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The process of assembling one or more financial aid awards of loans, grants and/or scholarships, and employment for a student; also referred to as award packaging.

Parent Loans for Undergraduate Students

Federally insured loans for graduate students and parents of dependent undergraduate students. Also known as PLUS loans.

Parent's Contribution

Amount parents can be expected to contribute each year to the cost of their student's education as determined by the Federal Methodology.

Part-Time Enrollment

The number of students enrolled in higher education courses with a total credit load less than 75 percent of the normal fulltime credit load.

Part-Time Worker

One who is employed for 1-34 hours a week, including paid leave for illness, vacation, and holidays. Hours may be reported either for a survey reference week, or for the previous calendar year, in which case they refer to the usual hours worked.

Pay-Off Balance

This is the amount you would pay if you were to pay off your loan today. It includes the outstanding principal plus any unpaid accrued interest.

Payment Period

A school-defined length of time for which financial aid funds are paid to a student. For programs using academic terms, a payment period is equal to a term. For programs not using academic terms, schools must designate at least two payment periods within an academic year, pursuant to all applicable regulations. In the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program, and campus-based programs, a payment period is the time between the beginning and midpoint and end of the academic year or non- traditional program calendar. The Federal Pell Grant Program payment period is defined in 34 CFR 690.3 of the Federal Pell Grant regulations. The concept of a payment period is not used in the Federal Direct Loan Program. Compare ENROLLMENT PERIOD.

Payment Reimbursement Method

A method certain schools must use to request federal financial aid funds from the Department of education. Rather than drawing down Title IV funds BEFORE disbursing them to students, a school submits Form PMS 270, "Request for Advance or Reimbursement," to ED to be reimbursed for the funds it has expended AFTER making aid disbursements to students. Payment is made by ACH/EFT.

Percentile (Score)

A value on a scale of 0 to 100 that indicates the percent of a distribution that is equal to or below it. A score in the 95th percentile is a score equal to or better than 95 percent of all other scores.

Period of Enrollment

The period for which aid is made as determined by the school. A period of enrollment coincides with an academic term such as the academic year, semester, trimester, or quarter, and starts on the day classes begin.

Perkins Loan Program

Federally insured loans funded by the federal government and awarded by the school. The loans feature a low interest rate and are repayable over an extended period.

Personal Income

Current income received by persons from all sources minus their personal contributions for social insurance. Classified as "persons" are individuals (including owners of unincorporated firms), nonprofit institutions serving individuals, private trust funds, and private non-insured welfare funds. Personal income includes transfers (payments not resulting from current production) from government and business such as social security benefits and military pensions, but excludes transfers among persons.

Physical Sciences

Physical sciences are instructional programs that describe inanimate objects, processes, or matter, energy, and associated phenomena. Physical sciences include astronomy, astrophysics, atmospheric sciences, chemistry, geology, physics, planetary science, and science technologies.


Parent Loans for Undergraduate Students. Federally insured loans for graduate students and parents of dependent undergraduate students.

Postsecondary Education

The provision of formal instructional programs with a curriculum designed primarily for students who have completed the requirements for a high school diploma or equivalent. This includes programs of an academic, vocational, and continuing professional education purpose, and excludes vocational and adult basic education programs.

Prepaid Tuition Plan

A college savings plan that is guaranteed to rise in value at the same rate as college tuition. For example, if a family purchases shares that are worth half a year's tuition at a state college, they will always be worth half a year's tuition, even 10 years later when tuition rates may have doubled.


Payment received for a borrower account for more than the amount due.

Prime Rate

The prime interest rate is the rate charged by commercial financial institutions for short-term loans to corporations or individuals whose credit standing is so high that little risk to the lender is involved in making the loan. This rate fluctuates and serves as a basis for the interest rates charged for other loans.


Amount borrowed, which may increase because of interest capitalization, and the amount on which interest is calculated. Also known as principal balance.

Private Loans

Private loans provide funding when other financial aid does not cover costs. These loans are offered by banks or other financial institutions and schools to parents and students.

Private School or Institution

A school or institution that is controlled by an individual or agency other than a state, a subdivision of a state, or the federal government, which is usually not supported primarily by public funds, and is not operated by publicly elected or appointed officials.

Promissory Note

A binding legal document that a borrower signs to get a loan. By signing this note, a borrower promises to repay the loan, with interest, in specified installments. The promissory note will also include any information about the grace period, deferment, or cancellation provisions, and a borrower's rights and responsibilities with respect to that loan.


The Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test, which helps prepare students for the SAT and, if taken during junior year, is part of the qualifying criteria for the National Merit Scholarship Program. A student usually takes this test as a high school sophomore or early in the junior year.

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Last Reviewed: October 2019