Financial Aid Glossary

Search the financial aid glossary below.

Academic Credit

The unit of measurement an institution gives to a student when the student completes the institution’s course or subject requirements. At Susquehanna we use the semester-credit hour.

Academic Year

A period, defined by the school, which measures the academic work to be accomplished by the student. Susquehanna’s Academic Year is Fall and Spring. Summer would be a “trailer” term with financial aid options limited. No Susquehanna aid is provided in the Summer term. Visit Susquehanna’s Academic Calendar website.

Adjusted Available Income

The portion of family income remaining after deducting federal, state, and local taxes, a living allowance, and other factors used in Federal Methodology for packaging federal student aid on the FAFSA.

AGI - Adjusted Gross Income

All taxable income. Taken from the U.S. tax return and contained on the FAFSA.


Cash on hand in checking, savings, trust, stocks, bonds, other securities (i.e., real estate, income producing property, business equipment, and business inventory) is considered in determining expected family contribution for FAFSA purposes.

Award Letter

A means of notifying financial aid applicants of the assistance being offered. The award letter usually provides information on the types and amounts of aid offered, net cost and out-of-pocket costs as well as specific program information, student responsibilities and the conditions which govern the award. The letter provides students with the opportunity to accept or decline the aid offered. Admitted students receive their award letter upon admission and the receipt of a FAFSA. Current students receive their award letter (for the next academic year) each June after the processing of spring grades and an assessment of academic progress.

Award Year

The award year begins on July 1 of one year and extends to June 30 of the next year. Funding for the Federal Pell Grant and campus-based programs are provided based on the award year, thus a student is paid out of funds designated for a particular award year, such as the 2021-22 award year (July 1, 2021 through June 30, 2022).


The estimated cost of attendance for an institution; usually includes tuition, fees, books, supplies, room, board, personal expenses, and transportation. Other expenses may be included (see Cost of Attendance) and it aligns with their student type (i.e., residential, commuter, independent).

Campus-Based Programs

The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant and the Federal Work-Study programs. These two programs are called “campus-based” because the funds are administered directly by the college’s financial aid office, which awards these funds to students using federal guidelines.

Central Processing System (CPS)

The U.S. Department of Education’s processing facility for application data. The CPS receives student information from the FAFSA processors, calculates the student’s official EFC, and returns the student’s information to the FAFSA processor, which prints the Student Aid Report (SAR). It usually takes 5-7 business days for Susquehanna to receive a student’s FAFSA results.

Citizen/Eligible Non-Citizen

Students 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).


Same as endorser, a second credit-worthy party who is required to sign a promissory note for a loan with a borrower. This party guarantees the loan will be repaid if the borrower defaults.

Collection Agency

A business organization that accepts, from lenders, loan accounts that have become delinquent or are in default and attempts to collect on those accounts. A fee is charged for the service. Susquehanna’s primary partner is Security Credit.


Combining all your federal student loans under one repayment plan.

Consolidation Loan

A loan made to a student when an eligible lender pays off their existing student loans and creates one new loan. Students can combine certain eligible Federal student loans into one loan and increase their repayment time frame 10 to 30 years depending on the balance. Direct loan students can consolidate while they are still in school.

Cost of Attendance (also known as Budget, see above)

The student’s cost of attendance includes not only tuition and fees, but the student’s living expenses while attending college. The cost of attendance is estimated by the school, within guidelines established by federal regulations. The cost of attendance is compared to the student’s expected family contribution to determine the student’s need for aid.

Credit Bureaus

Organizations that maintain records on your financial history. Credit checks are required for alternative/private loans as well as federal Parent PLUS Direct loans.

Custodial Parent

The parent with whom a dependent student lives more than 50% of the time, and whose financial information is used on the FAFSA and in need analysis when parents are divorced or separated.


An amount of money owed.


Failure to repay a loan in accordance with the terms of the promissory note. May also result from failure to submit requests for deferment or cancellation on time. If one defaults, the school, the organization that holds the loan, the state, and the federal government can all take action to recover the money, including notifying national credit bureaus of your default. This may affect students’ credit rating for a long time.

Deferment of Loan

A condition during which payment of principal are not required, and for Perkins and Subsidized Stafford Loans, interest does not accrue. The repayment period is extended by the length of the deferment period.


To be overdue on one or more payments on a loan.

Department (ED or USED)

Abbreviation for the U.S. Department of Education; the federal cabinet level agency which administers student aid programs.

Dependent Student

A student who must use parental information on the financial aid application based on dependency criteria, established by the funding source. A student who does not qualify as an independent student (see Independent Student).


