Glossary
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  • Academic Year

    A period of time schools use to measure a quantity of study. Contact your financial aid office for information on how your school defines Academic Year.

  • Acceleration

    Demand for immediate repayment of your entire federal student loan. The entire unpaid amount of your federal student loan becomes due and payable if you:

    • Receive loan money, but do not enroll at least half-time at the school that determined you were eligible to receive the federal student loan;
    • Use your loan money to pay for anything other than expenses related to your education at the school that determined you were eligible to receive the federal student loan;
    • Make a false statement that causes you to receive a federal student loan that you are not eligible to receive; or
    • Default on your federal student loan.

  • Accrue

    To accumulate interest on a loan.

  • Adjusted Gross Income (AGI)

    You can find your Adjusted Gross Income on your most recently filed IRS Form 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ.

  • Aggregate Loan Limits

    A limit on the total amount of subsidized and/or unsubsidized loans that you may borrow for undergraduate and graduate study. If the total loan amount you receive over the course of your education reaches the aggregate loan limit, you are not eligible to receive additional loans. However, if you repay some of your loans to bring your outstanding loan debt below the aggregate loan limit, you could then borrow again, up to the amount of your remaining eligibility under the aggregate loan limit.

  • Alien Registration Number

    The alien registration number or "A-number" is an identifying number that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) assign to certain non-citizens. A-numbers may consist of 8 or 9 digits. The A-number is yours for life, much like a social security number. The A-number may be found on your green card.

  • Annual Loan Limit

    The maximum federal student loan eligibility per academic year. These amounts vary by type of loan and grade level. Your school will tell you how much you are eligible to receive each academic year. Specific amounts can be found at StudentAid.gov.

  • Annual Percentage Rate (APR)

    The actual yearly cost of borrowing money reflected as a percentage rate.

  • Award Letter

    A letter from your school that details your federal, state, institutional and private student financial aid.

  • Books, Supplies, Transportation, and Miscellaneous Personal Expenses

    Includes reasonable amounts, as determined by your school.

  • Borrower

    The individual who signed and agreed to the terms in the promissory note and is responsible for repaying a loan.

  • Capitalized Interest (Capitalization)

    Unpaid interest that has been added to the principal balance of a federal student loan. Future interest is charged on the increased principal balance and this may increase your monthly payment amount and the total amount you repay over the life of the federal student loan.

  • Consolidation

    The process of combining one or more loans into a single new loan.

  • Consumer Reporting Agencies

    See credit bureaus.

  • Cost of Attendance (COA)

    The total cost to attend school for the academic year, as determined by your school.

  • Credit Bureaus

    A credit bureau collects the credit information of individuals and makes it available to financial institutions, credit card companies, etc. Credit bureaus are also known as consumer reporting agencies (CRAs).

  • Credit Score

    A number reported by credit bureaus and used by lenders to determine whether to lend you money, and what interest rate to charge you.

  • Credit Report

    A collection of information about you and your credit history, kept by the three major credit bureaus.

  • Debt Consolidation

    When a borrower contracts a third party company to manage his/her unsecured debt.

  • Debt-to-Income Ratio

    The amount of debt compared to your overall income. Lenders use this ratio when determining whether to lend you money. A low debt-to-income ratio is more desirable.

  • Default

    Failure to repay a loan according to the terms agreed to. For the FFEL and Direct Loan programs, your loan is in default if you fail to make a payment for 270 days, if you repay monthly (or 330 days, if your payments are due less frequently). Your lender is required to report the default to at least one national credit bureau.

  • Deferment

    Allows you to temporarily stop making payments on your federal student loans. You are not charged interest on subsidized loans during deferment. Interest will continue to be charged on your unsubsidized loans and PLUS loans.

  • Delinquency

    You become delinquent on a loan if you don't make a payment when due. Your lender is required to report the delinquency to at least one national credit bureau.

