Financial Aid Glossary

Financial aid has its own vocabulary. To help you speak the language, here are the most commonly used terms and acronyms.


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ACT American College Testing Program          
AFDC Aid to Families with Dependent Children
AP Advanced Placement
BIA Bureau of Indian Affairs
CLEP College-Level Examination Program
COA Cost of Attendance
CPS Central Processing System
CSS College Scholarship Service
CWS College Work-Study
ED US Department of Education
EFC Expected Family Contribution
EFT Electronic Funds Transfer
ELO Expanded Lending Option
ESAR Electronic Student Aid Report
ETS Educational Testing Service
FAA Financial Aid Administrator
FAF Financial Aid Form
FAFSA Free Application for Federal Student Aid
FAO Financial Aid Office
FAT Financial Aid Transcript
FDSLP Federal Direct Student Loan Program
FFELP Federal Family Education Loan Program
FSEOG Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant
FM Federal Methodology
FWS Federal Work-Study
GPA Grade Point Average
GSL Guaranteed Student Loan
HEAL Health Education Assistance Loan
HHS US Department of Health and Human Services
HPSL Health Profession Student Loan
IM Institutional Methodology
IRA Individual Retirement Account
IRS Internal Revenue Service
ISIR Institutional Student Information Report
MDE Multiple Data Entry
NHSC National Health Corps Scholarship
NMSQT National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test
NSL Nursing Student Loan
PC Parent Contribution
PCL Primary Care Loan
PHEAA Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency
PJ Professional Judgment
PLUS Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students
PSAT Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test
RA Research Assistantship
ROTC Reserve Officer Training Corps
SAP Satisfactory Academic Progress
SAR Student Aid Report
SAT Scholastic Assessment Test
SC Student Contribution
SEOG Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant
SLMA Student Loan Marketing Association
SLS Supplemental Loan for Students
SSIG State Student Incentive Grants
TA Teaching Assistantship
TOEFL Test Of English As A Foreign Language
USED US Department of Education
VA Veterans Administration
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1040 Form, 1040A Form, 1040EZ Form
The Federal Income Tax Return. Every person who has received income during the previous year must file a form 1040 with the IRS by April 15.

1099 Form
Form used by business to report income paid to a non-employee. Banks use this form to report interest income.

401 (k)
A popular type of retirement fund. It is legal to borrow money from your 401(k) to help pay for your children's education.

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Academic Year
The period during which school is in session, consisting of at least 30 weeks of instructional time. The school year typically runs from the beginning of September through the end of May at most colleges and universities.

To accumulate.

Accrual Date
The date on which interest charges on an educational loan begin to accrue. See also Subsidized Loan.

Achievement Tests (SAT II)
A collection of tests that measure the student's proficiency and accumulated knowledge of specific subject areas. Different schools require different achievement tests as part of their admissions requirements. Since March 1994, these tests are now known as the SAT II tests. See also SAT and ETS.

Adjusted Available Income
In the Federal Methodology, the remaining income after the allowances (taxes and a basic living allowance) have been subtracted.

A practice in which a school will admit marginal students, but not award them any financial aid. Very few schools use admit-deny, because studies have shown that lack of sufficient financial aid is a key factor in the performance of marginal students.

Advanced Placement Test (AP)
Test used to earn credit for college subjects studied in high school. They are offered by ETS in the spring. AP tests are scored on a scale from 1 to 5 (the best possible score).

An aggregator is a student who wins many scholarships with a cumulative value of more than $100,000. Some aggregators have published books with a theme "I won a gazillion dollars for college and you can too". Although these books contain some good advice, most students will not be able to pay for college entirely through scholarships. Very few students win more than $100,000 in scholarships, and doing so requires a combination of talent and luck. More than 90% of students do not receive any private scholarships, and the average amount received by students who do win scholarships is approximately $2,000.

Alternative Loans
See Private Loans.

American College Test (ACT)
One of the two national standardized college entrance examinations used in the US. The other is the SAT. The ACT is widely used in the West and Midwest. Most universities require either the ACT or the SAT as part of an application for admission. See also PLAN.

The process of gradually repaying a loan over an extended period of time through periodic installments of principal and interest.

A formal request to have a financial aid administrator review your aid eligibility and possibly use Professional Judgment to adjust the figures. For example, if you believe the financial information on your financial aid application does not reflect your family's current ability to pay (e.g., because of death of a parent, unemployment or other unusual circumstances), you should definitely make an appeal. The financial aid administrator may require documentation of the special circumstances or of other information listed on your financial aid application.

An item of value, such as a family's home, business, and farm equity, real estate, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, cash, certificates of deposit (CDs), bank accounts, trust funds and other property and investments.

Asset Protection Allowance
A portion of your parents' assets that are not included in the calculation of the parent contribution, as calculated by the Federal Methodology need analysis formula. The asset protection allowance increases with the age of the parents.

See Graduate Assistantship.

Associate Degree
The degree granted by two-year colleges.

Award Letter
An official document issued by a school's financial aid office that lists all of the financial aid awarded to the student. This letter provides details on their analysis of your financial need and the breakdown of your financial aid package according to amount, source and type of aid. The award letter will include the terms and conditions for the financial aid and information about the cost of attendance. You are required to sign a copy of the letter, indicating whether you accept or decline each source of aid, and return it to the financial aid office. Some schools call the award letter the "Financial Aid Notification (FAN)".

Award Year
The academic year for which financial aid is requested (or received).

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Bachelor's Degree
The undergraduate degree granted by four-year colleges and universities.

Balloon Payment
A larger than usual payment used to pay off the outstanding balance of a loan without penalty. Not all loans allow balloon payments. Simple interest loans, like many educational loans, generally do allow balloon payments.

When a person is declared bankrupt, he is found to be legally insolvent and his property is distributed among his creditors or otherwise administered to satisfy the interests of his creditors. Federal student loans, however, cannot normally be discharged through bankruptcy.

Base Year
The tax year prior to the academic year (award year) for which financial aid is requested. The base year runs from January 1 of the junior year in high school through December 31 of the senior year. Financial information from this year is used to determine eligibility for financial aid.

The person who receives the loan.

See Cost of Attendance.

