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Financial Aid Glossary

Contact Financial Aid

Phone: 800-888-8682
Live phone support is available Monday–Friday, 8 a.m.–8 p.m. ET.

Urgent Requests:
Jay Tinsley, Assistant Vice President of Counseling, Financial Aid
Phone: 844-399-8682

Find definitions of key terms and language related to financial aid.

No matter where you go to school, financial aid can be confusing if you don’t have helpful information. At University of Maryland Global Campus, you can become savvy about the financial aid process by learning these terms.


Contributor: Any individual required to provide signature and consent on the FAFSA® form, including the student, the student’s spouse, a biological or adoptive parent, or the parent’s spouse (stepparent).

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

  • Expected charges for one year of tuition and fees
  • Tuition — charges assessed for classes
  • Fees — charges assessed for other college services
  • Housing and food
  • Estimated living expenses — allowance for rent, utilities, and food for off-campus living
  • Estimated transportation costs
  • Estimated costs for course materials, supplies, and equipment
  • Miscellaneous personal expenses

Direct Costs: Expenses the student and/or family pays to the college or university. Generally includes tuition, fees, and any other expenses paid to the school for enrollment.

Educational Loan: Money borrowed from the federal government, or a private source

  • Federal Direct Subsidized Loan: A Direct Subsidized Loan is an undergraduate federal student loan based on financial need and offers students a reduced, fixed interest rate and flexible repayment terms. Interest is subsidized, meaning it does not accrue to the borrower, while in school enrolled at least half-time, grace, or deferment period. Annual and aggregate limits apply.
  • Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan: A Direct Unsubsidized Loan offers students a fixed interest rate and flexible repayment terms. It is not based on financial need. Interest begins to accrue when the loan is disbursed and can be paid while the student is enrolled or when loan repayment begins. Annual and aggregate limits apply.
  • Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loan: Direct Graduate PLUS Loans are federal loans that graduate or professional students use to help pay for education expenses. A credit check for adverse credit history is required for eligibility. Interest begins to accrue when the loan is disbursed and can be paid while the student is enrolled or when loan repayment begins.
  • Federal Direct Parent PLUS Loan: Direct Parent PLUS Loans are federal loans that parents of dependent undergraduate students can use to help pay for education expenses. Parents must pass a credit check for adverse credit history to qualify for PLUS loans.
  • Private (Alternative) Loan: A loan from a bank, credit union, private company, a nonprofit or state-affiliated lender used to pay for up to the annual cost of education, minus any financial aid received. Private loans usually require the applicant to be creditworthy or have a cosigner and have varying interest rates, fees, and repayment options. Repayment of interest (and often principal) generally begins immediately, with some lenders offering deferment options for in-school periods.

Enrollment Level: Level of the degree-granting program in which a student is enrolled. Basic levels of enrollment include undergraduate (students seeking an associate degree, certificate, or bachelor's degree), postbaccalaureate (students seeking teacher certification), graduate (students working on a master's degree or professional degree), and postgraduate (students enrolled in a doctoral program, for example). The amounts and types of financial aid a student is eligible for is determined, in part, by their enrollment level.

Enrollment Status: Academic workload (or course load), as defined by the institution, that a student is carrying for a defined academic period. This normally relates to the number of credits taken by a student during a given academic period. For most traditional undergraduate term-based schools:

  • Full-time status = At least 12 credits
  • Three-quarter time status = At least 9 to 11 credits
  • Half-time status = At least 6 to 8 credits
  • Less than half-time= At least 1 to 5 credits

Expected Family Contribution (EFC): A measure of how much the student and/or family can be expected to contribute to the cost of the student's education for the year. The EFC is calculated according to a formula specified by the U.S. Department of Education and is based upon the information provided by the student and/or family during the Free Application for Federal Student Aid filing process.

FAFSA Submission Summary: This replaces the Student Aid Report (SAR) as the student’s output document providing a summary of data input on the FAFSA form.

Federal Pell Grant: The Pell Grant is a federal grant program designed to assist undergraduate students in low- and moderate-income households to pay for college. The award amount is based on the cost of the institution, EFC, and enrollment status, and is subject to an aggregate limit.

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG): A federal grant provided by the institution to qualified undergraduate students who demonstrate exceptional financial need and does not need to be repaid. The amount of funding from this program varies by institution and by year. Priority is given to Pell Grant recipients and funds must be awarded by the school in lowest EFC order.

Financial Aid Offer: A financial aid offer is a document sent by a postsecondary institution to a student that outlines the amounts and details of the financial aid being offered to the student, which may include scholarships, grants, loans, employment, or other forms of financial assistance to pay for college expenses.

Gift Aid: Funds awarded to the student that do not have to be repaid, unless the student fails to meet certain terms, such as a service requirement, specified as a condition of the grant. Gift aid includes awards with titles such as grants, scholarships, remissions, waivers, etc. Gift aid can be awarded based upon many factors, including (but not limited to) financial need, academic excellence, athletic, musical, and theatrical talent, affiliation with various groups, or career aspirations.

Grant: Gift aid awarded to the student that does not need to be repaid. Grants are typically based on financial need.

Indirect Costs: Expenses incurred as a result of attendance that the student/family may pay to a third party other than the college. These expenses include course materials, supplies, equipment, transportation, personal expenses, childcare costs, computer costs, disability expenses, licensure expenses, rent and food.

Need: The student’s Cost of Attendance minus their Expected Family Contribution

Need-based Aid: Financial assistance provided to students based on their financial situation, determined by completing the FAFSA. Need-based financial aid can take different forms, including grants, scholarships, and low-interest loans, like the federal direct subsidized loan.

Net Cost: Amount of direct and indirect costs remaining after all gift aid (scholarship and grant) is subtracted.

Net Price: Difference between the cost of attendance and all gift aid. Net price costs can be covered through a variety of sources, including savings, income, and educational loans.

Scholarship: Gift aid awarded to the student that does not need to be repaid. Scholarship awards are typically based on merit or a combination of merit and need, such as academic excellence, talent, affiliation with various groups, or career aspirations.

Self-Help: Financial aid in the form of loans or student employment. Loans are used to help pay the remaining net costs after gift aid is deducted. Student employment earnings (including work-study awards) are generally not deducted from billed costs but can be used to help cover indirect costs and are paid in the form of wages to the student.

Special Circumstances: special or extenuating situations (such as the loss of a job) that impact a student’s financial condition and support a financial aid administrator adjusting data elements in the COA or in the EFC calculation on a case-by-case basis.

Student Aid Index (SAI): The SAI will replace the EFC starting with the 2024-25 FAFSA as the eligibility index used to determine your eligibility for federal, and in some instances, state and institutional need-based student financial aid. Generally, students with a higher SAI are eligible for less need-based financial aid. It is based upon the information provided by the student and their family on the FAFSA.

Student Aid Report (SAR): An electronic or paper document that gives the student some basic information about their eligibility for federal student aid. It also includes answers to the questions on the FAFSA form. The school(s) listed on the FAFSA form will use the information to determine the student’s eligibility for federal—and possibly nonfederal—financial aid.

Unusual Circumstances: Conditions that justify a financial aid administrator making an adjustment to a student’s dependency status, commonly referred to as a dependency override, based on an unusual situation (e.g., human trafficking or parental abandonment).

Verification: A federally mandated process to confirm the accuracy of data provided by selected applicants on the 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 does not match what was reported on the FAFSA, verification can result in changes to the student's financial aid eligibility, and/or financial aid offers.

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