  • Dependent Child Care Expenses

    The cost of care during periods that include but are not limited to class time, study time, field work, internships, and commuting time for the student.

  • Direct Loan

    See William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program.

  • Disbursement

    A portion of a federal student loan that the school pays out by applying the funds to the student's school account or by paying the borrower directly. Students generally receive their federal student loans in more than one disbursement.

  • Discretionary Income

    Your adjusted gross income minus the poverty guidelines for your family size.

  • Eligible loans for the IBR plan

    Eligible loans for the IBR plan are Direct Loan and FFEL Program loans other than: (1) a loan that is in default, (2) a Direct or Federal PLUS Loan made to a parent borrower, or (3) a Direct or Federal Consolidation Loan that repaid a Direct or Federal PLUS Loan made to a parent borrower. Federal Perkins Loans, HEAL loans or other health education loans, and private education loans are not eligible for the IBR plan. To access information on all of your federal student loans, check the National Student Loan Data System at www.nslds.ed.gov.

  • Eligible loans for the ICR plan

    Eligible loans for the ICR plan are Direct Loan Program loans received by an eligible new borrower other than: (1) a loan that is in default, (2) a Direct PLUS Loan made to a parent borrower, or (3) a Direct PLUS Consolidation Loan (these are Direct Consolidation Loans made based on an application received prior to July 1, 2006 that repaid Direct or Federal PLUS Loans made to a parent borrower). FFEL Program Loans, Federal Perkins Loans, HEAL loans or other health education loans, and private education loans are not eligible for the ICR plan. A Direct Consolidation Loan made based on an application received on or after July 1, 2006, including loans that repaid a Direct or Federal PLUS Loan made to a parent borrower, is eligible for the ICR plan. To access information on all of your federal student loans, check the National Student Loan Data System at www.nslds.ed.gov.

  • Eligible loans for the Pay As You Earn

    Eligible loans for the Pay As You Earn plan are Direct Loan Program loans other than: (1) a loan that is in default, (2) a Direct PLUS Loan made to a parent borrower, or (3) a Direct Consolidation Loan that repaid a Direct or Federal PLUS Loan made to a parent borrower. FFEL Program Loans, Federal Perkins Loans, HEAL loans or other health education loans, and private education loans are not eligible for the Pay As You Earn plan. To access information on all of your federal student loans, check the National Student Loan Data System at www.nslds.ed.gov.

  • Endorser

    Someone who does not have an adverse credit history and agrees to repay the federal student loan if you do not.

  • Expected Family Contribution (EFC)

    Your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is the number that's used to determine your eligibility for federal student aid. This number results from the financial information you provided in your FAFSA application. Your EFC is reported to you on your Student Aid Report (SAR).

  • Extended Repayment Plan

    Under this plan, your monthly payments are:

    • fixed or graduated
    • made for up to 25 years

    You must have had no outstanding balance on a Direct Loan and /or a FFEL Program loan as of October 7, 1998, or on the date you obtained a Direct Loan and/or a FFEL Program loan after October 7, 1998, and you must have more than $30,000 in outstanding Direct Loans or $30,000 in FFEL Program loans.

    For example, if you have $35,000 in outstanding FFEL Loans and $10,000 in outstanding Direct Loans, you can choose the Extended Repayment Plan for your FFEL Loans, but not for your Direct Loans.

  • FAFSA

    Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The FAFSA is a form that must be completed annually to help determine your eligibility for federal student aid. For more information, or to complete a FAFSA online for free, visit FAFSA on the Web.

  • Family Size

    Family size includes you, your spouse, and your children (including unborn children who will be born during the year for which you certify your family size), if the children will receive more than half their support from you. It includes other people only if they live with you now, they receive more than half their support from you now, and they will continue to receive this support from you for the year that you certify your family size. Support includes: money, gifts, loans, housing, food, clothes, car, medical and dental care, and payment of college costs. For the purposes of these repayment plans, your family size may be different from the number of exemptions you claim on your federal income tax return.

