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Financial Aid Glossary

This glossary of commonly used financial aid terms is designed to help you better understand the jargon used in relation to financial aid.


Academic Year

a period of at least 30 weeks of instructional time during which a full-time student is expected to complete at least 24 semester hours at an institution that measures program length in semester credit hours. For federal aid application purposes, the academic year at Southern is Fall and Spring. The Summer semester requires a separate Georgia Southern application and uses the FAFSA from the current year to determine eligibility.

Award Adjustment

either per the student’s request or because of a change in circumstances, a change has been made to the student’s financial aid package. This could be anything from the cancellation of a loan to the awarding of a scholarship after the initial package was put together.

Award Notification

title of EAGLEGRAM sent to students when their award package is available for viewing on WINGS.

Borrower’s Rights and Responsibilities

a checklist you sign when you are either completing entrance or exit loan counseling.


used interchangeably with COA, the financial aid budget is the total cost of education for the student for the coming year, including tuition, fees, books, room and board, transportation, and personal expenses. Budgets, or COAs, are school specific and are determined by the financial aid office.


the practice of adding unpaid interest charges to the loan principal, increasing the size of that principal.


A loan is in default when the borrower fails to pay a regular installment on time or otherwise fails to meet the terms and conditions of the loan. If you default on a loan, the university, the holder of the loan, and the government can take legal action to recover the money, including garnishing your wages. Defaulting on a government loan will make you ineligible for future federal financial aid. This ineligibility for financial aid remains in effect until such time as the defaulted loan is paid in full or until you have made at least 6 consecutive on-time reasonable monthly payments as determined by the holder of the loan.


when a borrower is allowed to postpone repayment of a student loan. Most federal loan programs allow students to defer their loans while they are in school at least half-time (6 or more credit hours).

Dependency status (Dependent or Independent student)

A student’s dependency status determines to what degree the student is expected to have access to parental financial resources. See the definitions of dependent and independent student to determine your status.

Dependent, verification of

When students list on their FAFSA that they have a child or legal dependent, the financial aid office may ask for documentation of that dependent, i.e. a birth certificate.

Direct lending/Direct Loan

Georgia Southern participates in this program, where Stafford loan and PLUS funds are disbursed directly to the school from the U.S. Department of Education (DOE). DOE is the lender, rather than a bank or guarantee agency. The student or parent repays the loan directly to the DOE.


the payment of financial aid funds to a student or student account.


Official e-mail network for University correspondence. Students will receive EAGLEGRAMS through their Georgia Southern e-mail account notifying them of requirements for financial aid, completion of award packaging, and other related information. Award information will no longer be sent by “snail mail.” Students are encouraged to check their e-mail on a very regular basis.

EFC (Expected Family Contribution)

The EFC is the amount of money the federal government expects the family to be able to contribute toward the student’s cost of education during the coming academic year. The EFC is calculated according to a formula established by Congress. The difference between the COA and EFC is the student’s financial need.

Entrance Loan Counseling

An online session that new student loan borrowers are invited to participate in. The session explains borrowers’ rights and responsibilities, borrowing limits, and more.

Exit Loan Counseling

An online session that graduating student loan borrowers, or borrowers who have dropped below half-time enrollment status, are invited to participate in. The session explains repayment terms in detail.


Financial Aid Administrator, known at Georgia Southern as your Financial Aid Counselor


Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This application is the blanket application for all forms of federal aid (grants and loans) and the state HOPE Scholarship. It must be filed every year in which the student is seeking financial aid and should be completed by the annual Priority Filing Date (February 1st).

Federal Work-Study (FWS, aka College Work-Study/CWS)

a form of cooperative education that provides students with on and off-campus employment while in school. Eligibility is based on need and availability of funds. FWS is part of a student’s financial aid package.

Financial Aid

any type of educational monetary assistance, including grants, loans, FWS, and scholarships

Financial Need

determined by subtracting the EFC from the COA. A need may vary depending on the school the student attends.

Georgia Student Finance Commission (GSFC)

The agency that administers several state grant and service cancelable loan programs, including HOPE Scholarship.


An online application for those who are interested in HOPE scholarship, but not in federal aid.

