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Financial Aid Glossary of Terms

Glossary of Terms

Academic Year (AY): The enrollment period for which aid is awarded. Academic years begin July 1st and end June 30th of the following calendar year.

Account Username and Password (FSA ID): Username and password used to log in to all Federal Student Aid products and tools on

Billed Costs (Paid to the School): Costs Payable to the school (also referred to as direct or billable costs) generally include tuition, fees, housing, and meals/food (for students residing on campus), health insurance (if minimum insurance coverage is not documented), or any other expenses paid to the school for enrollment. 

Non-Billed Costs (Paid to Others): Costs paid to others (also referred to as indirect, non-billable, or additional costs), are other expenses not paid directly to the school, but associated with receiving an education. These expenses are estimated by the school and may differ from student to student based on their individual circumstances. These expenses may include books, course materials, supplies, equipment, transportation and parking, personal expenses, childcare costs, computer costs, disability expenses, licensure expenses and off-campus rent and food.

Contributor: Any individual required to provide consent and approval or federal tax information (FTA) along with their signature on the FAFSA form, including the student; the students spouse a biological or adoptive parent; or the parents spouse (stepparent).

Cost of Attendance (COA): Includes billed costs (tuition, fees, housing, and food), approved non-billed costs (books and supplies, travel, and personal expenses), and Direct Loan origination fees. Also known as a student budget, the COA determines the maximum amount of financial aid a student may receive.

CSS Profile: Available from the College Board, this document collects additional financial and household information. We use the CSS Profile when we determine a student’s eligibility for Dickinson grant money. Dickinson’s CSS Profile code is 2186.

Data Retrieval Tool: Also referred to as the IRS DRT. The Data Retrieval Tool is a feature of the FAFSA which allows applicants to import their finalized federal tax information from a previous year. The IRS DRT is not available for all filing situations, but many families will find it reduces the time they spend completing the FAFSA. Successful use of the IRS DRT can be accepted in lieu of a paper Tax Return Transcript for those families whose applications have been selected for Verification. This will no longer be used after the 23-24 FAFSA. 

Demonstrated Need: We calculate your aid eligibility by looking at the difference between budgeted student costs, and the strength of your family’s financial resources. The formula is Cost of Attendance (COA) minus the Student Aid Index (SAI) equals Demonstrated Need. (COA – SAI= Need)

Dependent Student: On the FAFSA, a dependent student must report parent financial information. Find information on dependency status here.

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.

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.

Expected Family Contribution (EFC): The result of calculations determining a family’s financial strength. EFC typically includes parent and student contributions, based on a number of factors. Household size, number of children in college, annual gross income, certain untaxed income, assets and investments are some of the data items considered. The FAFSA and CSS Profile may calculate different EFCs, and both are used in determining a student’s need-based aid eligibility. This formula has been replaced by the Student Aid Index (SAI). 

Family Grid: Provides information on household size and the number of students in college. Read guidelines carefully to determine who should be included on your family grid.

Federal Direct Loans: Educational loans backed by the US Government through the Department of Education. To apply, you must complete a FAFSA and meet basic eligibility requirements. Borrowing limits vary by academic year. Entrance Counseling and Master Promissory Note completion are required.

  • Direct Subsidized: A 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.
  • Direct Unsubsidized: 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. All students who complete the FAFSA are eligible for this loan. 
  • Direct Graduate PLUS Loan: 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.
  • Direct Parent PLUS Loan: 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.  

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 the institution, SAI, and enrollment status, and is subject to an aggregate limit.

Federal Supplemental Education 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 Tax Information (FTI): Is the data and information related to federal tax paying. It includes a return or return information received directly from the IRS or obtained through an authorized secondary source such as the U.S. Department of Education pursuant to 26 U.S.C. 6103(l)(13). FTI also includes any information created by the recipient that is derived from a federal return or return information received from the IRS or obtained through an authorized secondary source. Other return information considered FTI includes the taxpayer's name; mailing address; identification numbers including Social Security number or employer identification number; any information extracted from a return, including names of dependents or the location of a business; information on whether a return was, is being, or will be examined or subject to other investigation or processing; information contained on transcripts of accounts; the fact that a return was filed or examined; investigation or collection history; or tax balance due information.

