Miscellaneous costs such as personal hygiene, laundry, and reasonable entertainment
  • Other costs specific to certain student circumstances related to attendance, such as dependent care during periods of class attendance or study, expenses related to disabilities, study abroad, educational loan fees, and others
  • Student health insurance costs

Credit Hour - The unit of measurement some institutions give for fulfilling course requirements.

Default - Failure to repay a loan according to the terms agreed to when the borrower signed a promissory note, resulting in loss of eligibility for further Title IV aid and possible legal consequences.

Deferment (of a loan) - A period of time during which payments of the principal balance are not required, and for Federal Direct Student Loans, interest does not accrue. The repayment period is extended by the length of the deferment period.

Dependent Student - A student who does not qualify as an independent student for Title IV purposes and whose parental income and asset information is used in calculating the SAI (see Independent Student).

Direct Costs/Costs Payable to the School: Charges included in the Cost of Attendance that the student/family pays directly to the college.

Educational Benefits - Funds, primarily federal, provided to certain categories of students (veterans, children of deceased veterans or other deceased wage earners, and students with physical disabilities) to help finance their postsecondary education regardless of their ability to demonstrate need in the traditional sense.

Educational Loan: A form of financial aid that must be repaid. Educational loans have varying fees, interest rates, repayment terms, and/or borrower protections.

Eligible Noncitizen - An individual who is one of the following:

  • U.S. national (Natives of American Samoa, Swain’s Island, or U.S. Minor Outlying Islands are U.S. nationals, but not U.S. citizens)
  • U.S. permanent resident who has an I-151, or I-551;
  • Individuals who qualify under the Jay Treaty; or
  • Someone with an Arrival-Departure Record (I-94) from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) showing one of the following designations:
    • Refugee
    • Asylum Granted
    • Cuban-Haitian Entrant, Status Pending
    • Conditional Entrant (valid only if issued before April 1, 1980)
    • Victims who qualify under the Violence Against Women Act
    • Victims of human trafficking, T-visa (T-2, T-3, or T-4, etc.) holder
    • Parolee paroled into the United States for at least one year for other than a temporary purpose with the intent to become a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.

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Enrollment Status: Academic workload (or course load), as defined by the institution, in which a student is enrolled for a defined academic period. This normally relates to the number of credit hours taken by a student during a given academic period (e.g. full-time, three-quarter-time, half-time, less-than-half-time).

Expected Family Contribution (EFC): An eligibility index that college financial aid staff use to determine how much financial aid you would receive if you were to attend their school. The EFC is calculated according to a formula specified in law and is based upon the information provided by the student and their family on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Terminology changed to SAI (Student Aid Index) in 24-25.

FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) - The financial aid application completed by the student, and the student’s parents if applicable, that collects family and financial information. The FAFSA is the foundation document for all federal need analysis computations and database matches performed for a student.

FAFSA Submission Summary: Replaces the Student Aid Report (SAR) as the student's output document providing a summary of data input on the FAFSA form.

Family Size - The number of individuals in the student’s family, which includes the student, independent student’s spouse, dependent student’s parent(s), dependent children, and other qualified individuals. The number of dependents is typically based on the number of individuals claimed as dependents on either the student’s (if independent) or the parents’ (if dependent) federal tax return, and is transferred from the IRS to the FAFSA.

Federal Pell Grant: A federal grant provided by the federal government to undergraduate students who demonstrate exceptional financial need and have an Expected Family Contribution below a certain threshold established by the federal government. The Pell Grant award amount is prorated based on Enrollment Status.

Federal Student Loan: Federal funds made available to the student that must be paid back by the student. Students must complete Entrance Counseling and a Master Promissory Note (MPN) to receive these loans. Repayment begins six months after the student ceases to be enrolled at least half-time with options to delay payment available. To be eligible, the student must be enrolled at least half-time in an eligible program of study.

Federal Direct Subsidized Student Loan: Loan funds provided to the student by the U.S. Department of Education, through the school. Undergraduate students with financial need can qualify for a subsidized loan. The government pays the interest on the loan while the student remains enrolled at least half-time and during certain periods when the government allows deferment of repayment. There are annual limits on the amounts that may be borrowed, which vary by the student's academic year in school and the student's dependent or independent status.

