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Financial Aid Glossary

In the process of paying for college, you're sure to hear words and acronyms related to financial aid that you've never heard before. Here are some key terms you'll need to know:

Academic Service Fees: Fees assessed to students for certain courses of instruction or academic services in addition to tuition and mandatory fees. These services may include, but are not limited to, special instruction, testing, and obtaining laboratory supplies and materials.

AGI: Adjusted Gross Income. Most financial aid forms require parents or students to state their taxable AGI based on income minus maximum allowable adjustments.

Alternative Loans: Private student loans, from banks or other lending institutions, that are not federally supported or guaranteed. Students must be enrolled to apply for these loans.

Capitalized Interest: Unpaid interest that is added to the original amount of a loan. Capitalized interest increases the size of a loan, because the borrower is paying interest on their interest.

Career Schools: Also known as technical, vocational or trade schools. The schools may be public or private, although many are for-profit businesses; typically offer programs that are two years or less; and provide students with formal classes and hands-on experience related to their future career interests, from welding to cosmetology to medical imaging. Technical schools teach the science behind the occupation, while vocational schools focus on hands-on application of skills needed to do the job. Students may earn a diploma or a certificate, prepare for a licensing exam, or study to begin work as an apprentice or journeyman in a skilled trade.

Community College: Also known as a "two-year college," an institution that grants associate degrees for transfer to universities or for career preparation. Community colleges usually offer flexible class schedules with smaller class sizes. They are known as open-door institutions because performance standards (standardized test scores or combination of class rank and GPA) are not required for admission. The public community colleges in Oklahoma are:

  • Carl Albert State College, Poteau and Sallisaw
  • Connors State College, Warner and Muskogee
  • Eastern Oklahoma State College, Wilburton and McAlester
  • Murray State College, Tishomingo and Ardmore
  • Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College, Miami
  • Northern Oklahoma College, Tonkawa, Enid and Stillwater
  • Oklahoma City Community College
  • Redlands Community College, El Reno
  • Rose State College, Midwest City
  • Seminole State College, Seminole
  • Tulsa Community College
  • Western Oklahoma State College, Altus

Cost of Attendance (COA): The estimated total cost of attending a college for one year. This amount includes tuition, fees, food and housing (formerly room and board), books, supplies and travel expenses. The amount of your federal aid can't be greater than your total cost of attendance.

Credit (also Credit Hour): Credit given for attending one lecture hour of class each week for 16 weeks or equivalent. Most college classes are three credit hours, meaning the total meeting time for a week is three hours. To calculate the cost for one course, multiply the number of credit hours the class is worth by the total tuition and mandatory fees per credit hour.

CSS Profile: The College Scholarship Service Profile. This is a financial aid form that many colleges and universities use to determine how much nonfederal financial aid a student may be eligible for.

Default: Failure of a borrower to repay their student loan according to the terms agreed upon when the promissory note was signed. Defaulted accounts are reported to the major consumer reporting agencies, which may affect a borrower's ability to get credit in the future.

Deferment: An authorized period of time during which a student loan borrower may postpone principal payments and/or interest payments. For example, students may seek a deferment on undergraduate loan payments while in graduate school.

Dependent Person: One who is under the care, custody and support of a parent or legal guardian.

Direct PLUS Loan (parent loan): A non-need-based loan available to parents with a good credit history to help pay educational expenses of a dependent, undergraduate student who's enrolled on at least a half-time basis.

Direct Subsidized Loan: A need-based education loan for undergraduate students for which interest is paid by the federal government while the student is in school and during specified periods, such as deferment.

Direct Unsubsidized Loan: A non-need-based loan for undergraduate and graduate students for which interest isn't paid by the federal government. Borrowers are responsible for all interest accrued on unsubsidized loans from the date the loan is disbursed.

EFA: Estimated Financial Aid. This is the amount of financial aid a student will likely be eligible for. The figure is calculated based on all required financial aid forms.

Expected Family Contribution (EFC): The amount a student and their family may be expected to pay toward college expenses for one academic year. This amount is calculated based on the information supplied by the student and parents on the FAFSA application.

FAA: Financial Aid Administrator. An FAA is a college or university employee involved in the administration of financial aid. Also known as financial aid advisors, officers or counselors.

FAF: Financial Aid Form. This is the generic term used for any financial aid form.

FAFSA: See Free Application for Federal Student Aid below.

FDSLP: Federal Direct Student Loan Program. Through this program, student loans are provided directly to the student from the federal government, rather than through commercial lenders.