Bursar's Office
(Also called Student Accounts Office) The university office that is responsible for the billing and collection of university charges.

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Campus-based Aid
Financial aid programs are administered by the university. The federal government provides the university with a fixed annual allocation, which is awarded by the financial aid administrator to deserving students. Such programs include the Perkins Loan, Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant and Federal Work-Study. Note that there is no guarantee that every eligible student will receive financial aid through these programs, because the awards are made from a fixed pool of money. This is a key difference between the campus-based loan programs and the Direct Loan Program. Do not confuse the two, even though both loans are issued through the schools.

Some loan programs provide for cancellation of the loan under certain circumstances, such as death or permanent disability of the borrower. Some of the Federal student loan programs have additional cancellation provisions. For example, if the student becomes a teacher in certain national shortage areas, they may be eligible for cancellation of all or part of the balance of their educational loans. Repayment assistance is available if you serve in the military; the military pays off a portion of your loans for every year of service.

Capital Gain
An increase in the value of an asset such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds and real estate between the time the asset was purchased and the time the asset was sold.

The practice of adding unpaid interest charges to the principal balance of an educational loan, thereby increasing the size of the loan. Interest is then charged on the new balance, including both the unpaid principal and the accrued interest. Capitalizing the interest increases the monthly payment and the amount of money you will eventually have to repay. If you can afford to pay the interest as it accrues, you are better off not capitalizing it. Capitalization is sometimes called compounding. See also Unsubsidized Loans.

Property that is used to secure a loan. If the borrower defaults on the loan, the lender can seize the collateral. For example, a mortgage is usually secured by the house purchased with the loan.

Collection Agency
A company often hired by the lender or guarantee agency to recover defaulted loans.

College Board
A nonprofit educational association of colleges, universities, educational systems and other educational institutions. For more information, see College Board Online (CBO).

College Work-Study (CWS)
College Work-Study is simply a part time job. This term is sometimes erroneously used to refer to the Federal Work-Study Program.

Color of Federal Forms
The FAFSA and SAR change color each year in a four color rotation: Yellow (2003-04), Pink (2004-05), Green (2005-06), and Blue (2006-07) then it repeats. This will help you make sure you're filing the correct form. Purple has been the stable parent color since 1999-2000.

Common Law Marriage
If a couple cohabits while holding themselves out as being married, they are considered to be married in 16 states.

Community Property
Community property laws specify that property is owned jointly by husband and wife unless there is a specific agreement to the contrary (i.e., prenuptial agreements). According to IRS Publication 555, the following is a list of Community Property states: Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin. In addition, Alaska has community property laws.

Commuter Student
A student who lives at home and commutes to school every day.

Compounded Interest
Interest that is paid on both the principal balance of the loan and on any accrued (unpaid) interest. Capitalizing the interest on an unsubsidized Stafford loan is a form of compounding.

Consolidation Loan
(Also called Loan Consolidation) A loan that combines several student loans into one bigger loan from a single lender. The consolidation loan is used to pay off the balances on the other loans.

Cooperative Education
A program where the student spends time engaged in employment related to their major in addition to regular classroom study.

A cosigner on a loan assumes responsibility for the loan if the borrower should fail to repay it.

Cost of Attendance (COA)
(Also known as the cost of education or "budget") The total amount it should cost the student to go to school, including tuition and fees, room and board, allowances for books and supplies, transportation, and personal and incidental expenses. Loan fees, if applicable, may also be included in the COA. Child care and expenses for disabilities may also be included at the discretion of the financial aid administrator. Schools establish different standard budget amounts for students living on-campus and off-campus, married and unmarried students and in-state and out-of-state students.

Credit Rating
An evaluation of the likelihood of a borrower to default on a loan. Credit bureaus and credit reporting agencies provide this information to banks and businesses to help them decide whether to issue a loan or extend credit. Your credit rating may include your payment history, a list of current and past credit accounts and their balances, employment and personal information and a history of past credit problems.

People who make all their payments on time are considered good credit risks. People who are frequently delinquent in making their payments are considered bad credit risks. Defaulting on a loan can hurt your credit rating.

Custodial Parent
If a student's parents are divorced or separated, the custodial parent is the one with whom the student lived the most during the past 12 months. The student's need analysis is based on financial information supplied by the custodial parent.

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A loan is in default when the borrower fails to pay several regular installments on time (i.e., payments overdue by 180 days) or otherwise fails to meet the terms and conditions of the loan. If you default on a loan, the university, the holder of the loan, the state government and the federal government can take legal action to recover the money, including garnishing your wages and withholding income tax refunds. Defaulting on a government loan will make you ineligible for future federal financial aid, unless a satisfactory repayment schedule is arranged, and can affect your credit rating.

Occurs when a borrower is allowed to postpone repaying the loan. If you have a subsidized loan, the federal government pays the interest charges during the deferment period. If you have an unsubsidized loan, you are responsible for the interest that accrues during the deferment period. You can still postpone paying the interest charges by capitalizing the interest, which increases the size of the loan. Most federal loan programs allow students to defer their loans while they are in school at least half time. If you don't qualify for a deferment, you may be able to get a forbearance. You can't get a deferment if your loan is in default.

If the borrower fails to make a payment on time, the borrower is considered delinquent and late fees may be charged. If the borrower misses several payments, the loan goes into default.

Dependency Status
Determines to what degree a student has access to parent financial resources.

For a child or other person to be considered your dependent, they must live with you and you must provide them with more than half of their support. Spouses do not count as dependents in the Federal Methodology. You and your spouse cannot both claim the same child as a dependent. (See also Independent.)

Direct Loans
The William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program (aka the Direct Loan Program) is a federal program where the school becomes the lending agency and manages the funds directly, with the federal government providing the loan funds. Not all schools currently participate in this program. Benefits of the program include a faster turnaround time and less bureaucracy than the old "bank loan" program. The terms for Direct Loans are the same as for the Stafford Loan program. For more information about Direct Loans, contact the Direct Loan Servicing Center at 1-800-848-0979.