  • Federal Student Aid PIN

    A number used in combination with your Social Security Number, name, and date of birth to identify you as someone who has the right to access your own personal information on Federal Student Aid Web sites.

  • FFEL

    Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program. Federal student loans borrowed through private lenders and guaranteed by the federal government. FFEL Loans include the following types of federal student loans: Subsidized Stafford Loans, Unsubsidized Stafford Loans, Federal PLUS Loans and Federal Consolidation Loans.

    The FFEL Program ended July 1, 2010 and no new loans have been made since that date.

  • Final Divorce Decree

    Document prepared by the court that has been signed and notarized, setting forth the terms and conditions of the divorce.

  • Financial Aid Package

    The types and amounts of financial aid (federal and nonfederal) a student is offered by the school to help pay educational costs.

  • Financial Need

    The cost of attendance minus your expected family contribution.

  • Forbearance

    Allows you to temporarily stop making payments or reduce your federal student loans' monthly payment. Interest will continue to be charged on your subsidized, unsubsidized and PLUS loans.

  • Grace Period

    A period of time that generally begins on the day after a borrower graduates, leaves school, or drops below half-time enrollment and ends on the day before the repayment period begins. A borrower is not required to make payments during the grace period. Grace periods occur for:

    • subsidized and unsubsidized loans made under the Direct Loan and FFEL programs (six-month grace period); and
    • loans made under the Perkins loan program (generally nine-month grace period).

  • Graduate or Professional Student

    A student who:
    (1) Is not an undergraduate student;
    (2) Is enrolled in a program or course above the bachelors degree level or is enrolled in a program leading to a professional degree; and
    (3) Has completed the equivalent of at least three years of full-time study either before entering the program or as part of the program itself.

  • Graduated Repayment Plan

    Under this plan, your monthly payments

    • start out low and increase every two years
    • are made for up to ten years (not including periods of deferment or forbearance)
    • will at least equal the amount of interest that accrues between your payments
    • won't be more than three times greater than any other payment

  • Grant

    Student grants are monetary gifts to people who are pursuing higher education. Unlike student loans, grants do not require repayment.

  • Gross Income

    Your total income before deductions.

  • Half-Time Enrollment

    The minimum hours or credit hours you need to be enrolled to be eligible for a federal student loan. For information on half-time enrollment at your school contact your school's financial aid office.

  • Head of household

    • You are unmarried or 'considered unmarried' on the last day of the year.
    • You paid more than half the cost of keeping up a home for the year.
    • A 'qualifying person' lived with you in the home for more than half the year (except for temporary absences such as school). However, if the 'qualifying person' is your dependent parent, he or she does not have to live with you.

  • Holder/Loan Holder

    An entity that holds your loan promissory note and has the right to collect from you. Many banks sell loans, so the initial lender and the current holder could be different. The holder(s) of your Direct Loans is the U.S. Department of Education (the Department). The holder of your FFEL Program loan(s) may be a lender, secondary market, guaranty agency, or the Department. Your loan holder(s) may use a servicer to handle billing, payment, repayment options, and other communications on your loans.

  • Income-Based Repayment Plan (IBR)

    IBR is a repayment plan with monthly payments that are limited to 15 percent of your discretionary income. Discretionary income for this plan is the difference between your adjusted gross income and 150 percent of the poverty guideline amount for your state of residence and family size, divided by 12. To initially qualify for IBR and to continue making income-based payments under this plan, you must have a partial financial hardship (see definition).

  • Income-Contingent Repayment Plan (ICR)

    ICR is a repayment plan with monthly payments that are the lesser of (1) what you would pay on a 12-year standard repayment plan multiplied by an income percentage factor or (2) 20 percent of your discretionary income divided by 12. Discretionary income for this plan is the difference between your adjusted gross income and the poverty guideline amount for your state of residence and family size.

