Glossary of Terms

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Academic Year
The period during which school is in session, consisting of at least 30 weeks of instructional time. The school year typically runs from the beginning of September through the end of May at most colleges and universities.

To accumulate.

Accrual Date
The date on which interest charges on an educational loan begin to accrue.

Adverse Credit History
To be eligible for a PLUS loan, the borrower must not have an adverse credit history. This is a modest credit check. According to the regulations at 34 CFR 682.201(c)(2), a borrower is considered to have an adverse credit history if a recent credit report shows that

  • the borrower has a current delinquency of 90 or more days on any debt, or
  • the borrower had certain derogatory information (e.g., default determination, bankruptcy discharge, foreclosure, repossession, tax lien, wage garnishment, or write-off of a Title IV debt) in the credit history during the five years preceding the date of the credit report

Note that the five-year lookback only applies to the derogatory information; it does not apply to the 90-day delinquency which must be a current delinquency. Note also that the absence of a credit history is not considered an adverse credit history. Only about a fifth to a quarter of borrowers will be found to have an adverse credit history, meaning that more than three-quarters of borrowers will be eligible for a PLUS loan. PLUS loans do not use any kind of a debt-to-income ratio or FICO score, unlike private education loans.

Alternative Loans
See Private Loans.

A formal request to have a financial aid administrator review your aid eligibility and possibly use professional judgment to reassess 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 death of a parent, unemployment or other unusual circumstances), you should definitely make an appeal. The financial aid administrator may require documentation of the special circumstances or of other information listed on your financial aid application.

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.

Asset Protection Allowance
A portion of your parents’ assets that are not included in the calculation of the parent contribution, as calculated by the federal methodology need analysis formula. The asset protection allowance increases with the age of the parents.

Award Letter
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 their analysis of your financial need and 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 aid and information about the cost of attendance. 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. Some schools call the award letter the “Financial Aid Notification (FAN).”

Award Year
The academic year for which financial aid is requested (or received). The award year runs from July 1 to June 30.


See Cost of Attendance.


Campus-based Aid
Financial aid programs are administered by the college. The federal government provides the college with a fixed annual allocation, which is awarded by the financial aid administrator to deserving students. Such programs at Columbia College Hollywood include Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant and Federal Work-Study. Note that there is no guarantee that every eligible student will receive financial aid through these programs, because the awards are made from a fixed pool of money.

Some loan programs provide for cancellation of the loan under certain circumstances, such as death or permanent disability of the borrower. Some of the Federal student loan programs have additional cancellation provisions. For example, if the student becomes a teacher in certain national shortage areas, they may be eligible for cancellation of all or part of the balance of their educational loans. Repayment assistance is available if you serve in the military; the military pays off a portion of your loans for every year of service.

Capital Gain
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.

Property that is used to secure a loan. If the borrower defaults on the loan, the lender can seize the collateral. For example, a mortgage is usually secured by the house purchased with the loan.

Collection Agency
A company often hired by the lender or guarantee agency to recover defaulted loans.

College Work-Study (CWS)
College Work-Study is simply a part time job. This term is sometimes erroneously used to refer to the Federal Work-Study Program.

Compounded Interest
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.

Consolidation Loan
Also called Loan Consolidation, a consolidation loan combines several student loans into one bigger loan from a single lender. The consolidation loan is like a refinance and is used to pay off the balances on the other loans. The primary intention is to replace multiple loans with a single “consolidated” loan to simplify repayment. For federal student loans a consolidation loan can also provide access to alternate repayment terms and the ability to lock in a rate on older variable rate student loans. For private student loans a consolidation loan can also offer the opportunity to get a better interest rate or release a cosigner if the borrower’s credit score has improved significantly.

A cosigner on a loan is a coborrower and is obligated to repay the debt if the primary borrower defaults on the debt. Repayment activity is reported on both the borrower’s and cosigner’s credit histories. A cosigner is often required if the borrower’s credit history is bad or marginal or thin.

Cost of Attendance (COA)
(Also known as the cost of education or “budget”) The total amount it should cost 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. Child care and expenses for disabilities may also be included at the discretion of the financial aid administrator. 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.

