Paying for College: Financial Aid Glossary

Books & Supplies 

College students must purchase or rent the books required for their classes along with notebooks and other materials. Books and supplies usually total several hundred dollars per term, but the amount will vary depending on your classes.

Cost of Attendance (COA)

The total cost of attending a college for one year, including tuition, room & board, books & supplies, travel, personal expenses, etc. This is sometimes referred to as the “sticker price” of a school.

CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE (CSS Profile)

An additional financial aid application used by some colleges to award their own financial aid funds. Demonstrated need: The difference between the cost of attendance and the expected family contribution for each college. Some colleges commit to meeting demonstrated need through financial aid.

Expected Family Contribution (EFC)

The amount that a student and the student’s family is expected to contribute to the cost of college based on their income, assets and household situation.

Federal Work-Study

Through the Federal Work-Study program, students are employed on campus and paid through a combination of federal and school funds. Students are typically expected to work 5-10 hours per week. Eligibility for Federal Work-Study is determined by the financial aid office. In order to utilize their Federal Work-Study, students must apply for and secure a job. Employers are often eager to hire work-study students because the salary is subsidized by federal funds. Work-study jobs can range from shelving books in the library, to assisting a faculty member with research, to tutoring. Work-study income is often expected to be put toward the cost of books, supplies, travel, or personal expenses. If you need to buy plane tickets or textbooks before you start receiving work-study paychecks, it may be necessary to borrow money from your savings or another source.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

A free application form students submit to apply for federal financial aid. It is required for all students seeking federal student grants, work-study programs and loans and may also qualify you for state-sponsored financial aid.

Grants

Gift money from the federal government, state government, and/or a college that the student does not need to pay back. This money is usually paid directly to the college without passing through the student's hands.

Net Price Calculator

An online tool provided by colleges to allow potential students to estimate the net price of attendance, which is the difference between the full cost of attendance and any grants and scholarships.

Outside Scholarship

Money from an outside organization that does not need to be repaid. Each college has a different policy on how outside scholarships impact student’s financial aid packages.

Parental Contribution

Amount that a student's parents are expected to pay directly to a college. This amount is calculated using the information in the FAFSA, CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE, and other required financial forms.

Parent Loan

Money that is borrowed in the parents’ name to pay for their child’s college. Parent loans need to be paid back with interest. The main parent loan is the federal PLUS loan.

Pell Grant

Government grant for low-income students, which ranges from $1 to over $5,500 depending on financial need. Eligibility is based on the FAFSA.

Personal Expenses

Any personal expenses that the student will incur, such as purchasing toiletries or seeing a movie. Some school-related fees (for labs, music lessons, etc.) may also be expected to come out of the personal expense budget.

Room & Board

Costs associated with living and dining while enrolled in school. There might be different room and board budgets for students living on and off campus.

Scholarship

Gift money for college that does not need to be repaid. It can be offered by the college itself, or outside organizations.

Student Aid Report (SAR)

The report sent to the student after the student submits the FAFSA; it tells the student what the expected family contribution (EFC) is.

Student Loan

Money that a student borrows to pay for school. Student loans must be repaid with interest. Student loans are offered from the federal government, private lenders, and in some cases, from the school directly. The two primary loan programs are the Federal Direct Loans -- the Unsubsidized and Subsidized loan programs. Federal Direct Subsidized loans are awarded on the basis of financial need and the federal government subsidizes the interest while the student is enrolled full-time and during a grace period. Federal Direct Unsubsidized loans begin accruing interest immediately. The standard repayment period for Federal Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized loans is ten years, although various repayment options, including forebearance and deferral, are available.

Student Savings Contribution

The amount a college expects a student to contribute to their college costs from their savings and investments.  Student savings and investments must be reported on the FAFSA, CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE, and other financial documents that the student submits to the college. A student savings contribution is typically a percentage of a student's total savings and investments. 

Summer Work Contribution

The amount of money a student is expected to earn during the summer to be used for college expenses for the upcoming year. The summer work contribution is often used to pay for travel costs to campus or to pay for personal expenses during the academic year. Students should plan to work during the summer before freshman year to meet this earnings requirement. The expected summer work contribution may increase slightly from year to year. Students can start earning this money in advance of the summer.

Work-Study

A federal program where students can work on campus or sometimes in the local community and get paid through a combination of federal and school funds. Students are typically expected to work 5-10 hours per week and students must apply for and secure their own job. Work-study income is often expected to be put toward the cost of books, supplies, travel, or personal expenses.

Travel

Costs associated with transportation to and from college at the beginning and end of the school year, and for winter break.

Tuition

Cost of educational instruction at a college.