Brief Definitions of "Financial Aid-ese"

Academic Year - The time between the beginning of the fall semester, usually in late August/early September, through the end of the spring semester, usually in late April/early May. The Academic Year at Georgian Court University consists of two semesters of approximately 15 weeks each and several semester breaks.  It does not include summer course study.

Alternative Loan - A non-need based educational loan program where students may borrow a maximum amount equaling the cost of education less financial aid. 

Award Letter - The actual letter that an admitted and aided student receives from the Director of Financial Aid outlining each type and amount of offered financial assistance. 

Award Year - July 1 of one year through June 30 of the following year.  The same as a fiscal year. 

Billed Costs - Expenses incurred by a student at the College for which there is an actual cost billed by the College's Business Office.  Billed costs include tuition, room, meal plan, and student service fees.  Both Billed Costs and Non-Billed Costs (see below) comprise the Cost of Education.  Financial Aid goes toward the sum total of Billed and Non-Billed Costs, not any one specific Billed Cost.

Certification (as in Certifying a loan) - The responsibility of Georgian Court University to verify a student's and/or parent's eligibility for their requested amount of a federal student loan.  Certification is performed by the Loan Officer in the Office of Financial Aid.

College Work Award (WAD) - A non-need based, campus work-study program.  This program, unlike Federal Work-Study, is awarded and funded by the College.  Students who choose to do College Work Award must wait until after the first two weeks of the academic year to contract campus employment, thereby allowing need eligible Federal Work-Study students the opportunity to secure employment.

Cost of Education (also known as Cost of Attendance) - The total cost of educating a GCU student for an entire academic year.  The COE includes actual Billed Costs and estimated Non-Billed Costs.  The COE includes Billed Costs of tuition, room, meal plan, and student fees as well as Non-Billed Costs of transportation, books, supplies, loan fees, and miscellaneous expenses.  The COE is used as a best benchmark of expense for use in determining true financial need.

Dependent Student - A student who does not qualify as an Independent Student.  See "Independent Student" definition below.

Dependents - Spouse, children, and other household members for whom the parent or independent aid applicant provides more than half support.

Direct Costs - see Billed Costs, above.

Disbursement - When funds from a lender are released to the University Business Office to pay down a student's college bill; as in "The Georgian Court University Business Office received your Stafford Loan disbursement today from 'Fill-In-Blank Lender Agency,' thereby paying down your overall College bill."

Eligibility - The amount of financial need for which you qualify, as determined by the aid need based aid formula.

FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) - A free financial aid application, provided by the Department of Education.  The FAFSA gathers data from your family in order to determine federal grant eligibility and Expected Family Contribution (EFC) using the Federal Methodology (FM).

Federal Eligibility - The amount of financial need for which a student has been determined to have according to the federal government formula.  Federal eligibility is tested via information gathered from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

Federal Methodology - A formula established by the U.S. Congress used to determine a student's Expected Family Contribution (EFC) for campus-based and Stafford federal loan program purposes.

Federal Work Study (FWS) - A campus-based aid program for which students must qualify according to the federal government's Federal Methodology.  Considered self-help aid, Federal Work Study students are allocated 10 hours per week of work and are given preference for campus employment into the first two weeks of the academic year.

Financial Aid - Money provided to enrolled Georgian Court University students, who are in good standing that is put toward paying the total Cost of Education.  Financial Aid can comprise of various amounts and combinations of loans, grants, work, and scholarships from sources such as the U.S. federal government, private outside agencies, and Georgian Court University itself.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) - A financial aid application provided by the U.S. federal government that enables students to qualify for a host of federal loan, grant, and work-study programs.  Completing the application correctly enables the Federal Methodology to calculate for the student and family an Expected Family Contribution toward the education of the student.  There is no fee charged to the student for completing, submitting, or processing the application.  (

Full-Time Status - At GCU, defined by enrollment of at least 12 matriculated credits per semester.  Full-Time Status can determine eligibility for state programs such as the Tuition Aid Grant (TAG).

Gift Aid - Any type of financial aid award which requires no repayment and no work to be performed.

Grace Period - The period of time that begins when a loan recipient ceases to be at least half-time and ends when the repayment period starts.  Loan principal need not be paid and interest does not begin accruing during this period on subsidized loans.

Grant - Gift aid programs which require neither repayment nor any kind of work to be performed.  Federal grant programs include the Federal Pell Grant, and the Federal Supplementary Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG).

Half-time Status – At GCU, defined by enrollment of at least 6 matriculated credits per semester.  Half-Time Status can affect need eligibility for state programs such as the Tuition Aid Grant.  Students must be at least Half-time in order to receive a Stafford Loan, or PLUS Loan.

Home Equity - The value of a home minus what is owed on the home.

Independent Student - A student who has attained age 24 by January 1 of the year prior to the aid year*, or who has not attained age 24 but: 

  • is an orphan
  • is a ward of the court
  • is a veteran
  • is married
  • is a graduate or professional student
  • has legal dependents (other than a spouse) to whom more than half of their support is provided by the student
  • have other unusual circumstances in the Professional Judgment of the aid administrator.

