Financial Aid Glossary of Terms

Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) 

A tuition waiver established by the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) to recognize outstanding academic achievement by Arizona high school students. To qualify, students must graduate from an AZ high school, have AZ residency with lawful immigration status, and meet academic criteria determined by AZ Department of Education. Students should contact their high school guidance counselor to determine their eligibility. The high schools send the state a list of eligible students. The state (ABOR) sends that list to the three state universities in June/July of students’ senior year. The universities then place the award on students’ accounts. Eligible students will receive a tuition waiver for their 4 years at NAU assuming they meet the renewal criteria. Students must maintain a 2.5 GPA and earn 30 credits/year.

Award Letter 

The list of financial aid available to a particular student. Each student is mailed an award letter starting in March/April. Any subsequent changes made to their awards will be visible on LOUIE.


The process of evaluating a student’s FAFSA/ISIR and determining which aid the student is eligible to receive, based on financial need, class level, and course load.

Budget Appeal 

An appeal filed by the student to increase their budget or cost of attendance to allow for additional aid.

Cost of Attendance (COA) 

A student’s total cost of attending a postsecondary institution. It includes tuition and fees, room, board, books, transportation, and personal expenses. Students cannot be funded above their COA each year. If students incur certain additional costs during the academic year, they may file a Budget Appeal to increase the COA, which may allow for additional aid.


Allows students to temporarily postpone payments on student loans. If a student has a subsidized loan, including Perkins Loans, interest will not accrue during the deferment. For unsubsidized loans, students are responsible for the interest on the loan during the deferment. Students are in deferment as long as they are enrolled at least half time. If an undergraduate student graduates, he/she will have to start paying on their loans once their grace period is up. If they enter Graduate school a couple years later, they will reenter deferment and will not be required to make loan payments if they enroll at least half time.


The process of having financial aid (scholarships, grants, loans) pay for your NAU tuition and other university charges. Funds are“released” to pay charges on students’ accounts. This occurs nine days before the start of each term.

Educational Aid Registration Permit (EARP) 

Used for reduced tuition at NAU, ASU, UofA for eligible employees, employee’s spouse, and dependent children. Financial Aid processes EARPs, the Student and Departmental Account Services adjusts fees, and Human Resources can give information on eligibility, credit hour limits, fees, etc.

Entrance Counseling 

A 20-30 minute online counseling session that must be completed before students can receive a federal student loan. Provides tips for being an educated borrower and managing educational expenses. This is school-specific, so counseling completed at one school does not transfer to another.

Exit Counseling 

A 30-40 minute online counseling session, done online prior to graduating or leaving school. Explains the rights and responsibilities as a borrower.

Expected Family Contribution (EFC) 

An amount, determined by a need analysis formula from the FAFSA, of how much the student and/or parents can be expected to contribute to the student’s educational expenses. This number is used to determine a student’s eligibility for federal, state, and institutional student aid.

Federal Work Study (FWS) 

A campus-based, federally funded employment program for students with financial need, as determined by the FAFSA. Students are able to earn aid every two weeks, through their paychecks, by working on or off campus in FWS positions. The money does not have to be used to pay University charges; it comes to the student to be used at his/her discretion. All departments can hire FWS-eligible students, but not all students are FWS-eligible.

Financial Aid Administrator (FAA) 

The Financial Aid staff. Anyone hired by an institution to administer federal student aid programs and to coordinate federal aid with state/institutional aid and outside financial resources.


Students who receive aid and earn all F’s in a term must go through a Return of Title IV calculation to determine if they owe any federal or state aid back. See Return of Title IV Funds.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) 

The form that must be completed by students and/or parents in order to receive federal student aid. The FAFSA calculates the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and determines federal student aid eligibility. This free form is only found on the FAFSA website. There are other websites that charge a fee to complete this form; NAU recommends using the official federal site, which is free of charge for all students.

Gift Aid 

Aid that does not have to be repaid or earned through work, if the student completes their classes. Generally, this comes in the form of grants or scholarships.