Federal Direct Unsubsidized Student Loan: Loan funds provided to the student by the U.S. Department of Education, through the school. Undergraduate students and graduate students regardless of their need, qualify for an unsubsidized loan, provided they have filed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Interest accrual begins immediately, and the student can choose to pay the interest while enrolled or upon entering repayment. There are annual limits on the amounts that may be borrowed, which vary by the student's academic year in school and the student's dependent or independent status.

Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loan: Loan funds provided to graduate students by the U.S. Department of Education, through the school. This federal loan program allows graduate students with no adverse credit history to apply for a loan amount up to their Cost of Attendance each year, less any other financial aid received.

Federal Direct Parent PLUS Loan (PLUS): Loan funds provided to the parents of dependent undergraduate students by the U.S. Department of Education, through the school. This federal loan program allows parents with no adverse credit history to apply for a loan amount up to the Cost of Attendance each year, less any financial aid received by the dependent student. Repayment of principal and interest begins immediately once the loan is fully disbursed with some options to delay payment available.

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG): A federal grant awarded by the institution to qualified undergraduate students who demonstrate exceptional financial need. Priority is given to Federal Pell Grant recipients.

Federal Tax Information (FTI): Data and information related to federal tax paying. FTI includes a tax return or tax return information received directly from the IRS or obtained through an authorized secondary source, such as the U.S.Department of Education (ED). FTI also includes the taxpayer's name, mailing address, SSN, ETIN, and names of dependents.

Federal Work-Study (FWS): A federal program offered and administered by the institution that provides opportunity for part-time employment to students with financial need to help pay their educational expenses. Students are responsible for finding qualified employment. Funds are paid out through a paycheck, as earned.

Financial Aid - General term that describes any source of student assistance outside of the student or the student’s family. Funds provided to a student to help meet postsecondary educational expenses. These funds are generally based on financial need and include scholarships, grants, student employment, and loans.

Financial Aid Notification - A method of notifying financial aid applicants of the financial aid assistance offered by an institution. The paper or electronic financial aid offer usually provides information on the types and amounts of financial aid available, as well as specific program information, student responsibilities, and the conditions which govern the financial aid offer. It generally provides students with the opportunity to accept or decline the aid offered. State agencies and private organizations may send students aid notifications separately from the postsecondary institution. Also see Acceptance Form.

Financial Aid Offer - A document sent by a postsecondary institution to a student that outlines the amounts and details of the financial aid being offered to the student, which may include scholarships, grants, loans, employment, or other forms of financial assistance to pay for college expenses. Sometimes schools refer to these as financial aid “awards”, although this term is outdated. Schools should refer to these as financial aid offers.

Financial Need: The difference between the institution’s cost of attendance (COA) and the family’s ability to pay (i.e., SAI). Ability to pay is represented by the SAI for federal need-based aid and for many state and institutional programs.

Food and Housing: Replaces the terms "room and board" as a component within a student's Cost of Attendance (COA).

Forbearance - Permits the temporary cessation of repayments of loans, allowing an extension of time for making loan payments, or accepting smaller loan payments than were previously scheduled.

Gift/Grant Aid and Scholarship: Educational funds awarded to the student that do not have to be repaid, unless the student fails to meet certain criteria.  Gift aid can include awards with titles such as grants, scholarships, remissions, awards, waivers, etc. Gift aid can be awarded based upon many factors, including (but not limited to) financial need, academic excellence, athletic, musical, and/or theatrical talent, affiliation with various groups, and/or career aspirations.  

Grace Period - The period of time that begins when a loan recipient ceases to be enrolled at least half time and ends when the repayment period starts. Loan principal need not be paid and, depending on the loan, interest does not accrue during this period.

Half Time - At schools measuring progress in credit hours and semesters, trimesters, or quarters, “half time” is at least six semester hours or quarter hours per term for an undergraduate program. At schools measuring progress by credit hours but not using semesters, trimesters, or quarters, “half time” is at least 12 semester hours or 18 quarter hours per year. At schools measuring progress by clock hours, “half time” is at least 12 hours per week. Note that schools may choose to set higher minimums than these. A student must be attending school at least half time to be eligible for a Direct Loan. Half-time enrollment is not a requirement to receive aid from the Federal Pell Grant, Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant, FSEOG, and FWS programs.

