Award Letter: A means of notifying successful financial aid applicants of the assistance being offered. The award letter usually provides information on the types and amounts of aid offered, as well as specific program information, student responsibilities and the conditions that govern the award. Award information also is available on each university’s Student Self-Service web site.

Board: The charge for meals provided through university dining services, for a specified number of days or meals per week. The student chooses the most appropriate Board Plan for his/her needs. Most Board Plans include a specified amount of dollars (“flex” dollars) that can be spent in nontraditional dining venues.

Cost of Attendance (COA): Generally, this includes the tuition and fees normally assessed a student, together with the institution's estimate of the cost of room and board, transportation and commuting costs, books and supplies and miscellaneous personal expenses. In addition, student loan fees, dependent care, reasonable costs for a study abroad or cooperative education program, and/or costs related to a disability might be included, when appropriate. Also referred to as "cost of education" or "budget."

Commuter Student: A student who does not live on campus; typically, "commuter" refers to a student living at home with his or her parents.

Dependent Student: A student who does not qualify as an independent student and whose parental income and asset information is used in calculating an Expected Family Contribution.

Direct Costs: Educational costs billed by the university to the student and paid directly to the university, such as tuition, fees, on-campus housing and meal plans.

Enrollment Status: Indication of total credits scheduled for an enrollment period and whether the student is enrolled full-time or part-time.  Some financial aid is reduced or not available at less than full-time enrollment.

Expected Family Contribution (EFC): The amount a student and his or her family are expected to pay toward the student's cost of attendance, as calculated by a Congressionally-mandated formula known as Federal Methodology. The EFC is used to determine a student's eligibility for the student financial assistance programs.

Federal Direct Loan: Long term, low-interest loans administered by the Department of Education and institutions. There are two forms, subsidized and unsubsidized. Unsubsidized loans can be used to replace EFC and they require students to pay interest on these loans, whereas the government pays the interest on a subsidized loan while the student is in school, during a six-month grace period after graduation and during any deferment periods. 

Fees: The price charged by a university to all of its students for various services, other than general rendering of educational services, at the time of registration or through the normal billing process. Included in this category are activity fees, student union fees, academic support fees, instructional equipment fees, etc.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA): The financial aid application document completed by the student, and the student's parents if applicable, that collects household and financial information. The FAFSA is the foundation document for all federal need analysis, as well as for determination for elegibility for the Pennsylvania State Grant.

Financial Aid Package: Includes any aid such as grants, scholarships, loans and work-study offered to the student to assist in the funding of his/her education.

Gift Aid: Financial aid that is not repaid, such as scholarships and grants.

Grant: A type of financial aid that does not have to be repaid; usually awarded on the basis of need, possibly combined with some skills or characteristics the student possesses.

Independent Student: A student who qualifies as an independent student and whose parental income and asset information is not used in calculating an Expected Family Contribution. The FAFSA provides detailed information on what constitutes an independent student.

Indirect Costs: Educational costs incurred by the student not paid directly to the university, such as books, transportation and personal expenses. 

Loan: An advance of funds requiring the recipient to repay the specified amount(s) under prescribed conditions. 

Master Promissory Note (MPN): A legally binding document required to be signed by all federal student loan recipients, by which the borrower promises to repay the student loan. It also explains the rights and responsibilities of the borrower. A student completes an MPN only once: prior to receiving his/her first loan. 

Need: The difference between the Cost of Attendance and the Expected Family Contribution.

Pennsylvania Resident: A person domiciled—where one intends to reside permanently or indefinitely and does in fact so reside—in Pennsylvania; thus, eligible for in-state tuition.

Private/Alternative Loans: Banks, credit unions and other private lending institutions might have a variety of loan options available to students and/or their families that do not rely on completion of the FAFSA or that provide additional lending capabilities beyond the limits of the federal loan programs.

Room: The charges for living in university housing. Rates might vary based on occupancy and style of housing.

Student Aid Report (SAR): The official notification of the results of processing the student’s Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA.)

Scholarship: Gift aid that might or might not be based on need, but is awarded typically through a competitive process that might include other factors such as academic performance, athletic ability, special talents or affiliation with a particular organization or group. Scholarships are not repaid.

Title IV School Code: When you fill out the FAFSA you need to supply the Title IV Code for each school to which you are applying. 

Tuition: The price charged or listed for rendering educational services. 

Unmet Need: In an ideal world, the university would be able to provide each student with the full difference between his or her ability to pay and the cost of education. Because of budget constraints the university might provide the student with less than the student's calculated need. This gap is known as the unmet need.