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Financial Aid Glossary of Terms

Below, you will find the definitions of commonly used financial aid terms. The terminology is standardized by the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) and the College Cost Transparency Initiative (CCTI). 


Any individual required to provide consent and approval for federal tax information (FTI) along with their signature on the FAFSA form, including the student; the student’s spouse; a biological or adoptive parent; or the parent’s spouse (stepparent).

Cost of Attendance (COA)

The Cost of Attendance (COA) consists of the sum of educational costs payable to the school (also referred to as direct or billable costs) and costs paid to others (or indirect, non-billable or discretionary) costs. The Cost of Attendance represents the highest dollar amount of financial aid a student can receive during an award year. Visit our Explanation of Fees page for more information.

  • Direct Costs:  Costs Payable to the school (also referred to as direct or billable costs) or any other expenses paid to the school for enrollment. Charges included in the COA that are paid directly to Miami include:
    • Tuition: Charges assessed for classes and/or coursework
    • Fees: Charges assessed for other University services
      • E.g. Basic General Fees, Transit Fee, Student Technology Fee, Armstrong Student Center Fee, Mental Health Fee, Matriculation Fee
    • Non-Resident Surcharge: Miami receives subsidy from the State of Ohio for students who are Ohio residents, and Non-Ohio residents are required to pay the Non-Resident Surcharge
    • Career Development Fee: Career exploration and professional development services
    • Program and Course Fees: Additional administrative fees associated with specific courses or programs
    • Housing: Residence hall charges for on-campus students
    • Food: The cost of a university meal plan
    • Health Services Fees: Charges for student health insurance (if minimum insurance coverage is not documented) or other services related to the health center
  • Indirect Costs: 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. The estimated expenses in the COA that are not paid directly to Miami include: 
    • Transportation: An allowance which may include transportation between campus, residence, and place of work
    • Books, Course Materials, Supplies, and Equipment: Estimated expenses related to books, course materials, and equipment required for a student’s program of study
    • Housing: Rent and utilities for off-campus living
    • Food: The cost of food prepared at home for off-campus students
    • Miscellaneous Personal Expenses: An allowance for a student attending Miami on at least a half-time basis for items such as laundry, clothing, reasonable recreation, personal hygiene, etc.
    • Other costs specific to certain student circumstances related to attendance, such as: dependent care, disability-related expenses, study-abroad expenses, federal student loan fees, etc.


The aid payment process, which typically happens around the time classes start in the form of a credit to your account. Visit our Disbursements page for Miami’s disbursement dates.


A deferment is a temporary postponement of payment on a loan that is allowed under certain conditions and during which interest generally doesn’t accrue on certain types of subsidized loans.

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. Educational loans have varying fees, interest rates, repayment terms, and/or borrower protections.

  • 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. There are four types of Federal Loans:
    • 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.
    • 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 (PLUS): 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. Parents of dependent students may apply for this loan at
  • 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. Miami’s enrollment status criteria is as follows:

Enrollment Status Criteria
Enrollment Undergraduate (credit hours) Graduate (credit hours)
Full time 12+ 9+
3/4 time 9-11.99 7-8.99
1/2 time 6-8.99 5-6.99
Less than 1/2 time Less than 6 Less than 5

Entrance Counseling

Entrance counseling explains the obligations a student agrees to meet as a condition of borrowing a Direct Loan. Topics include: Understand Your Loans, Manage Your Spending, Plan to Repay, Avoid Default, and Make Finances a Priority.

Expected Family Contribution (EFC)

An eligibility index that college financial aid staff use to determine how much financial aid you would receive if you were to attend college. The EFC is calculated according to a formula specified in law and is based upon the information provided by the student and their family on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Your EFC is the same no matter which school you attend.

FAFSA Submission Summary

Replaces the Student Aid Report (SAR) as the student’s output document providing a summary of data input on the FAFSA form.

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records, both financial and academic. It limits release of your record information without your written consent. However, it also gives your parent(s)/guardian(s) the right to review those records, without your consent, if the parent(s)/ guardian(s) claim you as a dependent on their Federal Income Tax Return.

Family Size

Replaces the term “household size” on the FAFSA form. It captures the appropriate number of family members and dependents in the applicant’s household, within the meaning of section 152 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 or an eligible individual for purposes of the credit under section 24 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.

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 Tax Information (FTI)

This 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 Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)

FSEOG is 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. Students must complete a FAFSA each year for consideration.

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. Students are responsible for finding qualified employment. For consideration, students must complete a FAFSA each year.

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.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

To be considered for all available need-based financial aid and scholarships, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) must be submitted each year. The FAFSA becomes available on October 1 each year. If you are a returning student, you have the option to renew your FAFSA. For more information about how to file the FAFSA, visit our FAFSA Tips and Tutorial page.