Independent Student -  A student who:

  • (a) Will be 24 years of age by December 31 of the award year;
  • (b) Is an orphan or a ward of the court;
  • (c) Is an orphan, in foster care, or a ward of the court, at any time when the student was 13 years of age or older;
  • (d) Is an emancipated minor or is in legal guardianship as determined by a court in the student’s state of legal residence;
  • (e) Is an unaccompanied youth who is homeless or who is at risk of homelessness and is self-supporting, as documented during the school year;
  • (f) Is a veteran;
  • (g) Is serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces for purposes other than training;
  • (h) Is married and not separated;
  • (i) Is a graduate or professional student;
  • (j) Has legal dependents other than a spouse who receive more than half of their support from the student;
  • (k) Has dependent children who receive more than half of their support from the student; or
  • (l) Presents documentation of other unusual circumstances demonstrating independence to the financial aid administrator.

Indirect Costs/Costs Paid to Others - Estimated expenses in the Cost of Attendance that are not paid directly to the college.

Interest - A loan expense charged by the lender and paid by the borrower for the use of borrowed money. The expense is calculated as a percentage of the unpaid principal amount (loan amount) borrowed.

Interest Rate - An annual rate that is charged on a loan. The interest rates for Title IV loans are determined by federal law.

Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant (IASG): A federal grant to qualifying students with a parent or guardian who died as a result of U.S. military service in Iraq or Afghanistan after September 11, 2001. If a student is eligible for a Federal Pell Grant, he or she cannot receive an IASG.

Lender - The entity that initially makes the loan to the borrower. The lender could be a school, lending institution, e.g., a bank or credit union, or the U.S. Department of Education.

Lifetime Eligibility Used (LEU) - According to federal law, the amount of Federal Pell Grant and/or IASG funds that a student may receive is limited to the equivalent of six years of Federal Pell Grant and/or IASG funding. The IASG Program has been discontinued as of 2024-25, instead see Special Rule for Pell Grant.

Loan - An advance of funds evidenced by a promissory note and requiring the recipient to repay the specified amount(s) under prescribed conditions.

Master Promissory Note (MPN) - A promissory note for the Federal Direct Loan program that allows borrowers to apply for multiple loans during a student’s attendance at a postsecondary institution.

National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) - The U.S. Department of Education’s centralized database which stores enrollment and disbursement information for federal student financial aid funds that students have received. NSLDS receives data from schools, guaranty agencies, and U.S. Department of Education programs.

Need-Based Aid - Financial assistance provided to students based on their financial situation, determined by completing the FAFSA. Need-based financial aid can take different forms, including grants, scholarships, work-study programs, and low-interest loans, like the Federal Direct Subsidized Loan.

Net Price: AThe difference between the cost of attendance and all grants and scholarships. Net price reflects what the student is expected to pay for their education on their own and can be covered through a variety of sources, including savings, student employment, institutional payment plans, or education loans.

Non-Need-Based Aid - Student financial assistance offered based on criteria other than need, such as academic, musical, or athletic ability. Also, refers to federal student aid programs where the SAI is not part of the need equation.

Other Financial Assistance (OFA) - The total assistance that a student is receiving to offset the cost of a postsecondary education, including scholarships, Title IV aid, need-based work assistance, and private loans, that is subtracted from a student’s need when determining eligibility for campus-based aid, Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans, and PLUS.

Overpayment - When a student receives more federal student aid than that for which there is demonstrated eligibility, the excess amount must be repaid in order for a student to receive additional federal student aid funds.

Packaging - The process of combining various types of student aid (loans, grants, scholarships, and student employment) to attempt to meet the full amount of a student’s need.

Primary or Custodial Parent: For a dependent student whose parents are divorced or separated, the primary or custodial parent is the parent who provides the greater portion of the student's financial support and is required to provide their information (and if applicable their spouse's information) on the FAFSA form.

Principal (of a loan) - The amount of money borrowed through a loan; does not include interest or other charges, unless they are capitalized.

Private Loan: A student or parent loan from a commercial, state-affiliated or institutional lender used to pay for up to the annual Cost of Attendance, less any financial aid received. Private loans have varying interest rates, fees and repayment options and usually require the applicant to be creditworthy, or have a creditworthy cosigner. Repayment generally begins immediately.

