For a more complete glossary listing, please refer here.

Academic Year

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.

Annual Percentage Rate (APR)

The APR is the annual cost of your loan; it includes interest and the effect of any fees and charges. APRs will differ depending on the terms of your loan and the mount of your loan. Make sure you compare like loan amounts when your compare APRs so you receive a true comparison. If the rate is variable, the APR may change during the life of the loan.

Cost of Attendance

(COA) The total amount it will cost a student to go to school—usually expressed as a yearly figure. It’s determined using rules established by law. 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, including an allowance for the rental or purchase of a personal computer. Also included are reasonable costs for eligible study-abroad programs. 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.* In many cases, default can be avoided by submitting a request for a deferment, forbearance, or cancellation and by providing the required documentation before reaching the point of default. The consequences of default are severe. Your school, the lender or agency that holds your loan, the state, and the federal government may all take action to recover the money, including notifying national credit bureaus of your default. This affects your credit rating for a long time. For example, you might find it very difficult to borrow money from a bank to buy a car or a house. In addition, the U.S. Department of Education might ask the Internal Revenue Service to withhold your U.S. individual income tax refund and apply it to the amount you owe, or the agency holding your loan might ask your employer to deduct payments from your paycheck. Also, you’re liable for expenses incurred in collecting the loan. If you decide to return to school, you’re not entitled to receive any more federal student aid. Legal action might also be taken against you.

Electronic Signature

Can you complete your alternative loan application online and sign it using your electronic signature? This can significantly speed up your alternative loan processing.

Eligible Non-citizen

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 Card)

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:

• “Refugee”

• “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’re not eligible for federal student aid. Also, persons with G series visas (pertaining to international organizations) are not eligible.

NOTE:  Citizens and eligible non-citizens may receive loans from the FFEL program at participating foreign schools.

Citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau are eligible only for Federal Pell Grants, FSEOGs, or Federal Work-Study. These applicants should check with their schools’ financial aid offices for more information.

Eligible Program

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 for up to 12 consecutivemonths 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. The financial aid administrator at a postsecondary institution combines various forms of aid into a “package” to help meet a student’s need. Using available resources to give each student the best possible package of aid is one of the aid administrator’s major responsibilities. Because funds are often limited, a financial aid package might fall short of the amount a student is eligible for. Also, the amount of federal student aid in a financial aid package is affected by other sources of aid received (scholarships, state aid, etc.)

Guaranty Agency

The organization that administers the FFEL Program in your state. This agency is the best source of information on FFELs. To find out the name, address, and telephone number of the agency serving your state, you can contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center. A directory of guaranty agencies is available on the Department of Education’s Web site at .

Half Time

At schools measuring progress in credit hours and semesters, trimesters, or quarters, “half time” 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” is at least 12 semester hours or 18 quarter hours per year. At schools measuring progress by clock hours, “half time” 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 for a Direct Loan. Half time enrollment is a requirement to receive aid from the Federal Pell Grant, FSEOG, Federal Work- Study, or Federal Perkins Loan programs.

Home School

The institution where you are degree-seeking.

Host School

The institution where you are completing transient enrollment.

Promissory Note

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 on how interest is calculated and what the deferment and cancellation provisions are. 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.

Regular Student 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 about its standard.

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, and are not currently on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces. (Citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, or the Republic of Palau are exempt from registering.)

Last Modified - 10/28/10 10:08:43

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