Credit History
A credit history is a record of all events connected with payment of a set of debts, such as on-time payments, late payments, nonpayment, default, liens and bankruptcy discharge. It can include both current and previous credit accounts and their balances, employment and personal information, and a history of past credit problems.

Credit Score
Also referred to as a credit rating, a credit score is a measure of the likelihood of a borrower paying back a debt according to the agreement. It is based on the borrower’s credit history. Credit bureaus and credit reporting agencies provide this information to banks and businesses to help them decide whether to issue a loan or extend credit.

People who make all their payments on time are considered good credit risks. People who are frequently delinquent in making their payments are considered bad credit risks. Defaulting on a loan can hurt your credit rating. It is difficult to get a good credit score, but very easy to ruin it.

The most commonly used credit score is the FICO score established by Fair Isaac Corporation on a scale from 350 to 850. Higher credit scores are better.

Credit Underwriting Criteria
A lender’s decisions about the extension of credit to a borrower are based on a set of credit underwriting criteria. While most lenders rely on credit scores, they may also rely on other criteria such as debt-to-income ratios, minimum income requirements, minimum employment history duration, exclusions for specified derogatory information in the credit history (e.g., a bankruptcy in the last 7 or 10 years) and volatile income (e.g., self employment).

Custodial Parent
If a student’s parents are divorced or separated, the custodial parent is the one with whom the student lived the most during the past 12 months. The student’s need analysis is based on financial information supplied by the custodial parent.


Debt-to-Income Ratio
A debt-to-income ratio is the ratio of total debt to the borrower’s income. It is generally a good ballpark measure of the borrower’s ability to repay the debt. If the debt-to-income ratio is less than 1, the borrower should be able to afford to repay the debt. If the debt-to-income ratio is more than 2, the borrower will have significant difficult repaying the debt and may be at high risk of default. Borrowers with higher incomes, however, may be able to repay a debt despite a high debt-to-income ratio since more of their income is often disposable and not required to pay for basic necessities. Lenders these days are more likely to rely on the debt-service-to-income ratio, which is the ratio of the normal monthly payments on the borrower’s loans to the borrower’s gross monthly income. This measure takes into account the ability of a borrower to make a loan more affordable by increasing the loan term so that the monthly payments are lower.

A loan is in default when the borrower fails to pay several regular installments on time or otherwise fails to meet the terms and conditions of the loan. For example, a borrower who is 120 days late on a private student loan or 270 days late on federal education loan is considered to be in default. When a borrower is in default the loan becomes due in full immediately and the lender may pursue more aggressive collection techniques, such as sending the account to a collection agency or filing suit against the borrower. 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.

Default Fee
Synonymous with Guarantee Fee.

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 a 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.

Dependency Status
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.)

Direct Loans
The William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program (aka the Direct Loan Program) is a federal program where the school becomes the lending agency and manages the funds directly, with the federal government providing the loan funds. Benefits of the program include a faster turnaround time and less bureaucracy than the old “bank loan” program. The terms for Direct Loans are the same as for the Stafford Loan program. For more information about Direct Loans, contact the Direct Loan Servicing Center at 1-800-848-0979.

Disbursement is the release of loan funds to the school for delivery to the borrower. The 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, room and board and other school charges. Any excess funds are then paid to the student in cash or by check. Unless the loan amount is under $500 or the college has a low default rate, the disbursement will be made in at least two equal installments.

To release the borrower from his or her obligation to repay the loan. See also Cancellation.

Disclosure Statement
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.

Due Diligence
If a borrower fails to make payments on their loan according to the terms of the promissory note, the federal government requires the lender, holder or servicer of the loan to make frequent attempts to contact the borrower (via telephone and mail) to encourage him or her to repay the loan and make arrangements to resolve the delinquency.


Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT)
Used by 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 the student sooner.

Electronic Student Aid Report
An electronic form of the Student Aid Report.

Eligible Non-Citizen
Someone who is not a US citizen but is nevertheless eligible for Federal student aid. Eligible non-citizens include US permanent residents who are holders of valid green cards, US 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.

To release a child from the control of a parent or guardian. Declaring a child to be legally emancipated is not sufficient to release the parents or legal guardians from being responsible for providing for the child’s education. If this were the case, then every parent would “divorce” their children before sending them to college. The criteria for a child to be found independent are much stricter. See Dependency Status.

