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Financial Aid Glossary

Cost of Attendance: The Cost of Attendance (COA) is an average estimate of costs a student would have if enrolled at CMU for the fall and spring semesters. It includes costs billed by the university (direct costs) and estimated costs that are not billed by CMU (indirect costs). The COA also determines the maximum amount of financial aid you can get. Go here for an in-depth look at our Cost of Attendance for all of our student categories.

Financial Aid Offer: A financial aid offer is a document sent by a postsecondary institution to a student that outlines the amounts and details of the financial aid being offered to the student, which may include scholarships, grants, loans, employment, or other forms of financial assistance to pay for college expenses. Sometimes schools refer to these as financial aid “awards”, although this term is outdated. Schools should refer to these as financial aid offers.

Educational Loan: Money borrowed from the federal government, a college or university, or a private source like a bank or financial institution to pay for educational expenses and must be paid back with interest.

Federal Loan: Also known as the Direct Loan Program, which allows eligible students and parents to borrow directly from the U.S. Department of Education at participating colleges or universities. Federal student loans include Direct Subsidized, Direct Unsubsidized and the Direct PLUS programs for parents of dependent students and graduate or professional students. Federal student loans must be paid back to the lender after graduation or when you drop below half-time enrollment.

Federal Direct Subsidized Student Loan: A Direct Subsidized Loan is an undergraduate federal student loan based on financial need and offers students a reduced, fixed interest rate and flexible repayment terms. Interest is subsidized, meaning it does not accrue to the borrower, while in an in-school, grace, or deferment period. Annual and aggregate limits apply.

  • Accrue – Interest accrues when it begins to be charged to you, the borrower, gradually over the life of the loan.
  • Grace period – A period of time when the borrower does not have to pay money toward a loan. For most federal student loans, this is six-months after you graduate, leave school or drop below half-time enrollment.
  • Deferment period – You must apply for a deferment. It’s a period of time where you can temporarily suspend payments because you’re in a short-term financial bind. In most cases, interest will continue to accrue during a deferment period.
  • Annual and aggregate limits – There are yearly (annual) limits and total (aggregate) limits to the amount of these loans you can receive.

Federal Direct Unsubsidized Student Loan: An unsubsidized loan offers students a fixed interest rate and flexible repayment terms. It is not based on financial need. Interest begins to accrue when the loan is disbursed and can be paid while the student is enrolled or when loan repayment begins. Annual and aggregate limits apply.

    Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loan: Direct Graduate PLUS Loans are federal loans that graduate or professional students use to help pay for education expenses. A credit check for adverse credit history is required for eligibility. Interest begins to accrue when the loan is disbursed and can be paid while the student is enrolled or when loan repayment begins.

    Federal Direct Parent PLUS Loan: Direct Parent PLUS Loans are federal loans that parents of dependent undergraduate students can use to help pay for education expenses. Parents must pass a credit check for adverse credit history to qualify for PLUS loans. 

    Private Loan: A student or parent loan from a bank, credit union, private company, a nonprofit or state-affiliated lender, or from the college or university directly to pay for educational costs. Interest begins to accrue when the loan is disbursed, and repayment begins while the student is still enrolled in school.

    Enrollment Status: The number of credits, clock hours, or classes the student is enrolled in, or whether they have withdrawn, graduated, etc. Enrollment status affects eligibility for and the amount of financial aid a student may receive. It also affects when student loans enter repayment status.

    Federal Pell Grant: The Pell Grant is a federal grant program designed to assist undergraduate students in low- and moderate-income households to pay for college. The award amount is based on the Cost of Attendance, Estimated Family Contribution (EFC), and enrollment status, and is subject to an aggregate limit.

    Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG): A federal grant provided by the institution to qualified undergraduate students who demonstrate exceptional financial need and does not need to be repaid. The amount of funding from this program varies by institution.

    Federal Work-Study (FWS): Federal Work-Study provides funding for part-time jobs for undergraduate and graduate students with financial need. Unlike grants and loans, FWS is paid to students as they earn the funds by working.

    Grants & Scholarships: Any money provided to students that does not have to be repaid. They can be called grants, scholarships, tuition remissions, gift aid, or tuition waivers. Grants and scholarships are provided based on many different factors.

    Need: The student's Cost of Attendance minus their Expected Family Contribution (EFC).

    Need-based Aid: Financial assistance provided to students based on their financial situation, determined by completing the FAFSA. Need-based financial aid can take different forms, including grants, scholarships, work-study programs, and low-interest loans, like the federal direct subsidized loan.

    Net Price: The difference between the Cost of Attendance and all grants and scholarships. Net price reflects what the student is expected to pay for their education on their own and can be covered through a variety of sources, including savings, student employment, institutional payment plans or education loans.

    Other Funding Options: Funding options outside of grants and scholarships that a student and their family may use to pay any remaining costs or expenses. This may include loans, student employment, institutional payment plans or personal savings.

    Student Aid Index (SAI): The Student Aid Index (SAI) will replace the EFC starting with the 2024-25 FAFSA as the eligibility index used to determine your eligibility for federal, and in some instances, state and institutional need-based student financial aid. Generally, students with a higher SAI are eligible for less need-based financial aid. It is based upon the information provided by the student and their family on the FAFSA. 

    Verification: A federally mandated process to confirm the accuracy of data provided by selected applicants on the FAFSA. To complete the verification process, the student, their parent(s), or spouse, if applicable, are required to provide certain documents to the school for review. If the documentation the student provides the institution doesn't match what was reported on the FAFSA, verification can result in changes to the student's financial aid eligibility, and/or financial aid offers.