Federal Direct Loan: Loans offered to eligible students by the U.S. Department of Education. To qualify, students must be enrolled in an eligible degree or certificate program at least half-time. The loans may be subsidized (need-based, typically for low-income students) or unsubsidized (not need-based, so any student is eligible). Students apply by filling out the FAFSA.

Federal School Code (also Title IV Institution Code): The six-character institution code for each college, campus or program. Students must include the codes related to each of their college applications when filling out the FAFSA. These codes are available by contacting the school or checking an online listing.

Federal Student Aid: The U.S. Department of Education's website,, allows students to submit a FAFSA, learn about the types of financial aid they may be eligible to receive, and manage student loan repayment.

Federal Work-Study (student employment): A program providing part-time jobs for undergraduate and graduate students with financial need, allowing them to earn money to help pay educational expenses. The program encourages community service employment and work related to each student's course of study.

FFELP: Federal Family Education Loan Program. This federally guaranteed student loan program ended June 30, 2010. All new loans are through the Department of Education's Direct Loan Program.

Financial Aid: Money provided to the student and/or parents to help pay for the student's education. Major forms of financial aid include grants, scholarships, loans and work-study.

Financial Need: The difference between the college's cost of attendance and the expected family contribution, minus any other financial aid received, is the student's financial need. Financial aid packages are based on the amount of financial need calculated or determined.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA): A federal form required each year to apply for federal student aid. Forms are available online at The information provided on this form is used to determine the student's expected family contribution (EFC), which allows financial aid offices to identify the types of aid the student is eligible to receive.

FSEOG: Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant. This federal government program provides need-based grants to low-income college students and is administered through the school's financial aid office.

Full-Time Student: An undergraduate student enrolled in a minimum of 12 credit hours per semester in an academic year or a minimum of six credit hours in a summer session or a graduate student enrolled in a minimum of nine credit hours per semester in an academic year or a minimum of four credit hours in a summer session. The definition of full-time summer enrollment for financial aid purposes may be different, so check with the financial aid office at the college or university you're considering.

Grace Period: A transition period - generally six months following the date a borrower leaves school or drops below half-time enrollment status - during which the borrower isn't required to make student loan payments. This period is designed to help the borrower prepare for repayment.

Grant: Aid that's usually based on financial need and doesn't have to be repaid.

GSL: Guaranteed Student Loan. Now called a Federal Direct Loan.

Half-Time Student: An undergraduate student enrolled in at least six credit hours or a graduate student enrolled in at least five credit hours, or the equivalent, in one semester or academic term.

Independent Person: One enjoying majority privileges (or legally emancipated from the parental domicile) and who is responsible for their own care, custody and support.

Interest: A fee charged for the use of borrowed money. Interest is calculated as a percentage of the principal loan amount. The rate may remain constant throughout the life of the loan (fixed rate) or it may change at specified times (variable rate).

Lender: A financial institution (e.g., bank, savings and loan or credit union) that loans funds to students and parents for educational costs through the private or alternative loan program. These loans typically have higher interest rates and less favorable repayment options than federal loans.

Loan: Borrowed money that must be repaid with interest.

Mandatory Fees: Fees required of all students for enrollment at an Oklahoma higher education institution.

Master Promissory Note (MPN): A legal agreement that lists conditions under which a federal student loan is borrowed and the terms under which the borrower agrees to repay the loan with interest. It allows a borrower to receive loans for either a single academic year or multiple academic years.

National Merit Scholarship Program: Program that administers the PSAT/NMSQT exam. Students who do well on the PSAT/NMSQT may qualify for scholarships. A few students receive full scholarships. (see PSAT/NMSQT)

Need-Based: Financial aid reserved for low-income students.

Nonresident: Students who do not live in the state where the school they are applying to, or attending, is located. It also includes students who haven't lived in the state long enough to be considered residents.

NSLDS: National Student Loan Data System. Students can access their Title IV federal student loan and grant information in their Federal Student Aid accounts at in a section now called Aid Summary.

Parent Contribution: The amount of money parents are expected to be able to contribute to their child's education.

Part-Time Student: A student who is enrolled in a certain number of course credits or hours which are less than full time. For an undergraduate student, this is usually less than 12 credits or hours. For a graduate student, it is usually less than nine credits or hours.

Pell Grant: The federal program that provides need-based educational grants for low-income students. Because they are grants, they do not have to be repaid.

PLUS: Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students. These federally guaranteed loans are available for parents of undergraduates.