Enrollment Status
An indication of whether you are a full-time or part-time student. Generally you must be enrolled at least half-time (8 units at CCH) to qualify for financial aid.

Entitlement programs award funds to all qualified applicants. The Pell Grant is an example of such a program.

Entrance Interview
See Loan Interviews.

Exit Interview
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. If you have unusual financial circumstances (such as high medical expenses, loss of employment or death of a parent) that may affect your ability to pay for your education, tell your financial aid administrator (FAA). He or she can adjust the COA or EFC to compensate. See Professional Judgment.


Federal Direct Student Loan Program (FDSLP)
Similar to the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP). The funds for these loans are provided by the US government directly to students and their parents through their schools. Benefits of the program include a faster turn-around time and less bureaucracy than the old “bank loan” program. The FDSLP includes the Federal Direct Stafford Loan (Subsidized and Unsubsidized) and the Federal Direct Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students (PLUS).

Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP)
FFELP is one of two parallel federal education loan programs. The other is the Direct Loan program. Both offer the same sets of loans (e.g., Stafford, PLUS and Consolidation loans) with only slight differences. The main difference is in the source of funds. In the FFEL program the funds normally come from private capital such as banks, credit unions and other financial institutions, while in the Direct Loan program the funds come from the US Treasury through the US Department of Education. The federal government guarantees FFELP loans against borrower default and ensures that the lenders receive a market rate of return on the loans despite the lower interest rates paid by borrowers of education loans. Due to Federal Legislation changes, the FFELP loan program was eliminated effective July 1, 2010.

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. There are two different federal processors serving specific geographic regions.

Federal Work-Study (FWS)
Program providing undergraduate and graduate students with part-time employment during the school year. The federal government pays a portion of the student’s salary, making it cheaper for departments and businesses to hire the student. For this reason, work-study students often find it easier to get a part-time job. Eligibility for FWS is based on need. Money earned from a FWS job is not counted as income for the subsequent year’s need analysis process.

Financial Aid
Money provided to the student and the family to help them pay for the student’s education or which is conditioned on the student’s attendance at an educational institution. 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.

Financial Need
See Need.

First-Time Borrower
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.

Fixed Rate
A fixed rate is an interest rate that does not change and remains the same for the life of the loan.

During a 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 a 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.


The practice of withholding a portion of a defaulted borrower’s wages to repay his or her loan, without their consent.

Grace Period
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.

A type of financial aid based on financial need that the student does not have to repay.

Gross Income
Income before taxes, deductions and allowances have been subtracted.

A guarantee is an agreement to purchase title to a loan in the event that the borrower defaults on his or her obligation to repay the debt.

Guarantee Agency or Guarantor
State agencies responsible for approving student loans and insuring them against default. Guarantee agencies also oversee the student loan process and enforce federal and state rules regarding student loans.

Guarantee Fee
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. Also known as a Default Fee.

Guaranteed Student Loan (GSL)
(Now called the Stafford Loan.) A guaranteed loan is insured against default. In the case of guaranteed student loans, the Federal government agrees to repay the loans in case of default. Each loan is charged a guarantee fee to cover the costs of defaulted loans.


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.

A holder of a loan is the lender that currently holds legal title to the loan and is entitled to the payments of principal and interest. Since loans may periodically be sold to a different lender, the current holder of a loan may not necessarily be the lender that originated the loan. The holder may be the bank that issued the loan, a secondary market that purchased the loan from the bank or a guarantee agency if the borrower defaulted on the loan. When a loan is sold, the servicer may also change, which may require the borrower to send payments to a different address.

Home Equity
Current market value of a home less the mortgage’s remaining unpaid principal. It is based on the market value, not the insurance or tax value. For a conservative estimate of your home’s market value, try using the Federal Housing Index Calculator.


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-Based Repayment
Under an income-based 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-based repayment plan is not available for PLUS Loans. Income-based repayment is available in both the FFEL and Direct Loan programs. Monthly payments are capped at 15% of discretionary income, where discretionary income is defined as the amount by which income exceeds 150% of the poverty line.

