Financial Aid

Financial Aid Glossary

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1040 Form, 1040A Form, 1040EZ Form

The federal income tax return form. Most people who have received income during the previous year must file a form 1040 with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by April 15.

Academic Year

The period during which school is in session, starting with fall, spring and summer terms.

Adjusted Gross Income (AGI)

Taxable income as reported on a federal 1040 form. Both the student and parent AGI’s are reported on the FAFSA (if tax returns were filed).

Adverse Credit History

A modest credit check required with a Parent PLUS loan application, which does not include any kind of a debt-to-income ratio or FICO score. According to the regulations at 34 CFR 682.201(c)(2), a borrower is considered to have an adverse credit history if a recent credit report shows that:

  • the borrower has a current delinquency of 90 or more days on any debt, or
  • the borrower had certain derogatory information (e.g., default determination, bankruptcy discharge, foreclosure, repossession, tax lien, wage garnishment, or write-off of a Title IV debt) in the credit history during the five years preceding the date of the credit report

Award Letter

Also called a Financial Aid Award Notification, the award letter is an official notification listing the student’s financial aid eligibility available to view on STARS. This letter provides a breakdown of your financial aid package according to amount and source (view Understanding Your Award Letter). The award letter will include requirements needed to receive aid, and additional information related to University costs.

Cost of Attendance (COA)

The total estimated amount it should cost the student attend a specific school, which includes tuition and fees, room and board, allowances for books and supplies, transportation, and personal and miscellaneous expenses. Additional required expenses may also be included at the discretion of the financial aid advisor. The cost of attendance can vary greatly for students based on enrollment, living expenses, and other indirect costs.

Data Release Number (DRN)

A four-digit number assigned to your FAFSA application. It is printed on the upper right corner of the paper Student Aid Report (SAR), in the upper right corner on the electronic SAR, and on your confirmation page. You should not give your DRN to anyone unless that person is a financial aid administrator or customer service representative and you are either adding colleges or changing data on your FAFSA.


A loan is in default when the borrower fails to pay several regular installments on time or otherwise fails to meet the terms and conditions of the loan. When a borrower is in default the loan becomes due in full immediately and the lender may take legal action to recover the money.


Occurs when a borrower is allowed to postpone repaying the loan. Most federal loan programs (including Federal Direct and Parent PLUS loans) allow payment to be deferred while the student is enrolled at least half-time (6 credit hours) or until after graduation.

Eligible Non-Citizen

Someone who is not a U.S. citizen but is still eligible for Federal student aid. Eligible non-citizens include U.S. permanent residents who are holders of valid green cards, U.S. nationals, holders of form I-94 who have been granted refugee or asylum status, and certain other non-citizens. Non-citizens who hold a student visa or an exchange visitor visa are not eligible for federal student aid.

Entrance Counseling

Before you can receive your federal student loan, regulations require that you complete an Entrance Counseling session (available online ). The counseling session provides information about how to manage your student loans, both during and after college.

Expected Family Contribution (EFC)

The Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is a measure of your family’s financial strength and ability to pay for college as determined by the information you supply on the FASFA. Your EFC is not the amount of money your family will have to pay for college. The Financial Aid Office uses your EFC to calculate the amount of need-based student aid you are eligible to receive, such as federal and state grants.

Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)

Federal grant program for undergraduate students with exceptional need. Students will be notified of their eligibility on their financial aid award letter.

Federal Work-Study (FWS)

A federal program providing undergraduate and graduate students with part-time employment during the school year. Money earned from a FWS job should be used to cover University costs or other educational expenses. Eligibility for FWS is based on need, and students are notified of a FWS award on their financial aid award letter.

Financial Aid Award Notification

Also called an Award Letter, the award notification is an official notice listing the student’s financial aid eligibility available to view on STARS. This notification provides a breakdown of your financial aid package according to source and amount (view Understanding Your Award Letter). The award notification will include requirements needed to receive aid, and additional information related to University costs.

Fixed Rate

A type of loan interest rate that does not fluctuate and remains the same for the life of the loan.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

The annual form used to apply for federal and state financial aid. Complete your application as soon as possible starting October 1st.


During forbearance, the lender allows the borrower to temporarily postpone repaying the principal loan amount, but the interest charges continue to accrue. Forbearances are 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.

Gift Aid

Financial aid, such as grants and scholarships, which does not need to be repaid.

Grace Period

A short time period (generally 6 months) after graduation during which the borrower is not required to begin repaying his/her student loans. The grace period may also kick in if the borrower leaves school for a reason other than graduation or drops below half-time enrollment.

Grade Point Average (GPA)

An average of a student's grades, converted to a 4.0 scale (4.0 is an A, 3.0 is a B, and 2.0 is a C). Some schools use a 5.0 scale for the GPA.


A form of gift aid based on financial need that the student does not have to repay.

Illinois National Guard Grant (ING)

An entitlement program in which eligible student members may receive a waiver of tuition and certain fees at Illinois public 2- and 4-year colleges.

Illinois Student Assistant Commission (ISAC)

The state agency that administers scholarship and grant programs for Illinois residents in accordance with state appropriations and legislation.

Illinois Veteran Grant (IVG)

An entitlement program in which eligible student veterans may receive a waiver of tuition and certain fees at Illinois public 2- and 4-year colleges.

Independent Student

To qualify as an independent student you must be able to answer "Yes" to one of the following statements:

  • Be 24 years of age or older by December 31st of the Award Year
  • Be enrolled in a graduate degree program
  • Be married as of date the FAFSA was filed
  • Have legal dependents other than a spouse who lives with you and you provide more than half support for
  • In foster care or dependent/ward of the court when you were age 13 or older
  • Emancipated minor as of the date you filed the FAFSA
  • In legal guardianship until you reached the age of 18
  • Identified as homeless or at-risk of being homeless
  • Be a veteran or current active duty member of the U.S. Armed Forces (called to active duty for purposes other than training)
  • Both parents are deceased


The interest on a loan is a fee charged periodically in exchange for the use of a lender's money. It is paid in addition to repaying the amount borrowed. Interest is usually calculated as a percentage of the outstanding principal balance of the loan.


A bank, credit union, savings & loan association, or other financial institution that provides funds to the student or parent for an educational loan.


A type of financial aid which must be repaid, with interest. Federal student loan programs are a good method of financing the costs of your college education as they have lower, fixed interest rates, do not require a credit check, and provide a variety of deferment options and extended repayment terms.

Master Promissory Note (MPN)

A binding legal document that must be completed (visit by the student borrower before loan funds are disbursed by the lender. The MPN represents an agreement by the borrower to repay the debt according to the specified terms and conditions (repayment schedule, interest rate, fees, deferments, forbearances, etc.) The student should keep this document until the loan has been repaid.


Financial aid that is merit-based depends on your academic, artistic, or athletic merit or some other criteria, and does not depend on financial need. Merit-based awards use your grades, test scores, hobbies, and special talents to determine your eligibility for scholarships and awards.

Monetary Award Program (MAP) Grant

A state grant that provides funds based on the student's financial need and Illinois residency requirements. Students will be notified of their eligibility on their financial aid award letter.

National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS)

The U.S. Department of Education’s central database for federal student aid records. NSLDS tracks your federal loans from the time you apply until you complete repayment, allowing you to see details about all your federal student loans in one place. Remember, private loans are not federal aid, so you will be responsible for tracking private loan information.


Aid that is dependent on you and your family’s financial situation. Most government sources of financial aid are need-based.

Net Price

The cost of attendance minus any gift aid (grants, scholarships, etc.) a student will receive. The net price reflects the amount a student/family will need to pay out of personal resources, such as savings, income, and loans (also referred to as out-of-pocket costs). See the WIU Net Price Calculator.

Origination Fee

A fee paid to the bank/lender to compensate them for the cost of administering the loan. The origination fee is subtracted from the loan amount received by the borrower. Example: A one percent origination fee on $100 would result in the borrower receiving $99.

Parent Loans for Undergraduate Students (PLUS)

A federal loan 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 minimal credit check required for the PLUS loan, so a good credit history is required. If a PLUS application is denied, the student may be eligible to borrow an additional Federal unsubsidized loan

Pell Grant

A federal grant that provides funds based on the student's financial need. Students will be notified of their eligibility on their financial aid award letter.

Perkins Loan

A type of federal loan awarded to students with exceptional financial need. Students will be notified of their eligibility on their financial aid award letter. Note: The Federal Perkins Loan program ended in 2017.

PIN Number

A four-digit number that is used in combination with your Social Security Number, name, and date of birth to identify you as someone who has the right to access your own personal information on Federal Student Aid websites.


The initial amount of money borrowed as a loan. Interest is charged as a percentage of the principal, which results in the student repaying more than what was borrowed.

Professional Judgment (PJ)

The delegation of authority from the federal government to the financial aid administrator. This allows for individual consideration when evaluating certain student/parent FAFSA information in determining financial aid eligibility.

Private Loans

Education loan programs established by private banks/lenders to supplement the educational loan programs available from the federal government.

Repayment Schedule

The repayment schedule discloses the monthly payment, interest rate, total repayment obligation, payment due dates, and the term of the loan.

Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP)

A student must be making Satisfactory Academic Progress towards a degree in order to continue receiving federal aid. View WIU’s SAP Policy.


A form of gift aid that does not have to be repaid. Many scholarships are restricted to students in specific courses of study, or with academic, athletic, or artistic talent.

Selective Service

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. Students needing help resolving problems concerning their Selective Service registration should go online or call 1-847-688-6888.

Student/Alumni Records System (STARS)

The WIU online system that provides students access to their university records, including billing statements, financial aid notifications, class schedule, etc. Parents may also be granted restricted use of STARS by their student in order to view University information.

Student Aid Report (SAR)

Report that summarizes the information included in the FAFSA that is provided to the Financial Aid Office. The SAR will also indicate the amount of Pell Grant eligibility, if any, and the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). You should receive a copy of your SAR four to six weeks after you file your FAFSA.

Subsidized Loan

A federal student loan for which the government pays the interest on the loan while the student is in school, during the six-month grace period, and during any deferment periods. Subsidized loans are awarded based on financial need, and students will be notified of their eligibility on their financial aid award letter.


The number of years (or months) during which a loan is to be repaid.

Unsubsidized Loan

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.


The review process in which the Financial Aid Office determines the accuracy of the information provided on the student's FAFSA application using required documentation submitted by the student and parent. If selected for verification, the student will be notified by email and a message will be displayed on STARS.