The release of loan funds to the school for delivery to the borrower. The payment will be made co-payable to the student and the school. Loan funds are first credited to the student's account for payment of tuition, fees, room and board and other school charges. Any excess funds are then paid to the student in cash or by check. Unless the loan amount is under $500, the disbursement will be made in at least two equal installments.

To release the borrower from his or her obligation to repay the loan. See also Cancellation.

Disclosure Statement
Provides the borrower with information about the actual cost of the loan, including the interest rate, origination, insurance, loan fees and any other types of finance charges. Lenders are required to provide the borrower with a disclosure statement before issuing a loan.

One of several degrees granted by graduate schools.

Due Diligence
If a borrower fails to make payments on their loan according to the terms of the promissory note, the federal government requires the lender, holder or servicer of the loan to make frequent attempts to contact the borrower (via telephone and mail) to encourage him or her to repay the loan and make arrangements to resolve the delinquency.

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Early Action
A program with earlier deadlines and earlier notification dates than the regular admissions process. Students who apply to an early action program do not commit to attending the school if admitted, unlike an early decision program. Ivy League schools do not allow you to apply to more than one Ivy early action.

Early Admission
A program that allows gifted high school juniors to skip their senior year and enroll instead in college. The term "Early Admission" is sometimes used to refer collectively to Early Action and Early Decision programs.

Early Decision
A program with earlier deadlines and earlier notification dates than the regular admissions process. Students who apply to an early decision program commit to attending the school if admitted (thus, early decision can be applied to only one school). Unfortunately, this means the student has accepted the offer of admission before they find out about the financial aid package. You should only participate in an early decision program if the school is your first choice and you won't want to consider other schools.

Electronic Data Exchange (EDE)
Program used by participating schools to electronically receive SARs from the federal processor. At some schools EDE allows students to electronically file their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Educational Testing Service (ETS)
Company that produces and administers the SAT and other educational achievement tests.

Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT)
Used by some schools and lenders to wire funds for Stafford and PLUS loans directly to participating schools without requiring an intermediate check for the student to endorse. The money is transferred electronically instead of using paper, and hence is available to the student sooner. If you have a choice of funds transfer methods, use EFT.

Electronic Student Aid Report
An electronic form of the Student Aid Report.

Eligible Non-Citizen
Someone who is not a US citizen but is nevertheless eligible for Federal student aid. Eligible non-citizens include US permanent residents who are holders of valid green cards, US nationals, holders of form I-94 who have been granted refugee or asylum status and certain other non-citizens. Non-citizens who hold a student visa or an exchange visitor visa are not eligible for Federal student aid.

To release a child from the control of a parent or guardian. Declaring a child to be legally emancipated is not sufficient to release the parents or legal guardians from being responsible for providing for the child's education. If this were the case, then every parent would "divorce" their children before sending them to college. The criteria for a child to be found independent are much stricter. See Dependency Status.

Funds owned by an institution and invested to produce income to support the operation of the institution. Many educational institutions use a portion of their endowment income for financial aid. A school with a larger ratio of endowment per student is more likely to give larger financial aid packages.

Enrollment Status
An indication of whether you are a full-time or part-time student. Generally you must be enrolled at least half-time (and in some cases full-time) to qualify for financial aid.

Entitlement programs award funds to all qualified applicants. The Pell Grant is an example of such a program.

Entrance Interview
See Loan Interviews.

The dollar value of your ownership in a piece of property. See Home Equity.

Exit Interview
See Loan Interviews.

Expanded Lending Option (ELO)
Under ELO, some schools can offer higher annual and cumulative loan limits to students receiving the Perkins Loan. The ELO is restricted to schools with a Perkins Loan default rate of 15% or less.

Expected Family Contribution (EFC)
The amount of money that the family is expected to be able to contribute to the student's education, as determined by the Federal Methodology need analysis formula approved by Congress. The EFC includes the parent contribution and the student contribution, and depends on the student's dependency status, family size, number of family members in school, taxable and nontaxable income and assets. The difference between the COA and the EFC is the student's financial need, and is used in determining the student's eligibility for need-based financial aid. If you have unusual financial circumstances (such as high medical expenses, loss of employment or death of a parent) that may affect your ability to pay for your education, tell your financial aid administrator (FAA). He or she can adjust the COA or EFC to compensate. See Professional Judgment.

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Federal Direct Student Loan Program (FDSLP)
Similar to the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP). The funds for these loans are provided by the US government directly to students and their parents through their schools. Benefits of the program include a faster turn-around time and less bureaucracy than the old "bank loan" program. The FDSLP includes the Federal Direct Stafford Loan (Subsidized and Unsubsidized) and the Federal Direct Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students (PLUS).

Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP)
Includes the Federal Stafford Loan (Subsidized and Unsubsidized), the Federal Perkins Loan and the Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students (PLUS). The funds for these loans are provided by private lenders, such as banks, credit unions and savings & loan associations. These loans are guaranteed against default by the federal government.

Federal Methodology
The need analysis formula used to determine the EFC. The Federal Methodology takes family size, the number of family members in college, taxable and nontaxable income and assets into account. Unlike most Institutional Methodologies, however, the Federal Methodology does not consider the net value of the family residence.

Federal Processor
The organization that processes the information submitted on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and uses it to compute eligibility for federal student aid. There are two different federal processors serving specific geographic regions.

Federal Work-Study (FWS)
Program providing undergraduate and graduate students with part-time employment during the school year. The federal government pays a portion of the student's salary, making it cheaper for departments and businesses to hire the student. For this reason, work-study students often find it easier to get a part-time job. Eligibility for FWS is based on need. Money earned from a FWS job is not counted as income for the subsequent year's need analysis process.

A form of aid given to graduate students to help support their education. Some fellowships include a tuition waiver or a payment to the university in lieu of tuition. Most fellowships include a stipend to cover reasonable living expenses (e.g., just above the poverty line). Fellowships are a form of gift aid and do not have to be repaid.

Financial Aid
Money provided to the student and the family to help them pay for the student's education. Major forms of financial aid include gift aid (grants and scholarships) and self-help aid (loans and work).

Financial Aid Administrator (FAA)
A college or university employee who is involved in the administration of financial aid. Some schools call FAAs "Financial Aid Advisors" or "Financial Aid Counselors".

