Financial Aid Terminology

Cost of Attendance (COA) – The total amount it should cost a student to attend a particular college or university. This includes direct costs such as tuition, fees, room and board, and indirect costs such as books, equipment, computer expenses, and transportation.


Expected Family Contribution (EFC) – The amount of money the family is expected to be able to pay towards the student’s education. This amount is determined by the financial information given on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).


Federal Work Study (FWS) – A federal student aid program that provides students with part-time employment to help pay for educational costs. Eligibility based on need, funding, and institution policy. Typically on-campus employment (administrative offices, library, facilities, etc).


Financial Need – The difference between the COA and the EFC is the student’s financial need. This is the formula used to determine a student’s financial aid package.

Cost of Attendance (COA) – Expected Family Contribution (EFC) = Financial Need


Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) – The FREE application to apply for federal student aid such as federal grants, loans, and work-study. This application must be submitted once every year and is available starting January 1st. Deadline for application varies by school.


Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) – Student’s responsibility to maintain grades, limit class withdrawal, limit repeating classes, and/or switching majors. SAP can impact aid.


Student Aid Report (SAR) – Report containing important basic information about eligibility for federal financial aid. Copies of your SAR are sent four to six weeks after you file your FAFSA.



Scholarship – Money awarded to a student based on academic or other achievements to help pay for their education. Scholarships generally do not have to be repaid.


Grants – A type of financial aid based on need that a student does NOT have to repay.


Employment – Must be earned.


Stafford Subsidized Loan – A loan based on financial need for which the federal government pays the interest that accrues while the student is in school or during grace and deferment periods.


Stafford Unsubsidized Loan – A loan for which the borrower is fully responsible for paying the interest on starting from the date the loan of disbursed, regardless of whether the student is in school or not. Unsubsidized loans are NOT based on financial need and can be used to help pay the Expected Family Contribution (EFC).


Pell Grant – A federal grant based on the student’s financial need.


Perkins Loan – A federal student loan, made by the recipient’s school, for students who demonstrate financial need. The Perkins Loan has one of the lowest interest rates and the interest is subsidized while the student is in school. The student must have applied for a Pell Grant to be eligible.


Private Loan – A non-federal loan made by a lender such as a bank, credit union, state agency, or school. Loans need to be repaid, typically with interest. Repayment criteria is determined by the lender.