Glossary of Financial Aid Terms

Glossary of Terms

Academic Year 

A period of at least 30 weeks of instructional time during which a full-time student is expected to complete at least 24 semester hours.


The Academic Year Student Contribution represents the dollar amount you are expected to earn as part of your financial aid award to help meet your demonstrated financial need. It is not an expense for which you will be billed, and it is not an amount that will be credited directly as payment towards your bill, but you will be paid an hourly wage for hours worked.

Accrual Date:

The day interest charges on an educational loan begin to accrue.

Financial Aid Offer Letter: 

The official document, issued by the Office of Financial Aid, lists all the financial aid awarded to the student.


The process of adding unpaid interest to the principal balance of an educational loan, thereby increasing the total amount to be repaid.

Citizen/Eligible Non-Citizen: 

You must be one of the following to receive federal and Florida state student aid:

  • U.S. Citizen
  • U.S. national (includes natives of American Samoa or Swain's Island)
  • U.S. permanent resident with an I-151, I-551, or I-551C (Alien Registration Receipt Card)

If you are not in one of these categories, you must have an Arrival-Departure Record (I-94) from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) showing one of the following designations:

  • Refugee
  • Asylum Granted
  • Indefinite Parole and/or Humanitarian Parole
  • Cuban-Haitian Entrant, Status Pending
  • Conditional Entrant (valid only if issued before April 1, 1980)
  • Other eligible non-citizen with a Temporary Resident Card (I-688)

You can also be eligible based on the Family Unity Status category, with approved I-797s (Voluntary Departure and Immigrant Petition), or if you have a suspension of deportation case pending before Congress. Permanent residents of the Trust Territory of the Pacific (Palau) may be eligible for federal student aid. Citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands are only eligible for Pell Grants, SEOG, or Work Study. You are NOT eligible for federal financial aid if you only have a Notice of Approval to Apply for Permanent Residence (I-171 or I-464A), or if you are in the U.S. on an F1, F2, J1, J2, or G series visa.



Cost of Attendance (COA): 

The total amount it should cost a student to go to school is usually expressed as a yearly figure. The cost of education covers tuition and fees, room and board, and allowances for books and supplies, transportation, and miscellaneous expenses. Certain other items may be added at the discretion of the Office of Financial Aid. Your COA can be affected by your enrollment status.

Credit Hour:

One college class is usually 3 – 5 credit hours. That refers to the number of classroom hours per week. The cost of a class is typically based on the number of credit hours you are enrolled for.






The release of loan funds to the school for delivery to the borrower. Disbursements for most loans are made in equal multiple installments and made co-payable to the borrower and the school.

Entrance/Exit Counseling:

Borrowers must attend counseling sessions before receiving their first loan disbursement and again before leaving school.

Excess Aid Refund: 

Reimbursement of excess aid funds is issued to you when the sum of your loan(s), grant(s), and scholarship(s) awards is greater than your fee bill. The Office of Student Accounts disburses refunds.

Financial Aid Offer Letter: 

The official document, issued by the Office of Financial Aid, lists all the financial aid awarded to the student.

Financial Aid Counselor:

A representative of the Office of Financial Aid who reviews a student's application awards aid, and helps the student in all aspects of the financial aid process.

Financial Aid Package or Financial Aid Offer: 

The total financial aid a student receives. Federal and non-federal aid such as grants, loans, work-study, and scholarships are combined in a "package" or "offer" to help meet the student's needs.

Financial Need: 

The difference between the Cost of Attendance and the Student Aid Index. This amount is your total eligibility for aid from all sources and is used in determining what your aid package will be.

Follow-Up/Missing Information Letter: 

A letter may be sent to the student notifying them of missing documents that are required to process their financial aid award.



Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA): 

The federal aid application. This must be completed by all students who wish to be considered for all need-based financial aid and student loans.

Grace Period:



A type of financial aid fund based on need or merit that the student does not repay.

Guaranty Agency: 


Guarantee Fee:


Housing and Meals

If you live on campus at college, this refers to the cost of your campus dorm and your cafeteria meal plan. Those fees are part of your billed costs.

Interest Rate:

A fee is charged for the use of borrowed money. Interest is calculated as a percentage of the principal loan amount. The rate may be constant throughout the life of the loan (fixed rate) or it may change at specified times (variable rate). From October 1, 1992, through July 1, 2006, all federal education loans made to new borrowers had variable interest rates. Beginning July 1, 2006, all federal education loans have a fixed interest rate.


A financial institution (bank, savings and loan, or credit union) that provides the funds for students and parents to borrow educational loans. Under the William D. Ford Direct Loans Program, some schools are also lenders.