The process by which financial aid funds are made available to students for use in meeting educational and related living expenses.


Electronic version of the Master Promissory Note.


U.S. Department of Education; the federal cabinet level agency which administers student aid programs through the Federal Student Aid (FSA) office.

EFC - Expected Family Contribution

For the calculation of Federal Title IV aid resulting from information contained on the FAFSA and utilized to determine a student’s need (COA-EFC).

Eligible Aid Applicant

An eligible aid applicant is a regular student (as defined below) who meets all these four criteria:

  1. Is enrolled in an academic or training program eligible for the campus-based programs during award year and is making satisfactory academic progress as defined by the college.
  2. Meets citizenship or residency requirements for the award year.
  3. Applies for financial aid by submitting the FAFSA and receiving eligible SAR/ISIR (see term below).
  4. Has on file with the institution all information needed to perform a need-based analysis on the information required in Part F of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended.
Eligible Institution

An institution of higher education, a vocational school, or a postsecondary vocational institution, or a proprietary institution of higher education which is approved for participation in the federal student aid programs by the U.S. Department of Education and/or for Pennsylvania State programs by the PA State Education Department.

Eligible Program

A program of education or training which complies with the procedures established in regulations governing the Title IV programs. The eligibility of a program determines whether a student in that program can receive federal financial assistance. A course of study leading to a degree or certificate at a school participating in one or more of the student aid programs.


Same as co-signer, a second credit-worthy party who is required to sign a promissory note for a loan with a borrower. This party guarantees the loan will be repaid if the borrower defaults

Enrollment Status

Enrollment status equals a student’s credit hour workload categorized as either full-time (12 credits at Susquehanna), three quarter-time, half-time, or less than half time. To be eligible for institutional aid at Susquehanna, students must be enrolled full-time.

Entrance Counseling

Conducted before release of the first disbursement of the first Federal Direct Loan made to the borrower. The counseling is virtual, online via the U.S. Department of Education.

Exit Counseling

Conducted to advise the student of loan repayment information before they enter repayment upon graduation, withdrawal or dropping to below a half-time enrollment status (6 credits). The counseling is virtual, online via the U.S. Department of Education.

FAFSA - Free Application for Federal Student Aid

The annual application for federal student aid, filled out by the student that collects household and financial information used to calculate the expected family contribution. The FAFSA is released on October 1 each year for the subsequent award year using the previous year’s tax data, i.e., released October 1, 2021 for the 2022-23 academic / award year using 2020 taxes. Click here for the FAFSA!

Federal Direct PLUS (Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students) Loan 

Long-term loans made available to parents of dependent students attending colleges that participate in the Federal Direct Stafford Loan Program. Credit checks are required for parent applicants and the amount borrowed is limited to the cost of attendance minus estimated financial assistance.

Federal Direct Stafford Loan (Subsidized and Unsubsidized)

Same as a Federal Stafford Loan, funds come directly to the college from the federal government, eliminating the bank, credit union or other lender. Some aspects of the application process may be different.

Federal Pell Grant 

Grants awarded to undergraduate students based on financial need as demonstrated on the FAFSA. Pell grants are a form of gift aid and do not require repayment to the federal government.

Federal School Code

A Federal School Code is always six characters: 0 (zero), G, B, or E followed by a five-digit number that used by the U.S. Department of Education to identify an eligible institution of higher education. For a school to receive your FAFSA results each year, you must provide their school code on the FAFSA. For example, 00336900 is the Federal School Code for Susquehanna University.

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG or SEOG)

One of the campus-based programs; grants to undergraduate students of exceptional financial need who have not completed their first baccalaureate degree and who are financially in need of this grant to enable them to pursue their education. Priority for SEOG awards must be given to Pell Grant recipients beginning with 0 EFC students and students must be randomly selected per the U.S. Department of Education.

Federal Work-Study

Provides part-time employment to students with remaining need attending institutions of higher education who need the earnings to help pay the cost of their postsecondary education. FWS gives students an opportunity to earn money to help pay educational expenses. The program encourages community service work. No more than 20 hours per week.


At Susquehanna, student activity and health fees are mandatory for all full-time enrolled on-campus, remote and commuter students, including those studying abroad. These fees are not refundable. The funds are charged to students provide resources to over 150 student clubs and organizations on campus as well as the Student Health Center.

Financial Aid Package

The combination of financial aid funds (loans, grants, scholarships, and employment) awarded to an individual student by Susquehanna.

Financial Need

The difference between the student’s cost of attendance and the expected family contribution.


A temporary cessation of repayment of loans allowing an extension of time for making loan payments or accepting smaller loan payments than were previously scheduled.