Grace period

a short time, generally six or nine months, after graduating, leaving school or dropping below half-time enrollment, during which the borrower is not required to begin regular repayment of their student loan.


a financial aid award that does not have to be repaid. Grants may be need-based or merit-based.

Half-time enrollment

defined as being registered for at least six semester credit hours during fall/spring/summer for undergraduates.  Half-time for graduate students varies per program.  Please click here for more information.

HOPE Scholarship

A state program that covers partial tuition at Georgia public universities for Georgia residents who graduate from a Georgia high school with a 3.0 or better (as determined by the high school GPA). Students must maintain a cumulative HOPE GPA of 3.0 to retain the scholarship and are checked at the end of each spring semester and 30,60, and 90 attempted hours for that GPA.


An amount charged to the borrower for the privilege of using the lender’s money. Interest is usually calculated as a percentage of the principal. The percentage rate may be fixed for the life of the loan, or it may be variable, depending on the terms of the loan.


the organization that provides funds to the borrower of the loan. For Federal Direct Stafford Loans, the lender is the U.S. Department of Education.


a type of financial aid that must be repaid, typically upon graduation if it is a student loan.

Loan, Subsidized

a type of loan where no interest accrues while the student is in school. The student must be enrolled at least half-time and demonstrate financial need to qualify. The amount of the loan is determined by the student’s grade level in school.

Loan, Unsubsidized

a type of loan where interest accrues while the student is in school. An interest statement is mailed quarterly, giving the student the option to pay the interest. If it is not paid, the interest capitalizes with the principal. The student must be enrolled at least half-time to qualify. The amount of the loan is determined by the student’s grade level in school.

Origination Fee

an initial charge deducted from the loan to pay part of the loan’s administrative costs.

Pell Grant

a federal grant that provides funds for the academic year based on the student’s financial need and enrollment status. Eligibility and amount are determined by the EFC.


the amount of money borrowed through the loan.

Professional Judgment

used by financial aid administrators to make adjustments to award packages based on extenuating circumstances (i.e. loss of job, death of parent). Proper documentation is required.

Promissory Note

the binding legal document electronically signed by the student or parent borrower before loan funds can be disbursed by the lender. The promissory note states the terms and conditions of the loan, including repayment schedule, deferment policy, and cancellation policy. The student/parent should keep this document until the loan is repaid. You can access the promissory note at

PLUS (Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students)

a federal loan available to parents of dependent undergraduate students to help finance the student’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 separate application for the PLUS.

Revision Request

an all-purpose form used to request a change to a student’s financial aid package (i.e. cancel a loan, review HOPE eligibility).

SAP (Satisfactory Academic Progress)

what the student must maintain to keep receiving financial aid. The policy states that a student must maintain at least a 2.0 GPA, earn 67% of the total hours they attempt, and not exceed in attempted hours 150% of what it takes to earn one degree (typically 189 attempted hours for a 126 semester hour degree program). If a student is not making SAP, it can result in a loss of financial aid.

SAR (Student Aid Report)

an acknowledgment sent to students after they have filed a FAFSA and the federal processing center has processed it. It summarizes the information entered on the FAFSA and is sent to the Department of Financial Aid of the school whose code was entered on the form. The SAR is sent electronically to the school, so it is not necessary to mail a copy of the paper SAR. The SAR will also indicate the EFC (which is subject to change), which indicates Pell eligibility.


a form of financial aid that usually has certain criteria (either merit or need-based) that must be met before being awarded to the student. Scholarships may be internal (awarded through the university) or external (awarded by an outside organization, such as a church or civic club).

SEOG (Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant)

a federal grant program for undergraduates with exceptional financial needs. SEOG funds are limited.

Unmet Need

In an ideal world, the Department of Financial Aid would be able to provide each student with the full difference between their ability to pay and the cost of education. Due to funding constraints, the student may receive less than their demonstrated financial need. This gap is known as the unmet need.


is the confirmation through documentation that the information provided on a student’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is correct. The federal government requires colleges and universities to verify or confirm the data reported by students and their parent(s) on the FAFSA.

WINGS (Web Interactive Network for Georgia Southern)

the university’s online student information system. Students access it using their Eagle ID Number and PIN (Date of Birth until the student changes it). They can view all their financial aid information online, print forms, and contact their counselor. It can be accessed at

Last updated: 8/2/2023