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.

Financial Aid Offer: The offer of financial assistance you will receive, once need analysis has been completed. Financial Aid Offers may include a combination of merit-based scholarships, grant money, work study, and student loans.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA): The Department of Education requires families to file a FAFSA in order to be eligible for federal aid programs, including Unsubsidized Direct and Parent PLUS Loans. The FAFSA may be completed after October 1st of the aid year (the 24-25 FAFSA will not be availabel until December 2023). Some states use the FAFSA as their application for state grant money; check here for your state’s deadline. Dickinson’s FAFSA code is 003253.

FUTURE Act Direct Data Exchange (FA-DDX): The system replacing the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) to transfer an individual’s FTI to the Department. FA-DDX allows the Department to request, and the IRS to transfer, FTI to the FTIM system for use in determining a student’s federal financial aid eligibility. 

Grants & Scholarhips: 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. 

Independent Student: On the FAFSA, an independent student is not required to report parent financial information. Guidelines for dependency status can be found here.

Master Promissory Note (MPN): The document you must sign prior to obtaining a student loan. The MPN will outline the terms of the loan including the interest rate, loan period, repayment guidelines, and much more. Students must complete the MPN for any Direct Subsidized, Unsubsidized, or Perkins loans they accept.

Merit Scholarship: A form of grant money awarded based on demonstrated academic achievement, community involvement, and extracurricular talent. Merit scholarships are not need-based. Learn more about Dickinson’s Merit Scholarships.

Need: The student's Cost of Attendance (COA) minus their Student Aid Index (SAI).

Need-Based Aid: Financial assistance offered on the basis of a family’s demonstrated need. May include institutional grants, Pell grants, Supplemental Educational Opportunity grants, work study, and federal loans.

Need-Sensitive: Toward the end of the admissions process, we find it most reasonable to be sensitive to need as we select candidates for admission. Rather than admit students whose need we cannot meet, and ask them to take on cumbersome educational loans, we strive to make a Dickinson education affordable for every admitted student.

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.

Net Price Calculator: Provides an estimate of your need-based aid eligibility at Dickinson. Be as accurate as possible, and follow the instructions carefully as you fill in the calculator.

Non-Custodial Parent Statement: If your natural parents are divorced, your custodial parent’s information will be included on the FAFSA and CSS Profile. Your non-custodial parent will be asked to provide financial information through the College Board.

Number in College: The number of dependent children in your parent’s household, who are enrolled at least half-time as matriculated students in a degree- or certificate-seeking program, at a Title IV-eligible institution.

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. 

Prior-Prior Year: Started in 2017-2018, the FAFSA began collecting federal tax data from two years prior.  Therefore, for the 2024-2025 academic year, the FAFSA calculation will be based on 2022 tax returns, but will still request information on current assets, household size, and number of students in college. Whenever possible, we encourage families to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to complete the FAFSA.

Private Educational Loan: Available through private lenders such as banks and credit unions, these loans provide financing options to families paying for higher education. Our historic lender list is represented through ELMSelect.

Special Circumstances: Special or extenuating situations (such as a job loss) that impact a student’s financial condition and support a financial aid administrator adjusting a data element in the COA or in the SAI calculation on a case-by-case basis.

Student Aid Index (SAI): The 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 EFC are eligible for less need-based financial aid. It is based upon the information provided by the student and their family on the FAFSA.  

Tax Account Transcript: Similar to a tax return transcript, but includes a running total of the individual’s tax account.

Tax Return Transcript: The official receipt of tax return processing from the IRS. A transcript is available based on calendar year. Visit the IRS- Get Transcript page to request your tax year transcript.

Title IV Eligible: Determines if the student and the institution are eligible to receive federal need-based financial aid. Basic eligibility criteria include demonstrated financial need, enrollment in an eligible degree program, U.S. citizenship or eligible non-citizenship, and more. Please visit this helpful webpage to determine if you are eligible.

Unusual Circumstance: Conditions that justify a financial aid administrator making an adjustment to a student’s dependency status, commonly referred to as a dependency override, based on an unusual situation (human trafficking or parental abandonment).

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.