Financial Aid Form (FAF)
The old name for the Financial Aid PROFILE. The Financial Aid PROFILE is a supplemental financial aid form processed by the College Scholarship Service (CSS). It is not necessary to file a Financial Aid PROFILE in order to apply for Federal student financial aid; the FAFSA is sufficient. The Financial Aid PROFILE is used by many private colleges and universities for awarding institutional funds.

Financial Aid Notification (FAN)
See Award Letter.

Financial Aid Office (FAO)
The college or university office that is responsible for the determination of financial need and the awarding of financial aid.

Financial Aid Package
The complete collection of grants, scholarships, loans and work-study employment from all sources (federal, state, institutional and private) offered to a student to enable them to attend the college or university. Note that unsubsidized Stafford loans and PLUS loans are not considered part of the financial aid package, since these financing options are available to the family to help them meet the EFC.

Financial Aid Transcript (FAT)
A record of all federal aid received by the student at each school attended. If you have previously attended an institution of higher education and are now applying for financial aid from the different university, the university will require a FAT from each of the schools previously attended, regardless of whether aid was received or not. They are required to do this by federal law. You have to submit a FAT even if you were in high school at the time. An electronic FAT process will be in place soon which will eliminate the need for the student to submit a FAT. The FAT is not the same as an academic transcript.

Financial Need
See Need.

Financial Safety School
A school you are certain will admit you, and which is inexpensive enough that you can afford to attend even if you get no (or very little) financial aid.

First-Time Borrower
A first-year undergraduate student who has no unpaid loan balances outstanding on the date he or she signs a promissory note for an educational loan. First-time borrowers may be subjected to a delay in the disbursement of the loan funds. The first loan payment is disbursed 30 days after the first day of the enrollment period. If the student withdraws during the first 30 days of classes, the loan is canceled and does not need to be repaid. Borrowers with existing loan balances aren't subject to this delay.

Fixed Interest
In a fixed interest loan, the interest rate stays the same for the life of the loan.

During a forbearance the lender allows the borrower to temporarily postpone repaying the principal, but the interest charges continue to accrue, even on subsidized loans. The borrower must continue paying the interest charges during the forbearance period. Forbearances are granted at the lender's discretion, usually in cases of extreme financial hardship or other unusual circumstances when the borrower does not qualify for a deferment. You can't receive a forbearance if your loan is in default.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
Form used to apply for Pell Grants and all other need-based aid. As the name suggests, no fee is charged to file a FAFSA.

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The practice of failing to meet a student's full demonstrated need. See also Unmet Need.

The practice of withholding a portion of a defaulted borrower's wages to repay his or her loan, without their consent.

Gift Aid
Financial aid, such as grants and scholarships, which does not need to be repaid.

Grace Period
A short time period after graduation during which the borrower is not required to begin repaying his or her student loans. The grace period may also kick in if the borrower leaves school for a reason other than graduation or drops below half-time enrollment. Depending on the type of loan, you will have a grace period of six months (Stafford Loans) or nine months (Perkins Loans) before you must start making payments on your student loans. The PLUS Loans do not have a grace period.

Grade Point Average (GPA)
An average of a student's grades, converted to a 4.0 scale (4.0 is an A, 3.0 is a B, and 2.0 is a C). Some schools use a 5.0 scale for the GPA.

Graduate Assistantship
There are two types of graduate assistantships: teaching assistantships (TA) and research assistantships (RA). TAs and RAs receive a full or partial tuition waiver and a small living stipend. TAs are required to perform teaching duties. RAs are required to perform research duties, not necessarily related to the student's thesis research.

Graduate Student
A student who is enrolled in a Masters or PhD program.

Graduated Repayment
A schedule where the monthly payments are smaller at the start of the repayment period and gradually become larger.

A type of financial aid based on financial need that the student does not have to repay.

Gross Income
Income before taxes, deductions and allowances have been subtracted.

Guarantee Agency or Guarantor
State agencies responsible for approving student loans and insuring them against default. Guarantee agencies also oversee the student loan process and enforce federal and state rules regarding student loans.

Guarantee Fee
A small percentage of the loan that is paid to the guarantee agency to insure the loan against default. The insurance fee is usually 1% of the loan amount (and by law cannot exceed 3% of the loan amount).

Guaranteed Student Loan (GSL)
(Now called the Stafford Loan.) A guaranteed loan is insured against default. In the case of guaranteed student loans, the Federal government agrees to repay the loans in case of default. Each loan is charged a guarantee fee to cover the costs of defaulted loans.

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Most financial aid programs require that the student be enrolled at least half-time to be eligible for aid. Some programs require the student to be enrolled full-time.

Health Education Assistance Loan (HEAL)
A low interest loan administered by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). It is available to medical school students pursuing medicine, osteopathy, dentistry, veterinary medicine, optometry, podiatry, clinical psychology, health administration and public health. Undergraduate pharmacology students are also eligible.

Health Professions Student Loan (HPSL)
A low interest loan administered by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). It is now known as the Primary Care Loan (PCL).

The lender, institution or agency that holds legal title to a loan. The holder may be the bank that issued the loan, a secondary market that purchased the loan from the bank or a guarantee agency if the borrower defaulted on the loan.

Home Equity
Current market value of a home less the mortgage's remaining unpaid principal. It is based on the market value, not the insurance or tax value. For a conservative estimate of your home's market value, try using the Federal Housing Index Calculator. See also Equity.

Horizontal Equity
The principle of horizontal equity is that families with similar financial circumstances should pay the same amount, regardless of how their assets, investments and income are defined.

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In-State Student
A student who has met the legal residency requirements for the state, and is eligible for reduced in-state student tuition at public colleges and universities in the state.

The amount of money received from employment (salary, wages, tips), profit from financial instruments (interest, dividends, capital gains), or other sources (welfare, disability, child support, Social Security and pensions).

Income Contingent Repayment
Under an income contingent repayment schedule, the size of the monthly payments depends on the income earned by the borrower. As the borrower's income increases, so do the payments. The income contingent repayment plan is not available for PLUS Loans.