  • Interest

    The cost to borrow money. Interest is calculated as a percentage of the outstanding (unpaid) principal balance.

  • Interest Rate

    The percentage charged when you borrow money. See also Annual Percentage Rate (APR).

  • IRS Data Retrieval Tool

    The IRS Data Retrieval tool is an easy and secure way to access and transfer tax return information directly onto the electronic IBR/Pay As You Earn/ICR Request, saving time and improving accuracy. If you do not use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to provide tax information, you must provide your servicer(s) with a copy of your tax return or obtain an official tax transcript from the IRS.

  • LIBOR

    The London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) is the average interest rate paid on deposits of US dollars in the London market.

  • Loan

    Money that you borrow and must repay with interest.

  • Loan Discharge (Cancellation)

    The forgiveness of a loan debt under certain circumstances.

  • Loan Fee (Origination Fee)

    A fee charged for each federal student loan you receive that is a percentage of the total loan amount you are borrowing (gross amount). The loan fee is deducted proportionately from each disbursement of your loan. This reduces the actual loan amount you receive (net amount). The specific loan fee that you are charged will be included in a disclosure statement you will receive after the first disbursement of your federal student loan. You will be required to repay the gross amount.

  • Loan Forgiveness

    The cancellation of a loan debt under various loan forgiveness programs.

  • Loan Modification Agreement

    Temporary or permanent restructure of a mortgage loan.

  • Loan Period

    The portion of the academic year that the loan is requested for.

  • Loan Reference Number

    An identifying number associated to a Direct PLUS Loan Request. Used by an endorser when completing a Direct PLUS Loan endorser addendum for a specific loan.

  • Loan Servicer/Federal Loan Servicer

    An entity that collects payments on a federal student loan, responds to customer service inquiries, and performs other administrative tasks associated with maintaining a federal student loan on behalf of a loan holder. A federal loan servicer is a loan servicer for the U.S. Department of Education. If you have a Direct Loan, you will be assigned a federal loan servicer.

  • Master Promissory Note (MPN)

    A legal document in which you promise to repay your federal student loan(s) and any accrued interest and fees to your lender or loan holder. There is one MPN for Direct Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loans and a different MPN for Direct PLUS Loans.

    Most schools are authorized to make multiple federal student loans under one MPN for up to 10 years.

    Borrower's Rights and Responsibilities Statement - The MPN contains a Borrower's Rights and Responsibilities Statement that explains the terms and conditions of the loan(s) you receive. It is very important to read and save this document because you'll need to refer to it later when you begin repaying your federal student loan(s).

  • Minimum Balance

    The minimum amount of money a bank requires you to keep in your account to avoid fees.

  • My Annual Taxable Income

    You must list all taxable income you are receiving this year (i.e., income from employment, unemployment income, dividend income, interest income, tips, alimony). Do not report untaxed income such as Supplemental Security Income, child support, or federal or state public assistance.

    If you would like to use your most recent AGI and it was not available through the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, enter your AGI next to Your Annual Taxable Income.

    Note: If you filed a joint tax return, enter your joint AGI here and leave Your Spouse's Annual Taxable Income blank.

  • National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS)

    The central database for student aid. NSLDS receives data from schools, guaranty agencies, the Direct Loan Program, and other federal student aid programs.

    Any Title IV grant or loan you receive will be included in NSLDS. You can access NSLDS at www.NSLDS.ed.gov.

  • New Borrower for Pay As You Earn

    A new borrower has (1) no outstanding balance on a Direct Loan or FFEL program loan as of October 1, 2007 or has no outstanding balance on a Direct Loan or FFEL program loan when you obtain a new loan on or after October 1, 2007, and (2) received a disbursement of a Direct Subsidized Loan, Direct Unsubsidized Loan, or student Direct PLUS Loan on or after October 1, 2011, or received a Direct Consolidation Loan based on an application received on or after October 1, 2011. However, you are not considered a new borrower if the Direct Consolidation Loan you receive repays loans that would make you ineligible under part (1) of this definition.