Foreign Student

A student belonging to or owing allegiance to another country. Foreign students are not eligible for the basic federal programs, although there are categories of non-U.S. citizens eligible for student aid.

Fostering Independence Through Education Tuition Waiver Program (FosterEd)

Provides a waiver for tuition and mandatory fees charged by most postsecondary institutions located in the Commonwealth for youth who are or were in foster care. Visit for more information.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid


Full-Time Student

Generally, one who is taking a minimum of 12 academic credits.

Gift Aid

That form of financial aid which does not require repayment or require that work be performed.

Grace Period

The period 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 accrue during this period. Student borrowers have 6months of grace available in total.

Graduate or Professional Student

A student enrolled in an academic program of study above the baccalaureate level at an institution of higher education.


Are awards for which there is no expectation of repayment or services to be performed.


Amount of money received from any or all the following: wages, interest, dividends, sales or rental of property or services, business or farm profits, certain welfare programs, and subsistence allowances such as taxable and non-taxable Social Security benefits and child support.

Independent Student

For federal student aid purposes, students who meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • 24 years of age or older by Dec. 31 of the award year
  • Veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces
  • Graduate/professional student
  • Married
  • Ward of the Court (until age 18) or both parents deceased
  • Legal dependents (other than spouse) for whom the student provides over half of the child’s support
  • Serving on active duty in the armed forces for other than training purposes.
Institutional Aid

Financial aid available through the school. Usually consists of need-based grants and/or academic merit scholarships. There is typically no expectation of repayment or services to be performed however some endowed scholarship opportunities may require additional service / volunteerism or repayment if the terms & conditions of the scholarship are not met by the student.


A postsecondary educational institution. The terms, “school/college/university” and “institution” may be used interchangeably to refer to postsecondary educational institutions.


The fee charged to borrow money. The student pays their lender interest in addition to repaying the principal (the sum borrowed). Usually, interest is calculated as a percentage of the principal and paid in monthly payments.


Internal Revenue Service.

ISIR - Institutional Student Information Report

A form that is sent to the student’s school like the Student Aid Report that is sent to the student. The ISIR contains the family’s financial information and indicates the student’s eligibility for aid.

Legal Dependent (of Applicant)

A natural or adopted child, or a person for whom the applicant has been appointed legal guardian, and for whom the applicant provides more than half support. In addition, a person who lives with and receives at least half support from the applicant and will continue to receive that support during the award year. A student who has a legal dependent is independent. For purposes of determining dependency status, a spouse is not considered a legal dependent.

Legal Guardian

An individual appointed by a court to be a legal guardian of a person and who is specifically required by the court to use their own financial resources to support that person. A legal guardian is not considered a parent.


The party that gives you a loan, whether it be a bank, credit union, savings and loan association, a college, the government, or another organization.


Awards made with a formal agreement for repayment with interest.

Master Promissory Note (MPN)

A legal document that the borrower signs to get a loan in which the borrower promises to repay the loan, with interest, in specified installments. The MPN will also include any information about the grace period, deferment or cancellation provisions, and the student’s rights and responsibilities with respect to the loan.


To be enrolled at an institution, working toward a degree or certificate in an eligible program.

Merit Award/Scholarship

Financial aid which is awarded based on demonstrated academic excellence, professional promise, and personal merit during a student’s high school career. Merit awards at Susquehanna are fixed and do not increase annually.

Need–Based Aid

Student assistance awarded because a student’s financial circumstances or need as denoted on the FAFSA.

Net Price Calculator

Net price calculators are available on a college’s or university’s website and allow prospective students to enter information about themselves to find out what students like them paid to attend the institution in the previous year, after taking grants and scholarship aid into account. Susquehanna University also has a Financial Planning website for current students to prepare for cost associated with the upcoming academic year.

NSLDS - National Student Loan Data System

The U.S. Department of Education’s central database for student aid. Students can access information on loan or grant amounts, outstanding balances, the status of their loans, and disbursements.

Origination Fee

A percentage of your loan amount charged by the lender for the processing of your loan. Federal student loans have an origination fee; therefore, the amount you may receive as a disbursement may be slightly lower than the amount you accept.

Outside Scholarships

A scholarship not awarded by the university or the government (federal/state). A scholarship that comes from an external party. For example, a scholarship from your high school or local non-profit organization would be considered an outside scholarship.


The student’s natural mother, father, or an adoptive parent is the student’s mother or father, as is the stepparent. A legal guardian is not considered a parent.