An independent student is at least 24 years old as of January 1 of the academic year, is married, is a graduate or professional student, has a legal dependent other than a spouse, is a veteran of the US Armed Forces, or is an orphan or ward of the court (or was a ward of the court until age 18). A parent refusing to provide support for their child's education is not sufficient for the child to be declared independent. (See also Dependent.)

Individual Retirement Account (IRA)
One of several popular types of retirement funds. It is not legal to borrow money from your IRA to help pay for your children's education.

Installment Loan
A consumer loan in which the principal and interest are repaid on a regular (usually monthly) schedule. The payments are called "installments" and are all for the same amount.

Institutional Methodology (IM)
If a college or university uses its own formula to determine financial need for allocation of the school's own financial aid funds, the formula is referred to as the Institutional Methodology.

Institutional Student Information Report (ISIR)
The electronic version of SARs delivered to schools by EDExpress.

Insurance Fee
Fee passed on by the lender to the federal government as insurance against default. Insurance fees are charged as the loan is disbursed, and typically run to 1% of the amount disbursed. See also Guarantee Fee.

Amount charged to the borrower for the privilege of using the lender's money. Interest is usually calculated as a percentage of the principal balance of the loan. The percentage rate may be fixed for the life of the loan, or it may be variable, depending on the terms of the loan. All federal loans issued since October, 1992 use variable interest rates that are pegged to the cost of US Treasury Bills.

Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
Federal agency responsible for enforcing US tax laws and collecting taxes.

Part-time job during the academic year or the summer months in which a student receives supervised practical training in a their field. Internships are often very closely related to the student's academic and career goals, and may serve as a precursor to professional employment. Some internships provide very close supervision by a mentor in an apprenticeship-like relationship. Some internships provide the student with a stipend, some don't.

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A bank, credit union, savings & loan association, or other financial institution that provides funds to the student or parent for an educational loan. Note: Some schools now participate in the Federal Direct Loan program and no longer use a private lender, since loan funds are provided by the US Government.

If a school offers a talented student extra financial aid, regardless of need, the student is more likely to enroll. Leveraging is the controversial practice of figuring out how much it will take to attract such students and customizing aid offers to optimize the quality of the incoming class.

Line of Credit
Pre-approved loan that lets you borrow money up to a pre-set credit limit, usually by writing checks. A line of credit doesn't cost you anything until you write a check, and then you begin repayment just like a regular loan.

A type of financial aid which must be repaid, with interest. The federal student loan programs (FFELP and FDSLP) are a good method of financing the costs of your college education. These loans are better than most consumer loans because they have lower interest rates and do not require a credit check or collateral. The Stafford Loans and Perkins Loans also provide a variety of deferment options and extended repayment terms.

Loan Consolidation
See Consolidation Loan.

Loan Forgiveness
The federal government cancels all or part of an educational loan because the borrower meets certain criteria (e.g., is performing military or volunteer service).

Loan Interviews
Students with educational loans are required to meet with a financial aid administrator before they receive their first loan disbursement and again before they graduate or otherwise leave school. During these counseling sessions, called entrance and exit interviews, the FAA reviews the repayment terms of the loan and the repayment schedule with the student.

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Master's Degree
One of several degrees granted by graduate schools.

A student matriculates in college when he or she enrolls in college for the first time. A student who just started the freshman year in high school will matriculate in four years. A newborn baby will matriculate in approximately 17 years.

Maturity Date
The date when a loan comes due and must be repaid in full.

Financial aid that is merit-based depends on your academic, artistic or athletic merit or some other criteria, and does not depend on the existence of financial need. Merit-based awards use your grades, test scores, hobbies and special talents to determine your eligibility for scholarships.

A loan of funds for purchasing a piece of property which uses that property as security for the loan. The lender has a lien on the property and will receive the property if the borrower fails to repay the loan.

Multiple Data Entry Processor (MDE)
A company that processes the FAFSA forms submitted by students. The College Scholarship Service (CSS) and PHEAA are both MDE Processors.

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National Health Corps Scholarship (NHSC)
Scholarship program administered by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). It is available to medical students studying allopathic and osteopathic medicine and to dental school students studying dentistry.

National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT)

National Service Trust
President Clinton's national community service program. If you participate in this program before attending school, the funds may be used to pay your educational expenses. If you participate after graduating, the funds may be used to repay your federal student loans. Eligible types of community service include education, human services, the environment and public safety.

The difference between the COA and the EFC is the student's financial need -- the gap between the cost of attending the school and the student's resources. The financial aid package is based on the amount of financial need. The process of determining a student's need is known as need analysis.

Cost of Attendance (COA)
- Expected Family Contribution (EFC)
= Financial Need

Need Analysis
The process of determining a student's financial need by analyzing the financial information provided by the student and his or her parents (and spouse, if any) on a financial aid form. The student must submit a need analysis form to apply for need-based aid. Need analysis forms include the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the Financial Aid PROFILE.

Financial aid that is need-based depends on your financial situation. Most government sources of financial aid are need-based.

Under need-blind admissions, the school decides whether to make an offer of admission to a student without considering the student's financial situation. Most schools use a need-blind admissions process. A few schools will use financial need to decide whether to include marginal students in the wait list.

Under need-sensitive admissions, the school does take the student's financial situation into account when deciding whether to admit him or her. Some schools use need-sensitive admissions when deciding to accept a borderline student or to pull a student off of the waiting list.

Net Income
This is income after taxes, deductions and allowances have been subtracted.

New Borrower
See First-Time Borrower.

Nursing Student Loan (NSL)
A low interest loan administered by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and available to students enrolled in nursing programs.

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Origination Fee
Fee paid to the bank to compensate them for the cost of administering the loan. The origination fees are charged as the loan is disbursed, and typically run to 3% of the amount disbursed. A portion of this fee is paid to federal government to offset the administrative costs of the loan.

Outside Resource
Aid or benefits available because a student is in school and is counted after need is determined. Outside scholarships, prepaid tuition plans and VA educational benefits are examples of outside resources.

Outside Scholarship
A scholarship that comes from sources other than the school and the federal or state government.

Out-of-State Student
A student who has not met the legal residency requirements for the state, and is often charged a higher tuition rate at public colleges and universities in the state.