  • On-time

    Payment made within 15 days of the scheduled due date.

  • Parental Contributions

    Money your parents give you to help pay for educational expenses. Not the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) from your FAFSA.

  • Partial Financial Hardship for IBR

    For IBR, you have a partial financial hardship when the annual amount due on all of your eligible loans or, if you are married and file a joint federal income tax return, the annual amount due on all of your eligible loans and your spouse's eligible loans, exceeds 15 percent of the difference between your adjusted gross income (AGI), as shown on your most recently filed federal income tax return, and 150 percent of the annual poverty guideline amount for your family size and state of residence: Annual amount of payments due > 15% [AGI - (150% x applicable poverty guideline amount)].

  • Partial Financial Hardship for Pay As You Earn

    For Pay As You Earn, you have a partial financial hardship when the annual amount due on all of your eligible loans or, if you are married and file a joint federal income tax return, the annual amount due on all of your eligible loans and your spouse's eligible loans, exceeds 10 percent of the difference between your adjusted gross income (AGI), as shown on your most recently filed federal income tax return, and 150 percent of the annual poverty guideline amount for your family size and state of residence: Annual amount of payments due > 10% [AGI - (150% x applicable poverty guideline amount)].

  • Pay As You Earn Plan

    The Pay As You Earn plan is a repayment plan with monthly payments that are limited to 10 percent of your discretionary income (the difference between your adjusted gross income and 150 percent of the poverty guideline amount for your state of residence and family size, divided by 12). To initially qualify for the Pay As You Earn plan and to continue to make income-based payments under this plan, you must have a partial financial hardship (and be a new borrower).

  • Payroll Deductions

    Amount withheld by an employer from employee's earnings. Some examples are: Federal Income Tax (withholding), Social Security, Medicare, State Taxes, Other Deductions (Health Insurance, Retirement Plan, etc.).

  • Perkins Loan

    A loan made under the Federal Perkins Loan Program for students with exceptional financial need. Perkins Loans are administered by the school.

  • PLUS Loan

    Direct PLUS Loans are loans for eligible graduate or professional students and eligible parents of dependent undergraduate students to help pay for the cost of the student's education at participating schools.*

    Includes Direct PLUS Loans (made through the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program) and Federal PLUS Loans (made through the Federal Family Education Loan Program.**)

    Students' loan information doesn't include PLUS loans taken out by parents on their behalf.

    * Graduate or professional students should exhaust unsubsidized and subsidized loans before taking out Direct PLUS Loans.

    ** The FFEL Program ended July 1, 2010 and no new loans have been made since that date.

  • Poverty Guideline

    Poverty guideline amount is the figure for your state and family size from the poverty guidelines published annually by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The HHS poverty guidelines are used for purposes such as determining eligibility for certain federal benefit programs. If you are not a resident of a state identified in the poverty guidelines, your poverty guideline amount is the amount used for the 48 contiguous states.

  • Prepaid Tuition

    A Section 529 plan. Prepaid tuition plans let you lock in future tuition rates at in-state public colleges at current prices and are usually guaranteed by the state.

  • Prime

    The interest rate banks charge their most creditworthy commercial customers.

  • Principal

    The loan amount you borrowed plus any capitalized interest.

  • Rehabilitated Loan

    A defaulted loan is rehabilitated if the borrower makes nine voluntary, reasonable, and affordable monthly payments within twenty days of the due date during ten consecutive months.

  • Repayment

    To pay back money you borrowed by making scheduled payments to a loan holder or servicer.

  • Repayment Period

    The maximum time period over which you must repay your federal student loan. The repayment period may range from 10 years to 30 years, depending on loan amount, loan type, and repayment plan.

