Financial Aid Offer Glossary

The intent of this glossary is to provide greater clarity and understanding by students through consistency in the use and meaning of terms on award notifications across all colleges and universities.


Active/Affirmative Confirmation: A process under which a school obtains written confirmation of the types and amounts of Title IV loans a student wants for the period of enrollment before the institution credits the student’s account with those loan funds.


Adverse Credit History: A credit history is a summary of financial strength, including the history of paying bills and the ability to repay future loans. To qualify for a PLUS or Private loan, a student cannot have an adverse credit history.


Award Letter – Often described as an award notice or notification. The offer from the school with the student’s calculated financial assistance from federal, state and private sources.


Budget or Cost of Attendance (COA): The estimated cost of attending this institution for one academic year. This amount includes the following:

  • Expected charges for one academic year of tuition and fees
    • Tuition – Charges assessed for classes
    • Fees – Charges assessed for other college services
  • Living expenses – allowance for housing and food
  • Estimated books and supplies
  • Estimated transportation costs
  • Miscellaneous personal costs
  • Federal Student Loan Fees
  • Professional Licensure Fees


Credit Balance: A Title IV credit balance occurs whenever the amount of Title IV funds credited to a student’s account for a payment period exceeds the amount assessed the student for allowable charges associated with that payment period. If FSA disbursements to a student’s account at the school create an FSA credit balance, the school must pay the credit balance directly to the student no later than 14 days.

Direct or Institutional Costs: Expenses the student/family pays to the college.


Disbursement Date: The date student aid funds were credited to a student’s account at a school or paid to the student or borrower directly, as reported by the school.


Educational Loan: A form of financial aid that must be repaid with interest. Educational loans have varying interest rates and repayment terms. Students and/or parents are required to sign a promissory note when accepting an educational loan.

    • Federal Direct Student Loan:  Loan funds provided to the student by the U.S. Department of Education, through the school.  There are two types of Federal Direct Student Loans: subsidized and unsubsidized.  Graduate students are only eligible for unsubsidized Direct Loans.  These loans accrue interest while the student is in school.
    • Federal Graduate (Grad) PLUS Loan: A loan program offered by the U.S. Department of Education that allows graduate students who have no adverse credit history, or have a credit-worthy co-signer, to apply for up to the cost of attendance each year, less any other financial aid.  PLUS loans will be repaid with interest to the federal government.  
  • Private (Alternative) Loan: Loan funds from a commercial, state-affiliated or institutional lender used to pay for up to the annual cost of education, less any financial aid received.  Private loans require the applicant to be creditworthy, or have a co-signer, and have varying interest rates, fees and repayment options.  Repayment of interest (and often times the principal) generally begins immediately, with some lenders offering deferment options for in-school periods.


Indirect Costs: Expenses incurred as a result of attendance that the student/family may pay to a third party (merchant, landlord, etc.) other than the college.


Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP): To be eligible for federal funds (Direct Loans) students must make satisfactory academic progress, meaning the student is continuing to complete courses and maintain the required GPA.