A student who receives federal support may not receive awards totaling more than $400 in excess of his or her financial need.

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The process of assembling a financial aid package.

Parent Contribution (PC)
An estimate of the portion of your educational expenses that the federal government believes your parents can afford. It is based on their income, the number of parents earning income, assets, family size, the number of family members currently attending a university and other relevant factors. Students who qualify as independent are not expected to have a parent contribution.

Parent Loans for Undergraduate Students (PLUS)
Federal loans available to parents of dependent undergraduate students to help finance the child's education. Parents may borrow up to the full cost of their children's education, less the amount of any other financial aid received. PLUS Loans may be used to pay the EFC. There is a minimal credit check required for the PLUS loan, so a good credit history is required. Check with your local bank to see if they participate in the PLUS loan program. If your application for a PLUS loan is turned down, your child may be eligible to borrow additional money under the Unsubsidized Stafford Loan program.

Pell Grant
A federal grant that provides funds of up to $2,340 based on the student's financial need.

Perkins Loan
Formerly the National Direct Student Loan Program, the Perkins Loan allows students to borrow up to $3,000/year (5 year max) for undergraduate school and $5,000/year for graduate school (6 year max). The Perkins Loan has one of the lowest interest rates and is awarded by the financial aid administrator to students with exceptional financial need. The student must have applied for a Pell Grant to be eligible. The interest on the Perkins Loan is subsidized while the student is in school.

One of several degrees granted by graduate schools.

A test taken in the fall of the sophomore year in high school as practice for the ACT.

Prepaid Tuition Plan
A college savings plan that is guaranteed to rise in value at the same rate as college tuition. For example, if a family purchases shares that are worth half a year's tuition at a state college, they will always be worth half a year's tuition, even 10 years later when tuition rates will have doubled.

Paying off all or part of a loan before it is due.

Primary Care Loan (PCL)
A low interest loan administered by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). It is available to medical school students pursuing medicine, osteopathy, dentistry, veterinary medicine, optometry and podiatry. Undergraduate pharmacology students are also eligible. To be eligible for this loan, you must commit to working in the field of primary care. It was formerly known as the Health Professions Student Loan (HPSL).

The amount of money borrowed or remaining unpaid on a loan. Interest is charged as a percentage of the principal. Insurance and origination fees will be deducted from this amount before disbursement.

Private Loans
Education loan programs established by private lenders to supplement the student and parent education loan programs available from federal and state governments.

Professional Degree
A degree in a field like law, education, medicine, pharmacy or dentistry.

Professional Judgment (PJ)
For need-based federal aid programs, the financial aid administrator can adjust the EFC, adjust the COA, or change the dependency status (with documentation) when extenuating circumstances exist. For example, if a parent becomes unemployed, disabled or deceased, the FAA can decide to use estimated income information for the award year instead of the actual income figures from the base year. This delegation of authority from the federal government to the financial aid administrator is called Professional Judgment (PJ).

Professional Student
A student pursuing advanced study in law or medicine.

Promissory Note
The binding legal document that must be signed by the student borrower before loan funds are disbursed by the lender. The promissory note states the terms and conditions of the loan, including repayment schedule, interest rate, deferment policy and cancellations. The student should keep this document until the loan has been repaid.

Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test (PSAT/NMSQT)
The PSAT is taken during the junior year as practice for the SAT. Scores on the PSAT are used to select semi-finalists for the National Merit Scholarship program.

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Reaching School
A school that the student would love to attend, but which isn't "guaranteed" to admit you. Every student should apply to at least one reaching school. (See also Safety School.)

Renewable Scholarships
A scholarship that is awarded for more than one year. Usually the student must maintain certain academic standards to be eligible for subsequent years of the award. Some renewable scholarships will require the student to reapply for the scholarship each year; others will just require a report on the student's progress to a degree.

Repayment Schedule
The repayment schedule discloses the monthly payment, interest rate, total repayment obligation, payment due dates and the term of the loan.

Repayment Term
The term of a loan is the period during which the borrower is required to make payments on his or her loans. When the payments are made monthly, the term is usually given as a number of payments or years.

Research Assistantship (RA)
A form of financial aid awarded to graduate students to help support their education. Research assistantships usually provide the graduate student with a waiver of all or part of tuition, plus a small stipend for living expenses. As the name implies, an RA is required to perform research duties. Sometimes these duties are strongly tied to the student's eventual thesis topic.

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Safety School
A school that will almost certainly admit the student. The college admissions process is not predictable. Even "sure admits" are sometimes rejected. Some students are admitted to all the schools to which they apply; others are rejected by all the schools. To protect yourself against the latter scenario, you should apply to at least one safety school. (See also Reaching School.)

Sallie Mae
(Formerly known as SLMA or the Student Loan Marketing Association) The nation's largest secondary market and holds approximately one third of all educational loans.

Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP)
A student must make this in order to continue receiving federal aid. If a student fails to maintain an academic standing consistent with the school's SAP policy, they are unlikely to meet the school's graduation requirements.

A form of financial aid given to undergraduate students to help pay for their education. Most scholarships are restricted to paying all or part of tuition expenses, though some scholarships also cover room and board. Scholarships are a form of gift aid and do not have to be repaid. Many scholarships are restricted to students in specific courses of study or with academic, athletic or artistic talent.

Scholarship Search Service
A service that charges a fee to compare the student's profile against a database of scholarship programs. Few students who use a scholarship search service actually win a scholarship.

Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT)
One of the two national standardized college entrance examinations used in the US. The other is the ACT. The SAT (previously known as the Scholastic Aptitude Test) is administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). Most universities require either the ACT or the SAT as part of an application for admission.

Secondary Market
An organization that buys loans from lenders, thereby providing the lender with the capital to issue new loans. Selling loans is a common practice among lenders, so the bank you make your payments to may change during the life of the loan. The terms and conditions of your loan do not change when it is sold to another holder. Sallie Mae is the nation's largest secondary market and holds approximately one third of all educational loans.

Secured Loan
A loan backed by collateral. If you fail to repay the loan, the lender may seize the collateral and sell it to repay the loan. Auto loans and home mortgages are examples of secured loans. Educational loans are generally not secured.