*For example:  A first-year student entering in the Fall of 2006 must have turned 24 years old before January 1, 2005 to be considered an Independent Student.

Indirect Costs - see Non-Billed costs, below.

Interest Rate - The amount charged by a lender to a borrower for the use of money over a period of years.  Interest rate is expressed as an annual percentage of the principal amount borrowed.  It is calculated by dividing the amount of interest by the amount of principal.  Interest rates often change as a result of inflation and Federal Reserve policies. For example, if a lender (such as a bank) charges a customer $90 in a year on a loan of $1000, then the interest rate would be 90/1000 *100% = 9%.

IRA - An Individual Retirement Account.  Retirement withholdings are not included in the aid calculations unless they are being tapped for income.

Less-Than-Half-Time Status - At GCU, defined by enrollment of 5 or less credits.  Less-Than-Half-Time Status affects eligibility for Stafford Loans.

Loan - An advance of funds evidenced by a promissory note requiring the recipient of the loan to repay the specified amount(s) under prescribed conditions.  Loans may be borrowed from the federal government, private banks, lending agencies, or individuals, usually with an interest rate which ensures that the money repaid in the future equals or exceeds the amount initially borrowed. (

Master Promissory Note (MPN) - Used for federal Stafford Loans, this is a legal document that the student borrower signs when obtaining the loan.  It lists the conditions under which the loan is made and the terms under which the student borrower agrees to pay back the loan.  The MPN is signed once and can be used over a period of ten years.  It works much like a line of credit, allowing the student to borrow loans each year without having to re-sign each year.

Merit-Based Scholarship - A competitive, non-need based, grant aid program awarded to incoming first-year students by the admission committee for outstanding academic and academic/personal accomplishments.  The amount and criteria of each award vary.  Criteria for automatic yearly renewal apply to each award. 

Need - The difference between a specific student's determined amount of total available resources and the Cost of Education.

Need Analysis - A system used to estimate a student applicant's need for financial assistance to help meet his/her educational expenses.

Non-Billed Costs - Expenses incurred by a student at the College for which there is NO actual cost billed by the College's Business Office because the costs vary from student to student.  Non-Billed costs include books, supplies, transportation expenses, loan fees, and miscellaneous expenses.  Both Non-Billed Costs and Billed Costs (see above) comprise the Cost of Education.  Financial Aid goes toward the sum total of Non-Billed and Billed Costs.

NSLDS - National Student Loan Data System - The National Student Loan Data System is the U.S. Department of Education's central database for student aid.  It receives data from schools, agencies that guaranty loans, the Direct Loan program, the Pell Grant program, and other U.S. Department of Education programs.  NSLDS provides a centralized, integrated view of Title IV loans and Pell grants that are tracked through their entire cycle.  The NSLDS Student Access web site is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. (

Off-Campus Student - A student who is not living in College residential housing.  Off-campus housing is considered a non-billed indirect cost and is accounted for in the total Cost of Education for a student in the same way as it would be for an On-Campus Student.

Off-Campus Study (also Study Abroad) - Academic program opportunities where students may study at universities outside of the United States or other colleges and universities within the United States.  Financial aid for study abroad is applicable and congruent with financial aid at GCU.

On-Campus Student - A student who is living in a College residence.  On-Campus students are billed directly by the Business Office for their resident accommodations.

Origination - A loan fee charged by the lending agency that is passed on to the borrower.  It is calculated on the amount borrowed for a federal Stafford Loan.

Parent - A student's mother, father, or an adoptive parent is considered to be the student's mother or father.

Parent Contribution - A quantitative estimate, according to the need analysis methodologies, of the parents' ability to contribute to postsecondary educational expenses.  Note:  This assessment measures ability, not willingness, to contribute. 

Payment Period - An institutionally defined length of time for which financial aid funds will be paid to a student.

Pell Grant - A federal grant program that ranges from a minimum award of $400 to a maximum award of $5350 per year, granted to students who meet certain criteria within their enrollment status.  The Pell Grant payment schedule determines the award amount at the intersection between Cost of Attendance (COA) and Expected Family Contribution (EFC).   Named for Senator Claiborne Pell.

PIN (Personal Identification Number) - Used to electronically sign the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and Stafford Loan applications.  Dependent students need both a student PIN and a parent PIN.  (

PLUS Loan - The Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students is a loan that parents can borrow to pay for their student's education expenses. To be eligible, a student must be a dependent, undergraduate student and be enrolled at least Half-Time Status.  Parents must have no adverse credit history.  PLUS Loans are unsubsidized.  (

Pre-Approval - To be given approval by a lender to borrow a student loan for up to a certain amount.  Pre-approval is a helpful tool when considering educational costs throughout the college selection process.

Principal - The loan amount borrowed.

Priority Period - The period between the beginning of the fall semester and mid-September when priority for seeking campus employment is given to students with demonstrated financial need who have been awarded Federal Work Study.

Professional Judgment - A Financial Aid Administrator's authority to adjust data elements used in Federal Methodology to determine need on a case-by-case basis with sound documentation.

