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 that some tax payers may use to receive a credit.

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 Dream Act Application (CADAA): a free application required to apply for any state education financial aid programs. It is used to determine the expected family contribution and eligibility for all grant and loan funding to cover school-related expenses. Fill out the application online and submit yearly by the March 2 deadline.

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 (COA): The estimated cost of attending this institution for one academic year. This amount includes the following:

-   Expected charges for one year of tuition and fees
          Tuition – Charges assessed for classes
          Fees – Charges assessed for other college services
-   Room and board for resident students
-   Estimated living expense -- allowance for rent, utilities, and food for off-campus living
-   Estimated transportation costs
-   Estimated books and supplies
-   Miscellaneous costs

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 on their FAFSA or CADAA. Financial aid eligibility is determined by using both the student's and parents' financial information.

Direct Costs: Expenses the student/family pays to the college.

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.

Enrollment Level: Level of the degree-granting program in which a student is enrolled. Basic levels of enrollment include: undergraduate (students seeking an associate's degree, a certificate, or a baccalaureate degree); post-baccalaureate (such as teacher certification); graduate (students working on a master's degree or professional degree); and post-graduate (such as students enrolled in a doctoral program). The amounts and types of financial aid a student is eligible for is determined, in part, by their enrollment level.

Enrollment Status: Academic workload (or course load), as defined by the institution, that a student is carrying for a defined academic period. This normally relates to the number of credit hours or clock hours taken by a student during a given academic period. For most traditional undergraduate term-based schools:

Full-time status = at least 12 credit hours
Three-quarter time status = at least 9-11 credit hours
Half-time status = at least 6-8 credit hours.

Expected Family Contribution (EFC): A measure of how much the student and his or her family can be expected to contribute to the cost of the student's education for the year. The EFC is calculated according to a formula specified in the law and is based upon the information provided by the student and his or her family during the FASFA filing process. 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 Direct Student Loan: A form of financial aid that must be repaid with interest. Loan funds provided to the student by the U.S. Department of Education, through the school. Repayment of principal begins six months after the borrower ceases to be a student on at least a half-time basis. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the annual application. There are two types of Federal Direct Student Loans: subsidized and unsubsidized. Students with financial need can qualify for a subsidized loan, and the government pays the interest on the loan while the student remains enrolled at least half time. Students who don't demonstrate financial need qualify for an unsubsidized loan and interest accrues while the student is in school.

Federal Grad PLUS Loan: Loan funds provided to graduate students by the U.S. Department of Education, through the school. This federal loan program allows graduate students with no adverse credit history to apply for up to their Cost of Attendance each year, less any financial aid. To be eligible, the student must be enrolled at least half time in an eligible program of study and first borrow the maximum allowable through the Federal Direct Student Loan program. Repayment of principal and interest begins 30 to 60 days after the loan is fully disbursed with deferment and forbearance options available.

Federal Pell Grant:  A grant provided by the federal government to qualified undergraduate students who demonstrate exceptional financial need and have an Expected Family Contribution below a threshold designated annually by the U.S. Department of Education, based on the amount of program funds appropriated by Congress.

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG): A grant provided by the federal government to qualified undergraduate students who demonstrate exceptional financial need. Priority is given to Pell Grant recipients and funds must be awarded by the school in lowest EFC order.

Federal Work-Study (FWS): A program that provides part-time employment to students attending institutions of higher education who need the earnings to help meet their costs of postsecondary education and encourages students receiving FWS assistance to participate in community service activities.

FSA ID: This federal electronic identification allows FAFSA filers and parents of dependent filers to access the FAFSA and other Federal Student Aid websites and can serve as your legal signature.

Gift Aid: Funds awarded to the student that do not have to be repaid, unless the student fails to meet certain terms, such as a service requirement, specified as a condition of the grant. Gift aid includes awards with titles such as grants, scholarships, remissions, waivers, etc. Gift aid can be awarded based upon many factors, including (but not limited to) financial need, academic excellence, athletic, musical, and theatrical talent, affiliation with various groups, or career aspirations.

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

Grant: Gift aid awarded to the student that does not need to be repaid. Grants are typically 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.

Indirect Costs: Expenses incurred as a result of attendance that the student/family may pay to a third party (merchant, landlord, etc.) other than the college.

Independent: for FAFSA and CADAA 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.

Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant (IASG): 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 a student is eligible for a Federal Pell Grant, he or she cannot receive an IASG.

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 (LEC): 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.

Need: The student's Cost of Attendance minus their Expected Family Contribution, or Family Financial Responsibility (if applicable).

Net Price: Amount of direct and indirect costs remaining after all Gift Aid is applied. Net price can be covered through a variety of sources, including: savings, income, and education loans.

Out-of-pocket Cost: Difference between the cost of attendance and all gift aid. Out-of-pocket cost can be covered through a variety of sources, including: savings, income and educational loans.

Federal Parent Loan (PLUS): A federal loan program that allows parents who have no adverse credit history to apply for up to the Cost of Attendance each year, less any financial aid. PLUS loans must be repaid with interest. Repayment begins 60 days after the check is received.

Principal: loan amount owed by the borrower.

Private Education Loans: A loan from a commercial, state-affiliated or institutional lender used to pay for up to the annual cost of education, less any financial aid received. Private loans usually require the applicant to be creditworthy or have a co-signer and have varying interest rates, fees and repayment options. Repayment of interest (and often principal) generally begins immediately, with some lenders offering deferment options for in-school periods.

Promissory Note (PN): a legal document that must be signed every year a student borrows funds through the California DREAM Loan Program. It is your legal promise to repay all the funds you may receive.

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 completed, academic disqualification and time limits related to degree completion.

Scholarship: Gift aid awarded to the student that does not need to be repaid. Scholarship awards are typically based on merit or a combination of merit and need, such as academic excellence, talent, affiliation with various groups, or career aspirations.

Self-help: Financial aid in the form of loans or student employment. Loans are used to help pay the remaining net costs after gift aid is deducted. Student employment earnings (including Work-Study awards) are generally not deducted from billed costs but can be used to help cover indirect costs and are paid in the form of wages to the student.

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.


Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grants: 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 a student does not complete the required teaching service, the grant becomes a Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan that must be repaid.

Tax Return Transcript: an official form that shows most line items including your adjusted gross income (AGI) from your original tax return (Form 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ) as filed, along with any forms and schedules.   It can be requested for free from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) via web, phone or mail. It doesn’t show changes made after you filed your original return. This transcript is only available for the current tax year and returns processed during the prior three years. A tax return transcript usually meets the needs of lending institutions offering mortgages and student loans. Note: the secondary spouse on a joint return must use Get Transcript Online or Form 4506-T to request this transcript type. When using Get Transcript by Mail or phone, the primary taxpayer on the return must make the request. 

Title IV Federal School Code: the institutional code used to identify the college you are applying to when completing the FAFSA or CADAA. CSUN’s School Code is 001153.

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 costs.

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

Unmet Need: The student's Cost of Attendance, minus their Expected Family Contribution or Family Financial Responsibility (if applicable), less any need-based aid received, such as Gift Aid, Federal Work-Study or Federal Direct Subsidized Loans.

Unsubsidized Loans: a low-interest student loan that collects interest from the day the money is disbursed.

Verification: Process to confirm the accuracy of data provided by the applicant on the FAFSA. In order to complete the verification process, students are required to provide certain documents to the school for review.

Verification Worksheet: a form used to confirm the accuracy of data reported on the FAFSA or CADAA. 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.