  • Repayment Plan

    A plan set up and agreed upon between a borrower and lender that determines the amount you pay each month and the number of payments you must make.

  • Room and Board

    An allowance for the cost of housing and food while attending college or career school.

  • Satisfactory Repayment Arrangement

    Agreement between the debtor and the account holder detailing the terms of repayment.

  • Standard Repayment Plan

    Under this plan, your monthly payments are

    • a fixed amount of at least $50 each month
    • made for up to 10 years (not including periods of deferment or forbearance)

    This repayment plan saves you money over time because your monthly payments may be slightly higher than payments made under other plans, but you'll pay off your federal student loan in the shortest time. For this reason, you will pay the least amount of interest over the life of your federal student loan.

  • Student Aid Report (SAR)

    A summary of the information you submit on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) that provides you with your Expected Family Contribution (EFC).

  • Student Loan

    Money you borrow for school and must repay with interest.

  • Student Loan Debt Burden

    Student loan debt burden is the portion of a student's monthly income dedicated to their student loan payments. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has the following categories for student loan debt burden:

    • Low: Monthly payment less than 8% of monthly income
    • Medium: Monthly payment between 8% and 14% of monthly income
    • High: Monthly payment greater than 14% of monthly income

  • Subsidized Loan

    A federal student loan for which in some cases, a borrower is not responsible for paying the interest while in an in-school, grace*, or deferment period. Includes Direct Subsidized Loans (made through the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program) and Subsidized Federal Stafford Loans (made through the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program**.)

    * Interest will be charged during your grace period, if your loan is first disbursed July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2014.

    ** The FFEL Program ended July 1, 2010 and no new loans have been made since that date.

  • Tax Credit

    Reduces the taxes owed.
    Tax - Tax Credit=Taxes Owed
    $1000 - $250 = $750

  • Tax Deduction

    Reduces taxable income.
    Income - Deduction=Taxable Income
    $45,000 - $5,000 = $40,000

  • Taxable Income

    All income you are receiving this year (i.e., income from employment, unemployment income, dividend income, interest income, tips, or alimony). Does not include untaxed income such as Supplemental Security Income, child support, or federal or state public assistance.

  • Tax Return

    A form submitted to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and your state government on an annual basis reporting your income for the year.

  • Tax Withholding Allowances

    An allowance an individual claims on a W-4 Form. A withholding allowance is mainly used to assist an employer in calculating the amount of income tax to withhold from an employee's paycheck.

  • Tuition

    The costs of teaching/instruction at an institution (e.g. the rental or purchase of equipment (including equipment for instruction by telecommunications), materials, or supplies required of all students in the same course of study).

  • Undergraduate Student

    A student who is enrolled in an undergraduate course of study at a college/university or career school that usually doesn't exceed four years and that leads to an undergraduate degree or certificate.

  • Unsubsidized Loan

    A federal student loan for which the borrower is fully responsible for paying the interest regardless of the loan status. Includes Direct Unsubsidized Loans (made through the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program) and Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans (made through the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program*.)

    * The FFEL Program ended July 1, 2010 and no new loans have been made since that date.

  • Untaxed Income

    Income you do not pay taxes on, such as Supplemental Security income, child support, or federal, or public assistance, or you are not required to file a federal income tax return based on the amount of your taxable income.

  • Voluntary Payment

    Payment made directly by the borrower and does not include payments obtained by federal offset, garnishment of income or asset execution.

  • William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program

    Student loans provided by the U.S. Department of Education to enable a student to pay for education after high school. Eligible students borrow directly from the U.S. Department of Education at participating schools. Direct Loans include the following types of federal student loans: Direct Subsidized Loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, Direct PLUS Loans, and Direct Consolidation Loans.

  • Withholding

    Amount withheld by an employer from employee's earnings. Some examples are: Federal Income Tax (withholding), Social Security, Medicare, State Taxes, Other Deductions (Health Insurance, Retirement Plan, etc.)