Glossary of financial aid terms

Cost of Attendance (COA): The total estimated amount that it will cost to go to school during the 2016–2017 school year. COA includes tuition and fees; housing and meals; and allowances for books, supplies, transportation, and loan fees. It also includes miscellaneous and personal expenses. For students attending less than half-time, the COA includes tuition and fees; an allowance for books, supplies, and transportation; and dependent care expenses.

Total Grants and Scholarships: Student aid funds that do not have to be repaid.

Net Costs: An estimate of the actual costs that you or your family will need to pay during the 2016–2017 school year to cover education expenses at a particular school. Net costs are determined by taking the institution’s cost of attendance and subtracting your grants and scholarships. Please see the note about “Actual Net Costs” above.

Work-Study: A federal student aid program that provides part-time employment while you are enrolled in school to help pay your education expenses. Earnings are paid directly to the student bi-weekly as work is performed; therefore, FWS awards are not subtracted from semester charges that are due prior to the start of each semester.

Loans: Borrowed money that must be repaid with interest. Loans from the federal government typically have a lower interest rate than loans from private lenders. Federal loans, listed from most advantageous to least advantageous, are called Federal Perkins Loans, Direct Subsidized Loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, and Direct PLUS Loans. You can find more information about federal loans at StudentAid.gov.

Family Contribution (also referred to as Expected Family Contribution): A number used by a school to calculate how much financial aid you are eligible to receive, if any. The federal methodology family contribution is based on the financial information you provided in your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). It’s not the amount of money your family will have to pay for college, nor is it the amount of federal student aid you will receive. The federal methodology family contribution is reported to you on your Student Aid Report, also known as the SAR.

Graduation Rate: The percentage of students who graduate from an institution. This shows students who began their studies as first-time, full-time degree- or certificate-seeking students and completed their degree or certificate within 150 percent of “normal time.” For example, for a four-year school, the graduation rate would be the percentage of students who completed that program within six years or less.

Loan Default Rate: The percentage of student borrowers – undergraduate and graduate – who have failed to repay their federal loans, based on individual borrower performance three years after leaving the school. A low loan default rate could mean that the institution’s students are earning enough income after leaving school to successfully repay their loans.