Private (Independent and Proprietary) Colleges and Universities: Schools not affiliated with a government organization. They may be nonprofit colleges, such as those run by private foundations or religious denominations, or they may be for-profit businesses, such as many career, online or technical schools. Since private schools receive less or no money from the state and local government, they usually cost the same whether you live in or outside of the state. This cost is often higher than the cost of attending a public school in your state.

PSAT/NMSQT: The Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. It is used to determine the recipients of National Merit Scholarships. It is also a practice test for freshmen, sophomores and juniors for the SAT, like the PSAT. Only juniors may qualify for NMSQT.

Public Liberal Arts University: An institution that grants bachelor's degrees in arts and science fields, including humanities. A public liberal arts university tends to have smaller class sizes that facilitate close interaction between faculty and students. Oklahoma's public liberal arts university is the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, located in Chickasha.

Regional University: A university that offers bachelor's and master's degrees, and in some instances, associate or professional degrees. While regional universities focus primarily on instruction, they are also responsible for extension and public service, as well as some research. They tend to have mid-sized student populations and campuses. The public regional universities in Oklahoma are:

  • Cameron University, Lawton and Duncan
  • East Central University, Ada
  • Langston University, Langston, Oklahoma City and Tulsa
  • Northeastern State University, Tahlequah, Broken Arrow and Muskogee
  • Northwestern Oklahoma State University, Alva, Enid and Woodward
  • Oklahoma Panhandle State University, Goodwell
  • Rogers State University, Bartlesville, Claremore and Pryor
  • Southeastern Oklahoma State University, Durant and Idabel
  • Southwestern Oklahoma State University, Weatherford and Sayre
  • University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond

Research University: A university that grants bachelor's, graduate and professional degrees and offers a wide variety of courses and degree programs. Along with instruction, research institutions also focus on research, extension and public service. Research universities usually have large student bodies and expansive campuses. Oklahoma's two research universities are Oklahoma State University in Stillwater and the University of Oklahoma in Norman.

Resident (Oklahoma): One who has lived continuously in a state for at least 12 months duration and whose domicile is in that state. A person's domicile is their true, fixed, permanent home or habitation. It is the place where they intend to remain and to which they expect to return. A person can have more than one residence, but only one domicile. Domicile has two components: residence and the intention to remain. When these two occur, domicile is established.

ROTC: Reserve Officers Training Corps. In this program, the military pays a student's tuition or other expenses. The student takes part in summer training while in college, and commits to military service after college.

SAR: Student Aid Report. This report summarizes the information entered on your FAFSA form, and shows the amount of your Expected Family Contribution.

Scholarships: Financial awards given for a variety of reasons, such as good grades, special talents or career plans. Scholarships don't have to be repaid.

State (Public) Colleges and Universities: Colleges and universities that receive funding from state taxes to pay part of operating costs.

Student Contribution: The amount a student is expected to contribute to their educational expenses.

SUB: Subsidized Federal Direct Loan. (see Federal Direct Loan)

Technical Branch: Institution that has a special emphasis on education and training in technical fields. Some technical branches offer academic courses and programs, but not all institutions offer two-year programs (nontechnical) that lead to an associate degree that transfers to universities. Oklahoma's two technical branches are Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology in Okmulgee and OSU-Oklahoma City.

Technology Center: A school that prepares students to enter a specialized career, trade or vocation.

Title IV Institution Code: See Federal School Code.

Tribal College: A college controlled and operated by a Native American tribe that provides accredited degrees and/or vocational training for both Native American and non-Native American students. Tribal colleges include Native American culture, language and/or traditions in their course work.

Tribal Grant: Financial assistance given by many Native American tribes to help their members pay college expenses. Qualifications and grant amounts vary by tribe.

Tuition: Payment that students make to cover costs of their classes at public and private colleges and universities. Other fees may be also required.

UNSUB: Unsubsidized Federal Direct Loan. (see Federal Direct Loan)

U.S. Department of Education: A government agency that oversees education and federal student aid in the United States.

Work-Study Programs: Provide students with part-time jobs during the school year as part of their financial aid package. The jobs are often located on campus.


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OCAP believes that financial literacy and understanding the financial aid process are critical aspects of college planning and student success. OCAP staff who work with students, parents, educators and community partners in the areas of personal finance education, state and federal financial aid, and student loan management do not provide financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice. This website and all information provided is for general educational purposes only, and is not intended to be construed as financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice.