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Financial Aid A to Z

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There are currently no glossary entries beginning with the letters J, K, Q, X, Y, and Z.

Academic year

The period during which school is in session. The academic year at CU-Boulder is from mid-August to mid-May and is divided into two terms fall and spring. You will be offered financial aid based on your academic year and your enrollment status.

Adjusted Gross Income (AGI)

All taxable income as reported on a US income tax return.

Alternative Loans

Private loans are education loan programs established by private lenders to supplement the student and parent education loan programs available from federal and state governments.Learn more.


A formal request to have a financial aid administrator review your aid eligibility because of unusual circumstances that have affected your ability to pay for school and are not reflected on your most recent financial aid application. Examples include high medical expenses, job loss, or death of a parent.


Assets include cash on hand, in checking and savings accounts, trusts, stocks, bonds and other securities, real estate holdings (other than the family home), income-producing property, business equipment and business inventory. You will need to report your own and/or your parents assets on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Assets are considered in determining your Expected Family Contribution (EFC).


See Graduate Assistantship.

Award Letter or Notice

See Financial Aid Award Letter.

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Resources for Blind and Visually Impaired Students

The U.S. Department of Education's Federal Student Aid Programs provides Resources for Blind and Visually Impaired Students to assist with the financial aid application process.


The person who signs the promissory note to take out a loan. The borrower is the person responsible for repaying that loan.


See Cost of Attendance.

Bursar's Office

The university office that is responsible for billing and collecting tuition, fees and other university charges. Your financial aid will automatically pay to the university charges billed through the Bursar's Office.

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Cancellation (or discharge)

The borrowers release from the obligation to repay a loan. Direct loans might be discharged if the borrower dies or becomes totally and permanently disabled. Contact your loan provider for more details.


The interest that accumulates and is added to the principal balance of an unsubsidized or PLUS loan while you are in school and before repayment begins. Capitalization increases the amount of your monthly payments and the total amount you will have to repay on that loan.


You must be a U.S. citizen or an eligible non-citizen to receive financial aid.


The action of combining several loans or liabilities into one loan. Put another way, debt consolidation is the process of taking out a new loan to pay off a number of other debts. Learn more.

Consumer Rights and Responsibilities

All colleges and universities are required to disclose certain information to all financial aid recipients. Learn more.

Contract or binding contract

A contract is a legally binding exchange of promises or agreement between parties that the legal system will enforce.


An individual or entity that signs a legal document on an equal basis with the signer. On a promissory note, all cosigners assume responsibility for the loan if the borrower should fail to repay (default).

Cost of attendance (COA)

COA is an estimate of the amount it will cost you to attend CU-Boulder for one academic year. COA includes: (1) direct education expenses (tuition, fees, books, and supplies) and (2) indirect education expenses (room, board, personal, medical, and transportation). The COA is often called a student budget.

Credit bureau

An organization that maintains information on your credit history. If you default on a student loan it will be reported to all credit bureaus and that default will appear on your credit report. Credit bureaus report your credit history to companies and organizations that wish to know about your financial history when making a decision whether to lend you money. For example, if you wish to obtain a loan to purchase an expensive item like a car or home or when you apply for a credit card, lenders will request your credit report. A poor credit rating will negatively affect your ability to borrow money.

CU Promise Program

The CU Promise program guarantees that eligible Colorado residents from low-income families will be able to pay the tuition, fees, and books at the University of Colorado Boulder without going into debt.

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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If you fail to repay the money you borrowed as promised when you signed a promissory note or Master Promissory Note (MPN), your loans will go into default. Student loan default has serious consequences.

  • Default will be reported to credit bureaus which will damage your credit rating
  • You will lose any options to defer future monthly payments
  • Your federal and state tax refunds can be seized
  • You can be sued
  • Your wages can be garnished
  • You will not be eligible for other federal and state student aid until you make arrangements to repay your loans


A period of time that you can suspend (defer) the monthly payments on your loan. To do this, you must first contact your lender and be approved for the deferment. For subsidized loans the federal government will pay the interest during a period of deferment. However, on unsubsidized loans the interest will continue to accrue and will be added (capitalized) to your principal loan amount. The repayment period for the loan will be extended by the length of the deferment period.


Loans go into a delinquent status if you fail to make a payment when it is due.

Dependent Student

In general, if you are an undergraduate student under the age of 24, you are considered a dependent student for financial aid purposes. See the definition of Independent Student for exceptions to this rule.

Direct Deposit

The means by which the University refunds excess financial aid funds to students. All students are required to sign up for it. Learn more.

Direct Loan

See Federal Direct Loan.


The release of loan funds to CU-Boulder for delivery to the borrower. 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 refunded to the student by direct deposit. The disbursement will be made in at least two equal installments.


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

Disclosure Statement

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

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Expected Family Contribution (EFC)

An EFC is the number used by a school to calculate how much financial aid you are eligible to receive, if any. It’s 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.

Eligible Non-citizen

You are an eligible non-citizen for federal financial aid purposes if you are:

  • A permanent U.S. resident who has a Permanent Resident Card (I-151);
  • A conditional permanent resident (I-551C); or
  • The holder of an Arrival-Departure Record (I-94) from the Department of Homeland Security showing one of the following designations:

    • Refugee
    • Asylum granted
    • Parolee (paroled for a minimum of one year and your status has not expired)
    • Conditional entrant (valid only if issued before April 1, 1980)
    • Cuban-Haitian entrant

Enrollment Status

An indication of whether you are a full-time, half-time, or less than half-time student. Generally you must be enrolled at least half-time (and often full-time) to qualify for financial aid.

Entrance Counseling Session

A session you must attend, either in person or online, if you borrow through a Federal Stafford Loan or Perkins Loan. You will learn your rights and responsibilities as a borrower, how to manage your loans while you are in college as well as after you graduate and begin repayment. Your loan proceeds will not be disbursed until you complete this counseling session.


In real estate, equity is the difference between the fair market value of a property and the amount of any mortgage debt or liens against the property that are still outstanding. In business, equity is the excess of a firm's assets over its liabilities. The term is also used to refer to the ownership interest of stockholders in a company and to the value of the investments raised by the stock offerings.

Exit Counseling Session

A session you must complete online, when you graduate from college if you borrowed through a Federal Stafford or Perkins Loan. You will be reminded of your rights and responsibilities as a borrower and will receive information on how to manage repayment of your loans after college.

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FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)

This is the application you must complete to be considered for federal student aid including Pell grants, student loans, work-study and other financial aid. You must complete the FAFSA each year to receive financial aid. Apply at

Federal Graduate PLUS Loan

See Graduate PLUS Loan.

Federal Parent PLUS Loan

See Parent PLUS Loan.

Federal Pell Grant

See Pell Grant.

Federal Perkins Loan

See Perkins Loan.

Federal Direct Loan (FDL) Program

There are two programs that offer federal loans to students and parents. Federal Direct Loan Program (FDL Program) and Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program. Both programs offer Federal Stafford Loans to undergraduate students, PLUS loans to parents of undergraduate students; and Graduate PLUS loans to graduate students and have the same terms and conditions. CU-Boulder is a direct loan school. If you borrow a federal loan under the FDL Program you will repay the federal government through the U.S. Department of Education's loan servicer.

Federal School Code (also, Title IV Institution Code)

Each college, campus or program has a six-character institution code. You must include the code related to each of your college applications when filling out a FAFSA. The federal school code for CU-Boulder is 001370.

Federal Stafford Loan

See Stafford Loan.

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)

A federal grant for undergraduate students with exceptional financial need who have not completed their first baccalaureate degree. If you receive a Pell Grant, you will be given priority to receive a FSEOG. Awards must be given to Pell Grant recipients. Eligibility is determined from the information on your FAFSA and how much funding is available.


The term refers to money awarded to assist individuals pursuing avenues of research or study in graduate or professional programs. Fellowships differ from scholarships in that they are intended to support research purposes and are generally merit-based awards, as opposed to need-based.

Financial Aid

Money provided to the student and family to help pay for the student's education. Types of financial aid include scholarships, grants, work-study programs, and student and parent loans.

Financial Aid Administrator

The Financial Aid Administrator (FAA) is a college or university employee involved in the administration of financial aid. Also known as financial aid advisors, officers or counselors.

Financial Aid Award Letter

An award letter is an official document issued by the Financial Aid Office that lists all of the financial aid awarded to the student. This letter provides details of your financial aid package such as amount, source, and type of aid.

Financial Need

The difference between your cost of attendance (COA) and your expected family contribution (EFC). In other words: COA - EFC = Financial Need. Learn more about how aid is determined.

Fixed Interest Rate

An interest rate that will remain 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. Forbearance is 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 forbearance if your loan is in default.

Full-Time Enrollment

In general, full-time enrollment means taking a minimum of 12 semester hours per academic term.

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Grace period

When you graduate or if you drop below half-time enrollment at your college, you have a period of time called the grace period, before you must begin making monthly payments on federal loans money you borrowed. If you borrowed a Stafford loan, the grace period is 6 months. If you borrowed a Perkins loan the grace period is 9 months. PLUS loans do not have a grace period

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 or professional student

A graduate or professional student is someone working on a degree beyond a Bachelor's degree, for example, a Master's, Law or Doctorate degree.

Graduate PLUS Loan

Graduate PLUS Loan are federal loans available to graduate/professional students to help finance their education. Students may borrow up to the full cost of their education, less the amount of any other financial aid received. There is a credit check required. Students should borrow their full Stafford Loan eligibility first.  


A type of financial aid that does not have to be repaid. Learn more.

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Half-time Enrollment

In general, this means attending at least six semester hours for undergraduate students and at least 4 credit hours for graduate students per academic term. Most financial aid programs require students be enrolled at least half-time to be eligible for aid.

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In-State Student

An in-state student has met the legal residency requirements for the state of Colorado and is eligible for in-state tuition. Visit the Registrar's Office to learn more.

Income Contingent Repayment

A repayment plan offered for Federal Direct Loans in which monthly payments are calculated based on your adjusted gross income. This option is not available for parent PLUS loans.

Independent Student

You are considered an independent student if you meet any of the following requirements:

  1. Age 24 by January 1 of the aid year
  2. Veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces
  3. Currently serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces for purposes other than training
  4. Graduate or graduate/professional student
  5. Married prior to filing and signing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid
  6. Orphan or ward of the court
  7. Have legal dependents other than a spouse
  8. An emancipated minor or an unaccompanied homeless youth
  9. Have unusual circumstances that can be documented to a financial aid advisor


When you borrow a loan you are charged an amount for use of that money. The percentage of interest you are charged and when interest begins to accrue on your federal loan is determined by the type of loan you borrow.

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Borrowed money. This type of financial aid is considered self-help because loans must be repaid under the terms and conditions of the promissory note you sign when you request the loan.  Learn more.

Loan Forgiveness

Under certain circumstances, such as practicing medicine in a national shortage area or teaching in a rural region, the federal government will cancel all or part of an educational loan. Learn more.

Loan Interviews

Students with educational loans are required to have entrance counseling and exit counseling completed when they first borrow a loan and again before they graduate or otherwise leave school.

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Master Promissory Note (MPN)

The promissory note you sign when you borrow money through a Federal Stafford or Perkins loan. The MPN is a legal document by which you promise to pay back loans as dictated by its terms and conditions. A MPN simplifies the borrowing process because you may be able to receive additional loans without signing a new promissory note each academic year.

Merit-Based Aid

Financial Aid for which you may be eligible based on a particular skill, achievement, talent or characteristic. Merit aid is usually given in the form of scholarships. The most common scholarships are based upon academic or athletic achievement. You must apply for most scholarships by completing an application and often writing an essay about yourself.

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Need-Based Aid

This type of financial aid is based upon financial need. Financial need is determined by subtracting your expected family contribution (EFC) from your cost of attendance (COA). The most common forms of need-based financial aid are grants, work-study, subsidized Federal Stafford loans and Perkins loans.

Non-Need-Based Aid

You are offered non-need based financial aid when: (1) your EFC is equal to or greater than your COA; or (2) when you have been offered as much need-based financial aid as the college can offer (based on your EFC and its funding levels), but there is still a gap between your COA and the amount of need-based financial aid you have been offered. Non-need based aid is almost always an unsubsidized Federal Stafford loan and/or a PLUS Loan.

Non-degree Student

A student who is not formally admitted into a degree-seeking program. Limited financial aid may be available if the student is enrolled in preparatory courses necessary for admission into a degree program. Learn more.


National Student Loan Data System. This U.S. Department of Education database allows students to access their federal student loan and grant information.

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Out-of-State Student

An out-of-state student does not meet the legal requirements for being a Colorado resident. Tuition rates are set based on your in-state or out-of-state residency classification. Visit the Registrar's Office to learn more.


The amount of financial aid awarded that exceeds cost of attendance (COA). A student may not receive scholarships, grants, loans, work-study and resources in excess of cost-of attendance.

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Parent PLUS Loan

Parent PLUS Loans are 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. There is a credit check required. If a PLUS loan is turned down, the student may be eligible to borrow additional money under the Unsubsidized Stafford Loan program.