Part-Time Student

One who attends an institution on less than a full-time basis as defined by the institution. At Susquehanna, a student taking less than 12 credits would be consider part-time. Part-time students are charged tuition per credit and are not guaranteed housing at Susquehanna. Part-time students may also not be eligible for all forms of financial aid and therefore if you’re considering part-time enrollment, please contact Student Financial Services.

PHEAA - Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency

A state agency that administers the Pennsylvania student grant program and a provider of private student loans such as PA Forward.

PIN - Personal Identification Number

Issued by the U.S. Department of Education for a student and a parent separately. The PIN serves as an identifier to provide electronic access to personal federal student aid information.

Professional Judgment 

While the method for determining student’s need for federal student aid is defined in the law, the law does give financial aid administrators professional judgment. Professional judgment can be used in three areas:

  • The aid administrator can choose to override the student’s dependency status to make the student independent if they meet federal guidelines.
  • the administrator can adjust the components of the student’s cost of attendance if they meet federal guidelines; and
  • the administrator can adjust the data elements used to calculate the student’s expected family contribution if they meet federal guidelines.

These adjustments must be made on a case-by-case basis, and the reasons for the adjustment must be documented in the student’s file.

Renewal FAFSA

FAFSA filed by an applicant who applied for federal financial aid in the previous year. Filed online, the Renewal FAFSA is pre-filled with applicant information that is not expected to change from one year to the next.

Resident Student

A full-time undergraduate student who does not live at home (with parents or guardian) during the academic year. At Susquehanna full-time undergraduate students are required to live on-campus. Independent students may request to live off-campus by contacting Residence Life.

Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP)

Progress required of a financial aid recipient according to the school’s approved published policy.


A form of financial assistance which does not require repayment or employment and is made to a student who demonstrates or shows potential for distinction at an institution, usually in academic performance. As a Division III NCAA member, Susquehanna is prohibited from offering any type of scholarship for athletic leadership.


Social Security Number.

Student Aid Report (SAR)

The federal “output document” printed by a FAFSA processor and mailed to the student. The SAR contains the family’s financial and other information as reported by the student on the financial aid application. The student can make corrections/update information on the SAR and submit it to the federal processor. The student’s eligibility for aid is indicated by the EFC printed on the front of the SAR. Schools receive an electronic version of the SAR from the FAFSA processor, called an ISIR.

Student Financial Services (SFS)

SFS is a one-stop shop for student-finance related services, such as applying for financial aid, paying a tuition bill, supporting financial literacy efforts, and all of the services necessary to inform a thoughtful educational investment by students, families and supporters.

Taxable Income 

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

Truth-in-Lending Statement

The document provided to loan recipients that delineates the interest rates and other information relative to the loan the student has received. The use of the statement is required by the Consumer Credit Act. The Title IV loan programs are exempt from compliance with Truth-in-Lending.

Tuition Payment Plans

A payment option by which payment for present costs of postsecondary education is extended into a future period. To enroll in a payment plan via Nelnet Campus Commerce log into your Student Account Center Portal via MySU. Parents will need to be granted access by the student prior to logging in to the account.

Contact Student Financial Services via email ( with questions regarding how to calculate the total amount of your fall term bill and payment plan. NELNET charges a $50 enrollment fee each semester for the payment plan and a late charge of $25 is assessed if a payment is missed.  

Unmet Need

The difference between a specific student’s total available resources and the total cost for the student’s attendance at a specific institution.

Untaxed Income

All income received that is not reported to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or is reported but excluded from taxation. Such income would include, but not be limited to, any untaxed portion of Social Security benefits, Earned Income Credit, welfare payments, untaxed capital gains, interest on tax-free bonds, dividend exclusion, and military and other subsistence and living allowances.

VA - Veteran’s Administration

Administered assistance programs for veterans and their dependents.


A procedure whereby the school checks the information the student reported on the financial aid application, usually by requesting a copy of the tax returns filed by the student and, if applicable, the student’s spouse and parent(s). Many schools conduct their own form of verification. In addition, schools must verify students selected through the federal central processing system, following the procedures established by regulation. The contractor will print an asterisk next to the expected family contribution (on the Student Aid Report) to identify students who have been selected for verification. If the U.S. Department of Education selects your FAFSA for verification, your aid will be on hold until you complete all requirements.

Veterans Educational Benefits

Assistance programs for veterans and service persons or dependents of veterans for education or training (i.e. Montgomery GI Bill).


A person who has served on active duty in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines or Coast Guard, and who was discharged other than dishonorably. Veterans are independent. There is no minimum length of service requirement.

Vocational Rehabilitation

Programs administered by State Department of Vocational Rehabilitation Services to assist individuals who have a physical or mental disability which is a substantial handicap to employment.