It is not unusual for first-generation, American college students as well as international students to be puzzled by the unique terminology associated with higher education in the United States. (To find out if you count as a first-generation college student, click here.) The last article focused on vocabulary related to undergraduate studies and admissions. This article provides a list of words related to college financing.
Award Letter – This is an official document that is sent out by the university to each accepted student. The award letter usually provides the cost of attendance and any financial aid (both need and merit based aid) offered to students.
Cost of Attendance – This is the total amount the college estimates that a student needs to spend to attend the institution for one year. This figure may vary depending on state residency status, whether a student commutes from home or resides on campus, and/or a student’s major. The cost of attendance usually includes tuition, fees, books and supplies, transportation, room and board, and personal expenses.
Differential Packaging – Some colleges will provide more aid to students who have qualities that the institution particularly seeks. These qualities may include (but are not limited to) membership to an underrepresented community, academic strength, and/or demonstrated achievement in a sport.
Expected Family Contribution – The amount an institution determines a family can afford to pay according to the results of financial-aid formulas. Elements considered include family and student income and assets.
FAFSA – a federal form that legal, US residents fill out that allows the government to estimate a student’s need. Colleges can use this calculation to determine financial-aid award packages.
Financial Aid – Financial assistance in the form of scholarships, grants, loans, and work-study.
Gift Aid – Financial aid that does not have to be paid back. Scholarships and grants are two types of gift aids.
Grants - Financial aid that does not have to be paid back. Government agencies and universities may offer grants.
Loans – Financial aid that, if accepted, will have to be repaid.
Merit-Based Aid – Financial aid that is offered based on a student’s achievements.
Need – The difference between the cost of attendance and the expected family contribution. Universities are not obligated to meet a student’s need. (A university may offer less money than a family is determined to need.)
Need-Based Financial Aid – Financial assistance offered based on students’ financial need.
Scholarships – Financial aid that does not need to be repaid. Scholarships may be offered by the government, the college, and outside institutions.
Self-Help Aid – Financial aid that is offered in exchange for student employment.