Grants and 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.


A loan expense charged for the use of borrowed money. Interest is paid by a borrower to a lender. The expense is calculated as a percentage of the unpaid principal amount of the loan.

Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant (IASG)

The IASG is a federal grant to qualifying students with a parent or guardian who died as a result of U.S. military service in Iraq or Afghanistan after September 11, 2001. If you are eligible for a Federal Pell Grant, you cannot receive an IASG.

Master Promissory Note (MPN)

The Master Promissory Note (MPN) is a legal document in which the student/parent or guardian promises to repay their loan(s) and any accrued interest and fees to the U.S. Department of Education. It also explains the terms and conditions of their loan(s).


The student’s Cost of Attendance minus their Student Aid Index (SAI).

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.

Negative Student Aid Index (SAI)

The Student Aid Index (SAI) can be a negative number (down to -1500) which can be used by institutions in determining students who have the most financial need. Note that when packaging a student for Title IV need-based aid, a negative SAI is converted to a 0 SAI in the packaging formula. For more information, see Student Aid Index (SAI) definition below.

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.

Primary or Custodial Parent

For a dependent student whose parents are divorced or separated, the primary or custodial parent is the parent who provides the greater portion of the student’s financial support and is required to provide their information (and if applicable their spouse’s information) on the FAFSA form.

Professional Judgment

The authority of a school’s financial aid administrator to make adjustments to the data elements on the FAFSA and to override a student’s dependency status or EFC.

Program Level

Level of the degree-granting program in which you are enrolled. Program levels may include:

  • Undergraduate: Students seeking an associate degree, an undergraduate certificate, or a baccalaureate degree
  • Post-Baccalaureate: Such as teacher certification
  • Graduate: Students working on a master’s degree, graduate certificate, doctorate, or professional degree.

The amounts and types of financial aid for which you are eligible is determined, in part, by your program level.

Provisionally Independent Student

If a student indicates they have unusual circumstances or indicates for the first time they are unaccompanied and homeless, or at risk of being homeless (without a designation from a specified entity), the FAFSA Processing System (FPS) will consider the student to be provisionally independent and will allow them to fill out the FAFSA form as an independent student. The SAI will remain provisional and not official until the student’s college or career school makes a final determination. The ISIR will have a specific reject code that will require the financial aid administrator (FAA) to review, and if applicable, confirm the student’s independent status. The FAA will determine if the student’s circumstances make them eligible to apply independently and, if so, make any necessary updates to formally make the student independent.

Student Aid Report (SAR)

The SAR is a paper or electronic document from the U.S. Department of Education's office of Federal Student Aid that gives you some basic information about your eligibility for federal student aid and lists your answers to the questions on your FAFSA form. It is not your financial aid offer.

Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP)

Schools use Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) Standards to determine if you are meeting all of your educational requirements and if you are on target to graduate on time with a degree or certificate. This process may vary across schools. 


Special Circumstances

Refers to special or extenuating situations (such as the loss of a job) that impact a student’s financial condition and support a financial aid administrator adjusting data elements in the COA or in the EFC/SAI calculation on a case-by-case basis.

Student Aid Index (SAI)

The SAI is 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

Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grants

TEACH Grants are federal grants for undergraduate and graduate students, awarded in exchange for specific future teaching service in designated high-need fields and low-income elementary and secondary schools. If you do not complete the required teaching service, the grant becomes a Federal Direct Unsubsidized Student Loan that must be repaid.

Unmet Need

Your Cost of Attendance, minus your Expected Family Contribution, less any need-based aid received, such as Gift Aid, Federal Work-Study or Federal Direct Subsidized Loans.

Unusual Circumstance

Refers to 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 (e.g., human trafficking or parental abandonment).


A federally mandated process to confirm the accuracy of data provided by selected FAFSA applicants. To complete the federal 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 provided to Miami 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.

The CCTI partner seal.Miami University has joined the College Cost Transparency Initiative (CCTI) as a distinguished partner. This significant affiliation underscores Miami’s commitment to the principles and standards championed by the CCTI, which aims to provide comprehensive and understandable details to prospective and current students about the cost of higher education.

The CCTI focuses on making student financial aid offers clear, accurate, and helpful. By adhering to the CCTI’s principles and standards, Miami aims to provide transparent and reliable information to students and their families, enabling them to make informed decisions about their financial obligations and educational choices. Miami strives to promote fairness, accessibility, and clarity in the financial aid process, ultimately contributing to a more equitable higher education landscape.

Additional Resources

Contact the One Stop

The One Stop assists Miami students and authorized family members with billing and payment, financial aid, registration, and student records.