Financial aid terminology can seem like a language unto itself. Get the meaning behind the monetary jargon by looking up terms in this simple glossary.


1040 income tax return: a federal form used by the IRS to determine a person's income and tax liability.

1098-T tax form: a form provided by the school that states the total amount of tuition and fees paid in one calendar year; this may be used as a possible tax break.

anticipated aid: a financial aid award that has not yet paid out but shows on the student account as a future credit and can be applied to current charges.

applicant acknowledgement email: a communication sent by the CSUN Financial Aid & Scholarship Department to notify a student that the FAFSA was successfully completed and received by CSUN.

balance check: a check sent to the student via mail or e-refund, which includes financial aid funds in excess of tuition, fees and other CSUN charges. Funds can be used to meet other school-related expenses, such as books, food and transportation fees.

bookstore debit card loan: a $300 loan in the form of a debit card available during the early part of the semester. The loan can be used immediately to purchase academic books exclusively at the CSUN Matador Bookstore.

Cal Grant: money granted to the student by the state of California for the purpose of meeting educational expenses. The grant is based on the student's grade point average, financial need, income and asset information, and is only available to California residents who meet a GPA requirement and prove demonstrated need.

California Student Aid Commission: a California state agency that oversees and determines eligibility for the Cal Grant and Chafee Grant programs.

capital: another word for available income.

cost of attendance: all the expenses a student will likely incur during an academic year, including tuition, books, room and board, transportation and miscellaneous expenses.

credential student: a student that is pursuing a teaching credential in order to teach at a K-12 school.

dependent student: a student who must provide parental information on the FAFSA because he or she answered no to all the dependency questions in section three of the FAFSA. Financial aid eligibility is determined by using both the student's and parents' financial information.

disbursement date: the date that anticipated aid will pay out to the student's account on the CSUN portal. Generally, balance checks are issued within five to seven days of disbursement.

doctoral student: a student who has completed a master's degree and is pursuing an advanced degree.

expected family contribution (EFC): a number calculated by the Department of Education based on all the information provided by the student on the FAFSA. This number is used to determine eligibility for federal aid but is not reflective of what a family is actually expected to pay.


Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA): a free application required to apply for any federal education financial aid programs. It is used to determine the expected family contribution and eligibility for all grants, loans, scholarships and work-study funding to cover school-related expenses. Fill out the application online and submit yearly by the March 2 deadline.

federal Perkins loan: a need-based, low interest federal loan that has to be repaid with a fixed interest of 5 percent for the life of the loan.

federal pin: a pin is a four-digit number issued by the U.S. Department of Education. It 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 aid websites. It also serves as an electronic signature for applications like the FAFSA.

federal Stafford loan: the most widely used, low-cost education loans issued by the U.S. federal government. Stafford loans carry a fixed interest rate and must be repaid within 10 years. Repayment begins six months after the student graduates, drops below half-time status or withdraws from school.

graduate student: a student who has earned a bachelor's degree and is officially admitted to a master's program.

grant: money that does not have to be paid back and is usually based on financial need; the TEACH Grant is one exception to the rule — it must be repaid if the teaching service requirements are not met.

independent: for FAFSA purposes, an independent student is at least one of the following: 24 years old, married, a graduate or professional student, a veteran, a member of the armed forces, an orphan, a ward of the court, or someone with legal dependents other than a spouse.

interest: a loan expense charged by the lender and paid by the borrower for the use of borrowed money. The expense is calculated as a percentage of the unpaid principal or loan amount borrowed.

international student: a student who is not a U.S. citizen, immigrant or refugee but is enrolled at an institution of higher education in the U.S.

lender: an individual, a group or financial institution who lends money.

loan: a sum of money that an individual, group or other legal entity borrows from another individual, group or legal entity with the condition that it be returned or repaid at a later date, possibly with interest.

loan entrance counseling: a mandatory, federally-regulated counseling session that all first-time CSUN loan borrowers must complete before receiving a loan.

loan exit counseling: a mandatory, federally-regulated counseling session that all student borrowers must complete before beginning loan repayments. Loan exit counseling explains student loan borrower rights and responsibilities.

Master Promissory Note (MPN): a legal document that must be signed the first time a student borrows funds through the Direct Loan program at Northridge. It is your legal promise to repay all the funds you may receive. In most cases, the document only needs to be signed once.

MBA student: A student officially admitted to the Masters of Business Administration.

myNorthridge Portal: an online student gateway to important Northridge information and updates. Students can review courses, register for classes, and view financial aid awards and school charges.


national ID: When submitting an electronic Perkins promissory note, a national ID is equivalent to a Social Security number.

parent loan for undergraduate students (PLUS): a low interest loan available to parents of dependent undergraduate students. The federal government does not subsidize interest while the student is in school and the interest rate is adjusted each year but may not exceed 8.5 percent. The parent must be a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen; if eligible, parents may borrow up to the cost of attendance minus any other financial aid the student receives. Repayment begins 60 days after the check is received.

principal: loan amount owed by the borrower.

private education loans: credit-based consumer loans that can be used for tuition, books, housing, food, travel, computers and other education-related items. These loans are offered to students and parents by banks and other financial institutions but must be certified by the school.

satisfactory academic progress (SAP): The academic progress standards established by a school that students must meet each year in order to continue receiving financial aid. This policy considers the minimum percentage of units per semester, academic disqualification and time limits related to degree completion.

scholarship: a sum of money or other aid granted to a student based on academic merit or financial need.

sponsored fee: an individual or organization who supports a person financially by paying all or a portion of their school tuition and other education fees.

stipend: a payment made to a student under a fellowship or training grant. It is allotted on a regular basis and usually for a specific purpose.

subsidized loans: a low, fixed-interest federal loan for students with financial need. The federal government pays the interest while the student is in college and six months after he or she graduates if he or she is enrolled at least half-time.

summer aid: financial aid for the summer term offered to qualifying students.



tax return: an official form with details of income and expenses used to assess tax liability. Filed with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), or with the state or local tax collection agency.

Title IV Federal School Code: the institutional code used to identify the college you are applying to when completing the FAFSA.

to-do list: a list of tasks a student needs to complete in order to process his or her financial application at Cal State Northridge.

transfer student: a student who earns credit at one institution and then applies to another college, where he or she receives credit for coursework completed at the previous institution.

tuition and fees: a fee charged for enrollment in courses and other instructional cost.

undergraduate student: a student enrolled in a program which leads to a first baccalaureate degree.

unsubsidized loans: a low-interest student loan that collects interest from the day the money is given to the student.

verification worksheet: a form used to confirm the accuracy of data reported on the FAFSA. It may include a list of requested documents, such as federal tax forms, W-2 forms or other financial documents.

work-study: a federally funded grant program based on financial need that allows students to work part-time and use earnings to cover expenses.