Loan Consolidation:

A loan program that allows a borrower to combine various educational loans into one new loan. By extending the repayment period (up to 30 years depending on the loan amount) and allowing a single monthly payment, consolidation can make loan repayment easier for some borrowers.

Loan Default:

Failure to repay a student loan according to the terms agreed to when you signed a promissory note. If you default, your school, the organization that holds your loan, the state, and the federal government can all take action to recover the money, including notifying national credit bureaus of your default. Your wages and/or tax returns may be garnished, and you will no longer be eligible to receive federal financial aid.

Loan Deferment:

An authorized period of time during which a borrower may postpone principal and interest payments. Deferments are available while borrowers are in school at least half-time, enrolled in a graduate fellowship program or rehabilitation training program, and during periods of unemployment or economic hardship. Other deferments may be available depending on when and what you borrowed. Contact your lender for additional details.

Loan Forbearance:

An authorized period of time during which the lender agrees to temporarily postpone a borrower's principal repayment obligation. Interest continues to accrue and usually must be paid during the forbearance period. Forbearance may be granted at the lender's discretion when a borrower is willing to repay their loan but is unable to do so.

Loan Grace Period:

The period between the time a borrower leaves school or drops below half-time and the time they are obligated to begin repaying their loans is usually six or nine months, depending on the type of loan.

Loan Origination Fee:

A fee charged by the federal government and deducted from loan proceeds before disbursement to partially offset administrative costs of the Federal Student Loan Program.

Loan Principal:

The amount borrowed. Interest is charged on this amount, and guaranty and origination fees will be deducted prior to disbursement.

Needs Analysis:

A process of reviewing a student's aid application to determine the amount of financial aid a student is eligible for. Completing a needs-analysis form is the required first step in applying for most types of financial aid.

New Borrower:

A borrower who has no outstanding (unpaid) loan balances on the date they sign the promissory note for a specific educational loan. New borrowers may be subject to different regulations than borrowers who have existing loan balances.

Origination Fee:


Pell Grant:

A need-based Federal grant awarded to students who are pursuing their first undergraduate degree. Pell Grants may also be available for part-time study.

Plus Loan:

A Federal loan that enables parents with good credit histories to borrow money to pay the education expenses of each child who is a dependent undergraduate student enrolled at least half time.



Private Source Loans:

These loans are nonfederal loans, made by a lender such as a bank, credit union, or state agency.

Promissory Note:

The legal document borrowers sign when they get a loan. It lists conditions under which the money is borrowed and the terms under which borrowers agree to repay the loan with interest. Borrowers should keep the borrower copy of their promissory notes until the loans are fully repaid.

Repayment Schedule:

Discloses the borrower's monthly payment, interest rate, total repayment obligation, due dates, and length of time for repaying the loan.




Like grants, this is money provided for college that doesn’t have to be paid back. Generally, the consensus is that scholarships are primarily awarded for academic merit (good grades) or for something you have accomplished (volunteer work or a special project). However, there are many need-based scholarships out there as well.

Student Aid Index (SAI):

An amount, determined by a formula established by Congress, that indicates how much of your family's financial resources should be available to help pay for school. The SAI is used in determining your financial need and eligibility for financial aid.

The SAI represents the best estimate of your family's capacity to absorb, over time, the costs of education. It is not a prediction of how much cash you have on hand, a value judgment about how much a family should be able to draw from current income or a measure of liquidity. It is not the amount you must pay directly to the College, but rather, a tool to calculate the family's financial need.

Student Aid Report (SAR):

A form sent to the student after submitting the FAFSA to the federal processor. The SAR shows the information that was processed and indicates Pell Grant Eligibility.

Subsidized Loan:

A Federal loan that is awarded to a student on the basis of need. If you qualify for a subsidized loan, the federal government pays interest on the loan ("subsidizes" the loan) until you begin repayment and during authorized periods of deferment thereafter.

Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG):

These are need-based Federal grants that are administered by the College. Students who are enrolled part-time may be eligible.


The actual cost of your college courses, and does not include room and board, textbooks, or other fees.

Unsubsidized Loan:

A non-need-based Federal loan on that interest is not paid by the federal government. Borrowers are responsible for interest on all unsubsidized loans from the date the loan is disbursed until it is paid in full.


A process of review to determine the accuracy of the information on a student's financial aid application. Students are selected by the FAFSA processor. If you are selected for verification, you will need to provide additional documentation of your financial records to the Office of Financial Aid .

Work Study:

The Federal Work Study program provides funds to eligible students for part time employment on campus to help finance the cost of college. To determine if you are eligible to participate in the work study program, you must complete a FAFSA.