Selective Service
Registration for the military draft. Male students who are US citizens and have reached the age of 18 and were born after December 31, 1959 must be registered with Selective Service to be eligible for federal financial aid. If the student did not register and is past the age of doing so (18-25), and the school determines that the failure to register was knowing and willful, the student is ineligible for all federal student financial aid programs. The school's decision as to whether the failure to register was willful is not subject to appeal. Students needing help resolving problems concerning their Selective Service registration should call 1-847-688-6888.

Self Help Aid
Financial aid in the form of loans and student employment. If every financial aid package is required to include a minimum amount of self-help aid before any gift aid is granted, that level is known as the self-help level. For example, the self-help level will be $8,150 at MIT in 1995-96 (The Tech, March 7, 1995, Vol. 115, No. 9, Page 1). MIT has one of the highest self-help levels of private colleges and universities, with an average self-help level of around $5,500 at the more expensive schools.

Service Academy
The US Air Force Academy, US Coast Guard Academy, US Merchant Marine Academy, US Military Academy and US Naval Academy. Admissions is highly selective, as students must be nominated by their Congressional Representative in order to apply.

An organization that collects payments on a loan and performs other administrative tasks associated with maintaining a loan portfolio. Loan servicers disburse loans funds, monitor loans while the borrowers are in school, collect payments, process deferments and forbearances, respond to borrower inquiries and ensure that the loans are administered in compliance with federal regulations and guarantee agency requirements.

Simple Interest
Interest that is paid only on the principal balance of the loan and not on any accrued interest. Most federal student loan programs offer simple interest. Note, however, that capitalizing the interest on an unsubsidized Stafford loan is a form of compounded interest.

Simplified Needs Test
If the parents have an adjusted gross income of less than $50,000 and every family member was eligible to file an IRS Form 1040A or 1040EZ (or wasn't required to file a Federal income tax return), the Federal Methodology ignores assets when computing the EFC. If you filed a 1040 but weren't required to do so, you may be eligible for the simplified needs test. Details on the eligibility requirements appear on the Simplified Needs Test Chart. (Please note that starting in 2004, the AGI threshold for IRS Form 1040A and IRS Form 1040EZ changed from $50,000 to $100,000. Nevertheless, a threshold of $50,000 is still used for the simplified needs test.)

Stafford Loans
Federal loans that come in two forms, subsidized and unsubsidized. Subsidized loans are based on need; unsubsidized loans aren't. The interest on the subsidized Stafford Loan is paid by the federal government while the student is in school and during the 6 month grace period. The Subsidized Stafford Loan was formerly known as the Guaranteed Student Loan (GSL). The Unsubsidized Stafford Loan may be used to pay the EFC.

Undergraduates may borrow up to $23,000 ($2,625 during the freshman year, $3,500 during the sophomore year and $5,500 during the third, fourth and fifth years) and graduate students up to $65,500 including any undergraduate Stafford loans ($8,500 per year). These limits are for subsidized and unsubsidized loans combined. The difference between the subsidized loan amount and the limit may be borrowed by the student as an unsubsidized loan.

Higher unsubsidized Stafford loan limits are available to independent students, dependent students whose parents were unable to obtain a PLUS Loan and graduate/professional students. Undergraduates may borrow up to $46,000 ($6,625 during the freshman year, $7,500 during the sophomore year and $10,500 during each subsequent year) and graduate students up to $138,500 including any undergraduate Stafford loans ($18,500 per year). These limits are for subsidized and unsubsidized loans combined. The amounts of any subsidized loans are still subject to the lower limits.

State Student Incentive Grants (SSIG)
A state-run financial aid program for state residents. The states receive matching funds from the Federal government to help them fund the program.

Statement of Educational Purpose
A legal document in which the student agrees to use the financial aid for educational expenses only. The student must sign this document before receiving federal need-based aid.

Student Accounts Office
See Bursar's Office.

Student Aid Report (SAR)
Report that summarizes the information included in the FAFSA and must be provided to your school's FAO. The SAR will also indicate the amount of Pell Grant eligibility, if any, and the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). You should receive a copy of your SAR four to six weeks after you file your FAFSA. Review your SAR and correct any errors on part 2 of the SAR. Keep a photocopy of the SAR for your records. To request a duplicate copy of your SAR, call 1-319-337-5665.

Student Contribution
The amount of money the federal government expects the student to contribute to his or her education and is included as part of the EFC. The SC depends on the student's income and assets, but can vary from school to school. Usually a student is expected to contribute about 35% of his or her savings and approximately one-half of his summer earnings above $1,750.

Student Loan Marketing Association (SLMA)
SLMA is the old name for Sallie Mae.

Subsidized Loan
With a subsidized loan, such as the Perkins Loan or the Subsidized Stafford Loan, the government pays the interest on the loan while the student is in school, during the six-month grace period and during any deferment periods. Subsidized loans are awarded based on financial need and may not be used to finance the family contribution. See Stafford Loans for information about subsidized Stafford Loans. See also Unsubsidized Loan.

Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant
Federal grant program for undergraduate students with exceptional need. SEOG grants are awarded by the school's financial aid office, and provide up to $4,000 per year. To qualify, a student must also be a recipient of a Pell Grant.

Supplemental Loan for Students
Federal loans for financially independent students. This program was eliminated in 1994 with the creation of the unsubsidized Stafford Loan program.

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Teaching Assistantship (TA)
A form of financial aid awarded to graduate students to help support their education. Teaching assistantships usually provide the graduate student with a waiver of all or part of tuition, plus a small stipend for living expenses. As the name implies, a TA is required to perform teaching-related duties.

The number of years (or months) during which the loan is to be repaid.

Title IV Loans
Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 created several education loan programs which are collectively referred to as the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP). These loans, also called Title IV Loans, are the Federal Stafford Loans (Subsidized and Unsubsidized), Federal PLUS Loans and Federal Consolidation Loans.

Title IV School Code
When you fill out the FAFSA you need to supply the Title IV Code for each school to which you are applying. This code is a six-character identifier that begins with one of the following letters: O, G, B, or E. The Financial Aid Information Page provides a searchable database of Title IV School Codes.