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. Income contingent repayment is available only in the Direct Loan program. Monthly payments are capped at 20% of discretionary income, where discretionary income is defined as the amount by which income exceeds 100% of the poverty line. Income Contingent Repayment also has a secondary cap based on income percentage factors that rarely applies to most borrowers.

Income-Sensitive Repayment
Under an income-sensitive 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. Income-sensitive repayment is available only in the FFEL program. Monthly payments are pegged at 4% to 25% of gross monthly income and must be at least the interest that accrues.

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.)

Individual Retirement Account (IRA)
One of several popular types of retirement funds. It is not legal to borrow money from your IRA to help pay for your children’s education.

Institutional Student Information Report (ISIR)
The electronic version of SARs delivered to schools by EDExpress.

Insurance Fee
Fee passed on by the lender to the federal government as insurance against default. Insurance fees are charged as the loan is disbursed, and typically run to 1% of the amount disbursed. See also Guarantee Fee.

The interest on a loan is a fee charged periodically in exchange for the use of a lender’s money. It is paid in addition to repaying the amount borrowed. Interest is usually calculated as a percentage of the outstanding 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. Except for consolidation loans, federal education loans issued from October 1992 to June 2006 used variable interest rates that are pegged to the cost of US Treasury Bills. Since July 1, 2006 all federal education loans have involved fixed interest rates.

The issuer of a loan is the lender that made (funded) the loan.


A bank, credit union, savings & loan association, or other financial institution that provides funds to the student or parent for an educational loan. Note: Some schools now participate in the Federal Direct Loan program and no longer use a private lender, since loan funds are provided by the US Government.

Life-of-Loan Servicing
The company that services the loan (the source of customer service interaction with the borrower) does not change for the life of the loan. Life-of-loan servicing is not a guarantee that the loan will not be sold from one lender to another, but rather that the same servicer will be used by the lender that acquires the loans.

Line of Credit
Pre-approved loan that lets you borrow money up to a pre-set credit limit, usually by writing checks. A line of credit doesn’t cost you anything until you write a check, and then you begin repayment just like a regular loan.

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.

Loan Consolidation
See Consolidation Loan.

Loan Forgiveness
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).

Loan Interviews
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.


Master Promissory Note
A Master Promissory Note (MPN) is a 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 (e.g., level monthly payments for a term of 10 years), interest rate, fees (e.g., origination fees, guarantee fees, late fees, collection charges), deferments, forbearances and cancellations. It represents an agreement by the borrower to repay the debt according to the specified terms and conditions. The student should keep this document until the loan has been repaid.

Maturity Date
The date when a loan comes due and must be repaid in full.

Financial aid that is merit-based depends on your academic, artistic or athletic merit or some other criteria, and does not depend on the existence of financial need. Merit-based awards use your grades, test scores, hobbies and special talents to determine your eligibility for scholarships.

Multiple Data Entry Processor (MDE)
A company that processes the FAFSA forms submitted by students. The College Scholarship Service (CSS) and PHEAA are both MDE Processors.


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.

Cost of Attendance (COA)

less Expected Family Contribution (EFC)

equals Financial Need


Need Analysis
The process of determining a student’s financial need by analyzing the financial information provided by the student and his or her parents (and spouse, if any) on a financial aid form. The student must submit a need analysis form to apply for need-based aid. Need analysis forms include the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the Financial Aid PROFILE.


Financial aid that is need-based depends on your financial situation. Most government sources of financial aid are need-based.

Net Income
This is income after taxes, deductions and allowances have been subtracted.

Net Price Calculator

Tool located on college website which enables current and prospective students, families, and consumers to estimate individual student cost to attend college. The “net price” is the difference between an institution’s average total Price of Attendance (the sum of tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, and other expenses including personal expenses and transportation for a first-time, full-time undergraduate students who receive aid) and the institution’s median need- and merit-based grant aid awarded.

New Borrower
See First-Time Borrower.


A lender is said to originate or make a loan when the loan is disbursed to or on behalf of the borrower.

Origination Fee
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.

Outside Resource
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.

Outside Scholarship
A scholarship that comes from sources other than the school and the federal or state government.

A student who receives federal support may not receive awards totaling more than $400 in excess of his or her financial need.


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. 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.