Pell Grant

A federal grant awarded if you have high financial need (determined by completing the FAFSA). If you qualify for the Pell Grant the federal government ensures you will receive it when you attend an institution of higher education.

Perkins Loan

The Perkins Loan allows students to borrow up to $5,500/year (5 year max). The Perkins Loan has a 5% interest rate and is awarded to students with exceptional financial need. The interest on the Perkins Loan is subsidized while the student is in school.


A personal identification number you can use to electronically sign your FAFSA online each year. If you are a dependent student, both you and one parent should have a PIN. Apply for your PIN at the U.S. Department of Education FAFSA PIN website.


The amount of money you borrow under a loan is called the principal. When you begin making payments on this loan, you will repay the principal balance of the loan plus interest.

Private Loans

Private loans are education loan programs established by private lenders to supplement the student and parent education loan programs available from federal and state governments. Learn more.

Professional Judgment Appeal

See Appeal.

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. Borrowers can complete an electronic master promissory note at

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If you receive financial aid in excess of your university bill, a refund will be owed to you. Refunds are paid through direct deposit only. See the Bursar's page for details on setting up direct deposit.

Repayment Terms

The criteria you must follow regarding how your educational loan will be paid back. Terms include the amount of payments (normally paid on a monthly basis), interest rate and number of years to repay. There are various repayment plans available to help manage your loans.

Research Assistantship

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.


Reserve Officers Training Corps. In this program, the military pays a student's tuition or other expenses. The student takes part in summer training while in college, and commits to military service after college.

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Satisfactory Academic Progress

A student must meet minimum grade point and course completion requirements to continue to receive federal financial aid. All students need to be familiar with the Satisfactory Academic Progress policy.


A type of financial aid for which the money received does not have to be paid back. Scholarships are considered merit-based aid because they are awarded to students who are eligible based on certain criteria. The most common scholarships are academic and athletic scholarships. Students must generally apply for scholarship by completing an application and in many cases, by writing an essay. Scholarships come from a variety of sources including federal and state governments, the university, churches, professional organizations and businesses.

Selective Service

Selective Service is 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 or visit

Self-help financial aid

Self-help financial aid includes work-study (you work for the money received) and loans (money which you borrow and must pay back).

Stafford Loan

A low-interest federal loan for both undergraduate and graduate students. Federal Stafford Loans can be subsidized or unsubsidized. The amount you can borrow each year is determined by your grade level, dependency status and total amount borrowed to date. If you have a subsidized Federal Stafford Loan, the federal government will pay the interest while you're in school at least half-time and during a grace period. If you have an unsubsidized loan, you are responsible for interest payments while you are in college and during your grace period. You must fill out the FAFSA to determine eligibility.

Statement of Educational Purpose

A legal document in which the student agrees to use financial aid received for educational expenses only. The student must sign this document before receiving federal financial aid.

Student Aid Report (SAR)

Your copy of the information you submitted on the FAFSA. If you complete a paper FAFSA, the SAR will be mailed to you. If you complete the FAFSA on-line, you will receive an electronic copy of your SAR.

Subsidized Loan

The student does not accrue interest on the loan while in-school, during the grace period, and during any deferment periods. Subsidized loans are need-based self-help financial aid.

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Title IV Aid

Title IV refers to the federal financial aid programs authorized under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 as amended. These programs include Federal Direct loans, Pell grants, Perkins loans, SEOG grants, Work-Study, and others.

Title IV School Code

When you fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) you need to supply the Title IV Code for each school to which you are applying. CU-Boulder's school code is 001370.

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Unsubsidized Loan

An unsubsidized loan is 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.

US Department of Education

The US Department of Education 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.

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Verification is a review process in which the Financial Aid Office 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 reported (or not reported) on the FAFSA. Documentation may include signed copies of the most recent Federal income tax returns for you, your spouse (if any) and your parents, proof of citizenship, proof of Selective Service registration, copies of Social Security benefit statements, W2 and 1099 forms, etc.


By definition, a veteran is a person who has served in the armed forces. However, the Veterans Administration and the US Department of Education determines the veteran status differently. Learn more about veteran educational benefits.

Resources for Blind and Visually Impaired Students

The U.S. Department of Education's Federal Student Aid Programs provides Resources for Blind and Visually Impaired Students to assist with the financial aid application process.

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Work-Study programs provide part-time jobs for undergraduate and graduate students with financial need, allowing them to earn money to help pay education expenses. Work-study funding comes from federal, state and institution sources.

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