Promissory Note - A binding, legal document provided by your lender and signed by the borrower promising to pay back the loan under specifically outlined terms.

Reauthorization - The legislative process generally carried out every 4 to 6 years in the case of the Higher Education Act of 1965 which instituted the use of Title IV aid programs.  During Reauthorization Congress reviews and either renews, terminates, or amends existing programs.  The last Reauthorization was 1998.

Repayment - The period of time when a student borrower repays a loan.  Repayment often has a limited length of time of no more than 10 years.

Scholarship - For first-time, full-time freshmen academic scholarships are based on your high school academic record.  Please Note:  All GPAs are recalculated to count academic classes (English, Mathematics, History, Foreign Language, Sciences) only, on a 4.0 scale and SATs a5re calculated with the Mathematics and Critical Reading (Verbal) section only.

SEOG (Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant) (also known as the FSEOG (Federal SEOG)) - A federal grant awarded to undergraduate students with exceptional financial need; these are students with the lowest Expected Family Contributions (EFCs).  Priority is given to Pell Grant recipients.

Foreign Language, Sciences only, on a 4.0 scale and SATs are calculated with the Mathematics and Critical Reading (Verbal) section only.

Split Loan - If a student achieves their next yearly enrollment status between fall and spring semesters, they may receive a Split Loan.  The fall semester loan limit amount will be representative of their former status (e.g., sophomore) and the spring semester loan limit will be representative of their new status (e.g., junior).

Subsidized Loan - A loan supported with funds paid by the federal government to the loan lender.  With Federal Stafford Loans, the federal government makes interest payments to the lender on behalf of the student borrower during at least half-time enrollment and approved grace or deferment periods.

Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG) - see SEOG, above

Stafford Loan - A need-based guaranteed student loan, the Stafford Loan is awarded to students with federal eligibility as determined by the FAFSA.  Stafford Loan yearly award limits vary with increasing loan limits for each successive year studied.  First-year undergraduate students may receive up to $3,500, second year students $4,500, and third and fourth year students $5,500.  In addition students may receive an additional $2,000 in a Stafford Unsubsidized loan.  The most Stafford Loan that an undergraduate, dependent student may borrow in their career is $31,000 (no more than $23,000 of which can be subsidized).  The most Stafford Loan that an undergraduate, independent student may borrow in their career is $57,500 (no more than $23,000 of which can be subsidized).  Graduate and Professional Students can borrow no more than $138,500 (no more than $65,500 of which can be subsidized).  Named for Senator Robert Stafford.

Status - As in a student's enrollment status at GCU;  Full-Time, Half-Time, or Less-Than-Half-Time.  Each status can determine or affect federal and state aid eligibility.  Definitions for all are above.

Taxable Income - Income earned from wages, salaries, tips, interest income, dividend income, business or farm profits, and rental property income.

Tuition Aid Grant (TAG) – Tuition Aid Grants are based on need and awarded to full-time undergraduate students who have been legal residents of New Jersey for at least 12 consecutive months before enrolling in a New Jersey institution.  Student who have received a baccalaureate degree do not qualify.  The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or the “Renewal Application” is required to apply for this grant.  This financial aid program is administered by the New Jersey Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESAA).

Title IV Funds - Federal student financial aid programs for student attending postsecondary institutions.  These programs are authorized under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, and administered by the Department of Education.  Title IV programs include the Pell Grant, the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG), Federal Work Study, the Stafford Loan, and the Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students (PLUS).

Undergraduate Student - A student who has not completed the requirements of a baccalaureate or first professional degree.  GCU provides an education strictly for the undergraduate student.

Unmet Need - The difference between a specific student's total available resources after financial aid has been awarded and the Cost of Education.

Unsubsidized Loan - A federal loan offer to students without federal need eligibility or to students whose parents may have been denied a Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students (PLUS).  Students without federal need eligibility qualify automatically for an "unsub" Stafford Loan by completing and submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  The "unsub" loan is, by definition, not subsidized by the federal government, i.e., the federal government does not make interest payments on behalf of the student.  Interest instead accrues on the loan for the life of the loan including while the student is in school.

Variable Rate - This refers to a loan whose interest rate varies over the repayment term of the loan. 

Verification - The process of confirming the accuracy of the information submitted on financial aid applications by comparing specified documents, such as income tax returns and other supplemental worksheets, with data elements on the applications for financial aid.

Withdrawal - Discontinuing attendance at the University, either officially or unofficially.

Withdrawal Date - For the purpose of recalculating a refund or repayment of loan dollars to the lender.  For expulsion, the date expelled; for official withdrawal, the date of intent to withdraw; for unofficial withdrawal, the last recorded date of class attendance as documented by the University.

Work Award - see College Work Award, above.

Work Study - see Federal Work Study, above.


Sources:  Don Raley Institute Student Manual;;;

© Georgian Court University • 900 Lakewood Ave, Lakewood, NJ 08701 (Best address for GPS is 517 Ninth Street, Lakewood, NJ 08701) • 800·458·8422