Student Financial Aid - Important Terms
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 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.
The interest is added to the principal amount of your loan and additional interest
will be based upon the higher amount.
You must be one of the following to receive federal student aid:
- U.S. citizen
- U.S. national (includes natives of American Samoa or Swain's Island)
- U.S. permanent resident who has an I-151, I-551, or I-551C (Alien Registration Receipt
If you're 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 in order to be eligible:
- "Asylum Granted"
- "Indefinite Parole" and/or "Humanitarian Parole"
- "Cuban-Haitian Entrant, Status Pending"
- "Conditional Entrant" (valid only if issued before April 1, 1980)
If you have only a Notice of Approval to Apply for Permanent Residence (I-171 or
I-464), you aren't eligible for federal student aid.
If you're in the United States on an F1 or F2 student visa only, or on a J1 or J2
exchange visitor visa only, you can't get federal student aid. Also, persons with
G series visas (pertaining to international organizations) are not eligible for
federal student aid.
NOTE: Citizens and eligible non citizens may also receive loans from the
Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) and William D. Ford Direct Loan (Direct
Loan) programs at participating foreign schools.
Citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands,
and Palau are eligible only for Federal Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental
Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOGs), or Federal Work-Study. These applicants
should check with their financial aid administrators for more information.
Cost of Attendance (COA):
The total amount it will cost a student to go to school (usually expressed as a
yearly figure). It is determined using rules established by the U.S. Congress. The
COA includes tuition and fees; on-campus room and board (or a housing and food allowance
for off-campus students); and allowances for books, supplies, transportation, loan
fees, and, if applicable, dependent care, costs related to a disability, and miscellaneous
expenses. Also included are reasonable costs for eligible study-abroad programs.
An allowance (determined by the school) is included for reasonable costs connected
with a student's employment as part of a cooperative education program. For students
attending less than half time, the COA includes only tuition and fees and an allowance
for books, supplies, transportation, and dependent-care expenses. Talk to the financial
aid administrator at the school you're planning to attend if you have any unusual
expenses that might affect your cost of attendance.
Failure to repay a loan according to the terms agreed to when you
signed a promissory note. Default also may result from failure to submit requests
for deferment or cancellation on time. The consequences of default are severe.
A course of study that leads to a degree or certificate
and meets the U.S. Department of Education's requirements for an eligible program.
To get federal financial aid, you must be enrolled
in an eligible program, with two exceptions:
- If a school has told you that you must take certain coursework to qualify for admission
into one of its eligible programs, you can get a Direct Loan or a FFEL Program Loan
(or your parents can get a PLUS Loan) for up to 12 consecutive months while you're
completing that coursework. You must be enrolled at least half time, and you must
meet the usual student aid eligibility requirements.
- If you're enrolled at least half time in a program to obtain a professional credential
or certification required by a state for employment as an elementary or secondary
school teacher, you can get a Federal Perkins Loan, Federal Work-Study, a Direct
or FFEL Stafford Loan, (or your parents can get a PLUS Loan) while you're enrolled
in that program.
Financial Aid Package:
The total amount of financial aid (federal and nonfederal)a student receives.
General Education Development (GED) Certificate:
A certificate students receive if they've passed a specific, approved high school
equivalency test. Students who don't have a high school diploma but who have a GED
may still qualify for federal student aid. A school that admits students without
a high school diploma must make a GED program in the vicinity of the school available
to these students and must inform them about the program.
The organization that administers the FFEL Program for your school. The federal
government sets loan limits and interest rates, but each guaranty agency is free
to set its own additional limitations, within federal guidelines. This agency is
the best source of information on FFEL Program Loans. To find out the name, address,
and telephone number of the agency serving your state, visit
You can also obtain the name, address, and telephone number of your state's guaranty
agency, as well as information about borrowing, by calling the Federal Student Aid
Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243)
At schools measuring progress by credit hours and semesters, trimesters, or quarters,
half-time enrollment is at least six semester hours or quarter hours per term. At
schools measuring progress by credit hours but not using semesters, trimesters,
or quarters, half-time enrollment is at least 12 semester hours or 18 quarter hours
per year. At schools measuring progress by clock hours, half-time enrollment is
at least 12 hours per week. Note that schools may choose to set higher minimums
than these. You must be attending school at least half time to be eligible to receive
Direct or FFEL Program loans. Half-time enrollment is not a requirement to receive
aid from the Federal Pell Grant, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant
(FSEOG), Federal Work-Study, and Federal Perkins Loan programs.
The binding legal document you sign when you get a student loan. It lists the conditions
under which you're borrowing and the terms under which you agree to pay back the
loan. It will include information about your interest rate and about deferment and
cancellation provisions. It's very important to read and save this document because
you'll need to refer to it later when you begin repaying your loan.
One who is enrolled in an institution to obtain a degree or certificate. Generally,
to receive aid from the programs discussed in this booklet, you must be a regular
student. (For some programs, there are exceptions to this requirement. See the definition
of eligible program.)
Satisfactory Academic Progress:
To be eligible to receive federal student aid, you must maintain satisfactory academic
progress toward a degree or certificate. You must meet your school's written standard
of satisfactory progress. Check with your school to find out its standard. If you're
enrolled in a program that's longer than two years, the following definition of
satisfactory progress also applies to you: You must have a C average by the end
of your second academic year of study or have an academic standing consistent with
your school's graduation requirements. You must continue to maintain satisfactory
academic progress for the rest of your course of study.
Selective Service Registration:
If required by law, you must register, or arrange to register, with the Selective
Service to receive federal student aid. The requirement to register applies to males
who were born on or after January 1, 1960, are at least 18 years old, are citizens
or eligible non citizens, and are not currently on active duty in the U.S. Armed
Forces (Citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, or
Palau are exempt from registering).
A subsidized loan is awarded on the basis of financial need. You will not be charged
any interest before you begin repayment or during authorized periods of deferment.
The federal government "subsidizes" the interest during these periods.