Professional Judgment (PJ) - The financial aid administrator’s discretion, based on the special or unusual circumstances of the student, to change the data elements used in determining eligibility for federal student aid, adjust a student’s cost of attendance, or deny or reduce Direct Loan eligibility.

Program Level: Level of the degree-granting program in which a student is enrolled. Program levels may include: undergraduate (students seeking an associate degree or a baccalaureate degree); post-baccalaureate (such as teacher certification); or graduate (students working on a master's degree, doctorate, or professional degree). The amounts and types of financial aid for which a student is eligible is determined, in part, by their program level.

Provisionally Independent Student - A student who has indicated on the FAFSA that they have unusual circumstances or indicates for the first time that they are unaccompanied and homeless, or at risk of being homeless, will be considered provisionally independent by the FPS. If the school confirms the student’s independent status, the school makes the necessary updates to the FPS.

Regular Student - One who is enrolled or accepted for enrollment at an institution for the purpose of obtaining a degree, certificate, or other recognized education credential offered by that institution.

Repayment Schedule - A plan that is provided to the borrower at the time he or she ceases at least half-time enrollment. The plan sets forth the principal and interest due on each installment and the number of payments required to pay the loan in full. Additionally, it includes the interest rate, the due date of the first payment, and the frequency of payments.

Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) - Qualitative and quantitative standards students must meet towards degree or certificate completion in order to remain eligible to receive federal student financial aid.

Self-help Aid: An institution's expectation that a student contribute toward their education using a combination of loans, student employment such as Federal Work-Study, and/or summer savings.

Special Rule for Pell Grants - Criteria used to determine Pell Grant eligibility for a student whose parent or guardian died in the line of duty while (a) serving on active duty as a member of the Armed Forces on or after September 11, 2001; or (b) actively serving as and performing the duties of a public safety officer; and is less than 33 years old as of the January 1 prior to the award year for which the applicant is applying (e.g., for the 2024-25 award year, a student must be less than 33 years old as of January 1, 2024, to be eligible). An eligible student will receive a maximum Pell Grant regardless of their SAI.

State Grants/Scholarships: Various grants and/or scholarships administered by the Kansas Board of Regents to qualified Kansas resident students who are attending institutions of higher education within the state.  Separate annual application and/or designation required.  See https://sfa.kansasregents.org/login.jsp for more information.

Student Aid Index (SAI): Replaces the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) term. The evaluation of a student's financial resources available to contribute toward their postsecondary education for a specific award year.

Taxable Income - Income earned from wages, salaries, and tips, as well as interest income, dividend income, business or farm profits, and rental or property income.

Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher (TEACH) Education Grants - A federal non-need-based grant program in which funds are provided to undergraduate and graduate students who want to pursue a teaching career in a high-need field and who agree to teach in a school serving low-income students (Title I schools) after graduating. If a recipient does not fulfill the service requirement, funds convert into a Direct Unsubsidized Loan.

Title-IV Programs - Those federal student aid programs authorized under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended. Includes the Federal Pell Grant, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG), Federal Work-Study (FWS), and Federal Direct Student Loan (Direct Loan), , and Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant programs.

Tuition Payment Plans - A strategy by which payment for present costs of postsecondary education is extended into a future period of time.

Unmet Need: The difference between a student's total cost of attendance at a specific institution and the student's total available resources.

U.S. Department of Education (ED) - The federal government agency that administers assistance to students enrolled in postsecondary educational programs under the following programs: Federal Pell Grant, Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG), Federal Work-Study (FWS), and Federal Direct Student Loan (Direct Loan) programs.

Verification: A federally mandated process to confirm the accuracy of data provided by selected applicants on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). To complete the verification process, the student, their parent(s), or spouse, if applicable, are required to provide certain documents to the school for review. If the documentation the student provides the institution doesn't match what was reported on the FAFSA, verification can result in changes to the student's financial aid eligibility, and/or financial aid offers.

Veterans Educational Benefits - Assistance programs for eligible veterans and/or their dependents for education or training.

Vocational Rehabilitation - Programs administered by state departments of vocational rehabilitation services to assist individuals who have a physical or mental disability which is a substantial handicap to employment.

Visit the Department of Education's website for more information on the types of Federal Student Aid.