This resource was created to help you fully understand some of the common terms used in the world of Financial Aid.

Academic Year

This is the amount of the academic work measured in either credit or clock hours you must complete each year, and the time period in which your are expected to complete it, as defined by your school.

Award Amount

Amount of aid a school expects to pay a student based on the student’s current grant and loan eligibility, enrollment, Expected Family Contribution (EFC), and the school’s cost of attendance.

Award Letter

This is a term sometimes used for an offer from a college or career school that states the type and amount of financial aid the school is willing to provide if you accept admission and register to take classes at that school.

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, housing, food, 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, such as student health insurance costs.

Custodial Parent

In the case of a divorce or separation, the parent the student lives with more than 50% of the time.

Default

Failure to repay a loan according to the terms agreed to in the promissory note. For most federal student loans, you will default if you have not made a payment in more than 270 days. If you default on a federal student loan, you lose eligibility to receive federal student aid and you may experience serious legal consequences.

Educational Loan

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

There are many different types of educational loans, including Federal Student Loans, Federal Direct Parent PLUS Loan (PLUS) and Private Loans.

Early Decision (ED)

A college admission policy that allows applicants, who commit to attend that school, to apply and receive notice of their admissions early. If the applicant is accepted, he or she agrees to attend that school and must withdraw all other applications.

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 or clock hours taken by a student during a given academic period (e.g. full-time, three-quarter-time, half-time, less-than-half-time).

Expected Direct Costs

Charges included in the Cost of Attendance that the student/family pays directly to the college.

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).

Family Financial Responsibility (FFR)

Many schools award institutional need-based scholarships and grants based upon a more comprehensive calculation of family financial circumstances using information provided on the CSS PROFILE or the institution’s own financial aid form. This can result in a higher (or lower) figure than the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) might indicate with its Expected Family Contribution (EFC) estimate.

Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loan

A type of Federal Student 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)

A type of Educational Loan. 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 Direct Subsidized Student Loan

A type of Federal 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

A type of Federal 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 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

A type of Educational 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.

There are many different types of Federal Student Loans, including Federal Direct Subsidized Student Loans, Federal Direct Unsubsidized Student Loans, and Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loans.

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 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.

Fees

Charges assessed for other college services (e.g. technology access, recreational center use).

Food

Includes the cost of a meal plan and/or an estimate of the costs of food prepared at home.

Gift Aid

Funds awarded to the student that do not have to be repaid, unless the student fails to meet certain criteria, such as a service requirement that is specified as a condition of the gift aid or not completing the period for which the aid was awarded. 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.

Grant

Gift Aid that is typically based on financial need.

Indirect Costs

Estimated expenses in the Cost of Attendance that are not paid directly to the institution.

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.

My FA Access

My FA Access is WashU’s online account system that specifically tracks your financial aid application.

Need

The student’s Cost of Attendance minus their Expected Family Contribution, or Family Financial Responsibility (if applicable).

Net Price

Amount of direct and indirect costs remaining after all Gift Aid is applied. Net price can be covered through a variety of sources, including: savings, income, and education loans.

Private Loan

A type of Educational 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.

Non-Custodial Parent

In case of a divorce or separation, the parent the student lives with less than 50% of the time.

Program Level

Level of the degree-granting program in which a student is enrolled. Program levels may include: undergraduate (students seeking an associate degree, an undergraduate certificate, or a baccalaureate degree); post-baccalaureate (such as teacher certification); or graduate (students working on a master’s degree, graduate certificate, 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.

Scholarship

Gift Aid that is typically based on merit, such as, academic excellence, talent, affiliation with various groups, or career aspirations or a combination of merit and need.

Self-help

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 Circumstances

Anything that has changed from one year to the next making the information provided on the FAFSA or other aid forms not reflective of the family’s ability to pay. Also, things that distinguishes the family from the typical family. This can include anticipated differences between the prior tax years and the upcoming award year, recent unemployment, medical/dental expenses not covered by insurance, unusually high child or dependent care (includes elder care).

Tuition

Charges assessed for classes and/or other coursework.

Unmet Need

The student’s Cost of Attendance, minus their Expected Family Contribution or Family Financial Responsibility (if applicable), less any need-based aid received, such as Gift Aid, Federal Work-Study or Federal Direct Subsidized Loans.

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.