Test Of English As A Foreign Language (TOEFL)
Most colleges and universities require international students to take the TOEFL as part of their application for admission. The TOEFL evaluates a student's ability to communicate in and understand English.

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Undergraduate Student
A student who is enrolled in a Bachelors program.

Unearned Income
Interest income, dividend income and capital gains.

Unmet Need
In an ideal world, the FAO would be able to provide each student with the full difference between their ability to pay and the cost of education. Due to budget constraints the FAO may provide the student with less than the student's need (as determined by the FAO). This gap is known as the unmet need.

Unsecured Loan
A loan not backed by collateral, representing a greater risk to the lender. The lender may require a co-signer on the loan to reduce their risk. If you default on the loan, the co-signer will be held responsible for repayment. Most educational loans are unsecured loans. In the case of federal student loans, the federal government guarantees repayment of the loans. Other examples of unsecured loans include credit card charges and personal lines of credit.

Unsubsidized Loan
A loan for which the government does not pay the interest. The borrower is responsible for the interest on an unsubsidized loan from the date the loan is disbursed, even while the student is still in school. Students may avoid paying the interest while they are in school by capitalizing the interest, which increases the loan amount. Unsubsidized loans are not based on financial need and may be used to finance the family contribution. See Stafford Loans for information about unsubsidized Stafford Loans. See also Subsidized Loan.

Untaxed Income
Contributions to IRAs, Keoghs, tax-sheltered annuities and 401k plans, as well as worker's compensation and welfare benefits.

US Department of Education (ED or USED)
Government agency that administers several federal student financial aid programs, including the Federal Pell Grant, the Federal Work-Study Program, the Federal Perkins Loans, the Federal Stafford Loans and the Federal PLUS Loans.

US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
Government agency that administers several health education loan programs, including the HEAL, HPSL and NSL loan programs.

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Variable Interest
In a variable interest loan, the interest rate changes periodically. For example, the interest rate might be pegged to the cost of US Treasury Bills (e.g., T-Bill rate plus 3.1%) and be updated monthly, quarterly, semi-annually or annually.

Verification is a review process in which the FAO determines the accuracy of the information provided on the student's financial aid application. During the verification process the student and parent will be required to submit documentation for the amounts listed (or not listed) on the financial aid application. Such documentation may include signed copies of the most recent Federal and State income tax returns for you, your spouse (if any) and your parents, proof of citizenship, proof of registration with Selective Service, and copies of Social Security benefit statements and W2 and 1099 forms, among other things.

Financial aid applications are randomly selected by the Federal processor for verification, with most schools verifying at least 1/3 of all applications. If there is an asterisk next to the EFC figure on your Student Aid Report (SAR), your SAR has been selected for verification. Schools may select additional students for verification if they suspect fraud. Some schools undergo 100% verification.

If any discrepancies are uncovered during verification, the financial aid office may require additional information to clear up the discrepancies. Such discrepancies may cause your final financial aid package to be different from the initial package described on the award letter you received from the school.

If you refuse to submit the required documentation, your financial aid package will be cancelled and no aid awarded.

For Federal financial aid purposes such as determining dependency status, a veteran is a former member of the US Armed Forces (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines or Coast Guard) who served on active duty and was discharged other than dishonorably (i.e., received an honorable or medical discharge). You are a veteran even if you serve just one day on active duty - not active duty for training - before receiving your DD-214 and formal discharge papers. (Note that in order for a veteran to be eligible for VA educational benefits, they must have served for more than 180 consecutive days on active duty before receiving an honorable discharge. There are exceptions for participation in Desert Storm/Desert Shield and other military campaigns.)

ROTC students, members of the National Guard, and most reservists are not considered veterans.

Since the 1995-96 academic year, a person who was discharged other than dishonorably from one of the military service academies (the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, the Naval Academy at Annapolis, the Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs or the Coast Guard Academy at New London) is considered a veteran for financial aid purposes. Cadets and midshipmen who are still enrolled in one of the military service academies, however, are not considered veterans. According to the US Department of Education's Action Letter #6 (February 1996), "a student who enrolls in a service academy, but who withdraws before graduating, is considered a veteran for purposes of determining dependency status".

Having a DD-214 does not necessarily mean that you are a veteran for financial aid purposes. As noted above, you must have served on active duty and received an honorable discharge.

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W2 Form
The form listing an employee's wages and tax withheld. Employers are required by the IRS to issue a W2 form for each employee before February 28.

Ward of the Court
A ward of the court is someone under the protection of the courts. The ward of the court may have a guardian appointed by the court. The legal guardian is not personally liable for the ward's expenses and is not liable to third parties for the ward's debts.

Although a ward of the court can have a legal guardian, having a legal guardian does not automatically make the child a ward of the court. A legal guardian can be appointed by parental consent through a power of attorney. A legal guardian must have been appointed by the court for the child to be a ward of the court. When a guardian is appointed by the court, the parent no longer has the authority to revoke the guardianship.

Often a minor becomes a ward of the court when the court determines that the child will be subject to abuse or neglect if they remain with the parent or if both of the student's biological or adoptive parents are deceased.

Note that a child does not automatically become a ward of the court upon being incarcerated. The key issue is whether the court assumed custody of the child because it found that the parents are unable to properly care for the child. Likewise, emancipation does not make a student a ward of the court. Neither incarceration nor emancipation of the student is sufficient on its own to make the student independent.

The key issue for financial aid purposes is that when a child becomes a ward of the court, no parent or other person is financially responsible for the child. Legal guardians and foster parents are not financially responsible for a ward of the court. Adoptive parents, on the other hand, are financially responsible for the child.

If the student is declared a ward of the court before the end of the award year, the student is considered to be an independent student for the award year and the student's status would need to be updated.

The school financial aid administrator should ask for a copy of the court order that declared the child a ward of the court. If there is any confusion as to whether the child is a ward of the court or not, the financial aid administrator should ask for a letter from the judge clarifying whether the child is a ward of the court.

Note that a child can be a ward of the court and still have contact with his or her biological parents or even still be living with the parents (albeit under court supervision). The biological parents, however, are no longer empowered to make any decisions on behalf of the child.

Work Study
See Federal Work-Study.

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