Payoff Amount
The payoff amount is the amount required to pay off a loan in full. It typically includes the outstanding principal plus any accrued but unpaid interest, as well as any unpaid late fees and collection charges.

Pell Grant
A federal grant that provides funds of up to $5,550 (2010-11) based on the student’s financial need.

Prepayment is paying off all or part of a loan before it is due.

Prepayment Penalty
A prepayment penalty is a fee charged for early payoff of a loan. No federal or private education loans charge prepayment penalties.

Prime borrowers have good to excellent credit histories, typically with a FICO score of 650 or more.

Prime Lending Rate
The Prime Lending Rate is the interest rate offered by lenders to their best credit customers.

The principal or loan balance is 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.

Private Loans
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).


Repayment Schedule
The repayment schedule discloses the monthly payment, interest rate, total repayment obligation, payment due dates and the term of the loan.

Repayment Term
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.

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.

Secured Loan
A secured loan is a loan backed by collateral. If the borrower fails to repay the loan as per the agreement, the lender may take ownership of 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.

Selective Service
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.

A servicer is a business 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, update borrower contact information, send out bills and statements, 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. Servicers are usually paid either on a unit cost basis (i.e., a fixed fee per borrower per month) or on a percentage of loan volume basis (i.e., one-twelfth of 0.50% or 0.90% of the average loan volume per month).

Stafford Loans
Federal loans that come in two forms, subsidized and unsubsidized. Subsidized loans are based on need; unsubsidized loans aren’t. The interest on the subsidized Stafford Loan is paid by the federal government while the student is in school and during the 6 month grace period. The Subsidized Stafford Loan was formerly known as the Guaranteed Student Loan (GSL). The Unsubsidized Stafford Loan may be used to pay the EFC.

Undergraduates may borrow up to $31,000 ($5,500 during the freshman year, $6,500 during the sophomore year and $7,500 during the third, fourth and fifth years) no more than $23,000 of which may be subsidized ($3,500 during the freshman year, $4,500 during the sophomore year and $5,500 during the third, fourth and fifth years) and graduate students up to $65,500 including any undergraduate Stafford loans ($20,500 per year, no more than $8,500 of which may be subsidized). The difference between the subsidized loan amount and the unsubsidized limit may be borrowed by the student as an unsubsidized loan.

Higher unsubsidized Stafford loan limits are available to independent students, dependent students whose parents were unable to obtain a PLUS Loan and graduate/professional students. Undergraduates may borrow up to $57,500 ($9,500 during the freshman year, $10,500 during the sophomore year and $12,500 during each subsequent year) and graduate students up to $138,500 including any undergraduate Stafford loans ($20,500 per year). These limits are for subsidized and unsubsidized loans combined. The amounts of any subsidized loans are still subject to the lower limits for dependent students. Certain medical school students may borrow an aggregate amount of $224,000.

Student Accounts Office
See Bursar’s Office.

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 1-319-337-5665.

Student Contribution
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 20% of his or her savings and approximately one-half of his summer earnings above $3,000.

Subsidized Loan
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, and provide up to $4,000 per year. To qualify, a student must also be a recipient of a Pell Grant.


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. The Financial Aid Information Page provides a searchable database of Title IV School Codes.


Undergraduate Student

A student who is enrolled in an Associate’s Degree or Bachelor’s degree program.

Unearned Income
Interest income, dividend income and capital gains.

Unmet Need
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.

Unsecured Loan
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.

Unsubsidized Loan
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.

Untaxed Income
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.


Variable Rate
A variable rate is an interest rate that resets periodically, such as monthly, quarterly or annually. Variable rates are often defined as the sum of a variable rate index, such as the LIBOR index or the Prime Lending Rate, and a fixed rate margin. The margins are often determined based on the borrower’s credit score, where credit scores are grouped into a small set of 5 or 6 tiers and each tier is associated with a different interest rate and fees.

Verification is a review process in which the FAO determines the accuracy of the information provided on the student’s FAFSA. During the verification process the student and parent will be required to submit documentation for the amounts listed (or not listed) on the FAFSA. 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.


W2 Form
The form listing an employee’s wages and tax withheld. Employers are required by the IRS to issue a W2 form for each employee before February 28.

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.

Work Study
See Federal Work-Study.