Open bookConfused by some of the financial aid language used by schools, applications and other hoops involved in the process. Read below and we will help make sense of it all.

Billable Costs – Those costs that are billed directly by the institution to the family. Billable costs include tuition and fees, as well as room and board for students living on campus housing and taking meals on campus. Billable costs are sometimes referred to as direct costs

Campus Based Programs – Federal Loan, Federal Work Study, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, and Perkins loans are the three kinds of federally funded financial aid programs that are administered by colleges and universities

Cost of Attendance – This figure is determined for each college by totaling the costs for tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, personal expenses and travel

CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE – A fully online data collection and need-analysis service required by many colleges, universities and private scholarship programs in addition to the FAFSA. CSS/PROFILE is used in awarding private financial aid funds. Students pay a fee to register for the CSS/PROFILE and have reports sent to institutions and programs that use it

Early Action – Programs that allow students to be notified early about their admission without obligating them to attend that college. Even if accepted, students are free to apply to other schools and to compare financial aid offers

Early Decision – Programs that bind the student to attend that college. Therefore the student cannot renege on their commitment unless they are not accepted

Expected Family Contribution (EFC) – The amount of money that a family is expected to contribute toward the student’s cost of attendance.
This number is the result of completing a FAFSA

Federal Methodology – The method used for calculating EFC based on the FAFSA

Federal Pell Grant – A Federally sponsored and administered program that provides grants based on exceptional need to undergraduate students. Congress annually sets the dollar range for grants

Financial Aid Award Letter – A notice from a college or other financial aid sponsor that tells the student how much aid is being offered. The award letter also usually explains how a student’s financial need was determined, describes the contents of the financial aid package, and outlines any conditions attached to the award

Gift Aid – Financial aid such as a grant or scholarship offered by the government and colleges

Grants – Gift aid based on financial aid

Institutional Methodology – Another method for calculating a family’s expected contribution based on the completion of a CSS/Financial Aid Profile. This amount is used for awarding financial aid from funds under the college’s control

Need Aware – Colleges that take financial need and its ability to satisfy it when making admission decisions

Need Blind – Colleges that make admission decisions without consideration of a family’s ability to pay or if they applied for financial aid

Non-Need Based Aid – Tuition discounts to attract certain students to a college

Professional Judgment – The authority of a school’s financial aid administrator to make adjustments to the data elements on the FAFSA, based on supporting facts and documentation. This authority is also regulated by governmental requirements and guidelines subject to strict compliance audits

Subsidized Loan – A need based Stafford loan on which the government pays the interest while the student is in college

Unsubsidized Loan – Non need based student loan on which interest accrues while the student is in college

Unmet Financial Need – The difference between the Cost of Attendance and the Expected Family Contribution. This is the amount on which financial aid and loans are based

Work Study – A federal program that provides campus based employment for those with the greatest financial need


Free Application For Federal Student Aid


CSS Profile




Pell Grant



Perkins Loan

Stafford Loan

Ford Direct Loan

Unsubsidized Loan

Subsidize Loan


Need Blind

Test Blind

Need Aware

Need Analysis

Federal Methodology

Institutional Methodology

Consensus Methodology

Early Decision

Early Action

Admission Office


Paying for College


College Board

Federal Work Study


Dept. of Education

Expected Family Contribution

Estimated Family Contribution

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