Grace Period 

The time before a student must begin or resume repaying a federal student loan, after graduating or falling below half-time enrollment. Stafford subsidized and unsubsidized loans have a 6-month grace period. Federal Perkins loans have a 9-month grace period.


A form of gift aid. Each grant has different requirements and funding levels. Federal student aid grants include: Federal Pell Grant, Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG), National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grant (SMART), Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG), and Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH).

Institutional Student Information Record (ISIR) 

An electronic document sent to schools specified on a student’s FAFSA. The ISIR summarizes the information submitted on FAFSA and is uploaded to schools’ data systems. The FAFSA produces an ISIR for the schools and a SAR for the student.

 Course Load 

A student’s course load affects his/her financial aid. Students can be funded as full time, ¾ time, or ½  time. The number of credits for each load for financial aid purposes are as follows: 

  • Undergraduate is full time with 12+hours, ¾ time with 9-11 hours, and ½ time with 6-8 hours.
  • Graduate students are full time with 9+ hours, ¾ time with 7-8 hours, and ½ time with 5-6 hours.
  • Undergraduate students at less than half time (1-5 credits) may only receive the Pell Grant. See Too Few Hours.


Borrowed money that must be repaid, with interest, according to the terms of the signed master promissory note. Loans cannot be cancelled because a student did not like the education they received, did not get a job in their field of study, or because they have financial difficulty. Loans are legal obligations that must be repaid in the years after graduation.

Master Promissory Note (MPN) 

A legal document that requires a student/parent borrowing a federal student loan to repay the funds after a certain amount of time. It may be used for several loans and at different institutions.

Merit Scholarships 

Incoming freshmen are automatically considered for merit scholarships upon their admission to the university. In-state students are considered for one of three awards:

President’s Scholarship ($6,000/year), Dean’s Scholarship ($3,500/year), or Merit Scholarship ($2,500/year). Out-of-state students are considered for the President’s Scholarship for Non-Residents ($7,000/year). Students must maintain a 2.5 GPA and earn 30 credits/year. These are the amounts of the scholarships beginning with the 2010-2011 academic year. Students who received a different amount in previous years will continue with the scholarship amounts they already have.

National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) 

The U.S. Department of Education’s central database for Title IV grants and loans. Information comes from schools, guaranty agencies, Direct Loans, and the Department of Education. All Title IV aid awarded is listed on students’ accounts and both students and schools can access this information.

Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students (PLUS) 

Available to parents of dependent undergraduate students to assist in paying for educational costs after other financial aid has been awarded. The funds are borrowed directly from the U.S. Department of Education. Parents first file the PLUS Application. If their credit check is approved, they must complete a Master Promissory Note. If denied, the student is then eligible for additional unsubsidized loan money.

Private/Alternative Loan 

Students in need of additional funding beyond the federal loans may choose to seek out a private or alternative loan. This is a loan from another lender, such as the student’s bank. Students apply through the lender and the lender submits the necessary paperwork to NAU, which then applies the funds to the student’s account. NAU cannot recommend one lender over another.


Students’ financial aid will begin disbursing nine days before the start of each term. Aid will be applied to their university charges. If there is any aid left over, meaning more aid than charges to pay, the difference will come back to the student as a refund. This aid is meant to be used for educational purposes, such as to pay for books, housing, meals, or personal expenses accrued while in school. Students should verify that all university charges have been paid before spending the refund on other expenses. There have been instances when charges post after a refund is issued, like housing or meals, and the student receives a bill. Students are encouraged to sign up for Direct Deposit through their LOUIE account. Refunds going through Direct Deposit will usually be in their bank accounts 48-72 business hours after disbursement. Refunds sent through the mail will usually arrive 5-7 business days after disbursement.


A set period of time when student is required to make payments on the federal student loan(s).

Return of Title IV Funds 

When a student withdraws from school without completing the period of enrollment, the school must determine the amount of Title IV funds earned by the student. Unearned federal student aid must be returned. A calculation is done for each student that withdraws or receives all F’s in the term (F-List). The next semester’s aid will not disburse until all owed money is returned to the school.

Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) 

A rating of student course completion, based on number of credits completed, cumulative GPA, and number of maximum credits allowed for a degree program. When students receive federal or state aid they must meet all three areas of SAP to remain eligible for the aid. Students must complete at least 75% of the courses for which they are funded each semester. Students must maintain a minimum GPA of 2.0. Students must complete their degree within a certain time frame. The maximum time frame for the completion of a degree is limited by federal regulations to 150% of the published length of the degree program and includes transfer credits and all attempted credit hours including completed credits, audits, incompletes, withdrawals, and repeated or failed courses. For example, a typical undergraduate program at NAU is 120 credits. Students can get funding for up to 180 credits, or 150% of the program. Students that switch majors are still limited to the 180 hours. A SAP hold will appear on a student’s account for SAP suspension, but not probation.

Self-Help Aid 

Financial aid that must be repaid (loans) or is earned through employment (Federal Work Study).

Special Billing 

Students may receive benefits from an outside agency. Outside agencies may include, but are not limited to, Indian Health Services, AZ Vocational Rehabilitation Services, AZ Department of Education, ROTC, school districts, etc. Benefits provided by outside agencies may include tuition, room, board, and books/supplies. These outside funds (with the exception of certain Veteran’s funds) are considered a resource toward a student’s education and must be reported to Financial Aid.

Student Aid Report (SAR) 

A document sent to students upon completion of the FAFSA. The SAR summarizes the information submitted on FAFSA. If students provide an e-mail address on the FAFSA they will receive an e-mail instructing them how to access the SAR online. Students who file the FAFSA online but do not provide an e-mail address, or who file a paper FAFSA, will receive a paper SAR in the mail. The FAFSA produces an ISIR for the schools and a SAR for the student.

Student Wage 

Non-work study employment governed only by University policy and standard wage and labor laws. It operates in an identical manner to FWS, except students do not have to demonstrate financial need to be hired. Opportunities for student wage employment can sometimes be limited depending upon the funding University departments are allocated.

Subsidized Loan 

Also Federal Direct Subsidized Stafford Loan,  a federally subsidized, low-interest student loan, offered on the basis of financial need, as determined by FAFSA. Students have a six-month grace period after graduation (or after they fall below half-time enrollment) to start repayment on the loan. The loan does not accrue interest while the student is enrolled at least half time, during the six-month grace period, or during authorized periods of deferment. This loan is made directly by the federal government through the school.

Summer Aid 

Students attending one or more summer session can apply for summer aid through their LOUIE account. Students who have used their annual amount of loans in the Fall/Spring terms will have no loan eligibility for summer. State grant funding is limited, but students are encouraged to apply. Available funds are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. The application is available in LOUIE in March/April.

Title IV Federal Student Aid 

Financial aid programs, administered by the Department of Education, authorized under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended (HEA). These programs include: Federal Pell Grant, Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG), National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent (SMART Grant), Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH Grant), Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG), Federal Work Study (FWS), Federal Perkins Loan Program, William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program, Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership Program (LEAP), Special Leveraging Educational Assistance Program (SLEAP), and Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholarship Program

Tribal Financial Need Analysis (FNA) 

A form completed by the student, the Office of Student Financial Aid, and the student's tribe to determine funding. The school provides information on the students' cost of attendance and the federal/state aid they will receive, to determine how much the tribe is able to contribute towards the educational costs.

Unsubsidized Loan 

Also Federal Direct Unsubsidized Stafford Loan – a low-interest student loan, made directly by the federal government through the school, for students who do not show financial need. Students have a six-month grace period after graduation (or after they fall below half-time enrollment) to start repayment on the loan. The loan accrues interest while the student is enrolled and during the six-month grace period.


The process schools follow to check the accuracy of information reported by the student on FAFSA. Students are notified by mail that they have been selected for verification. They must complete a Dependent/Independent Student Verification form and provide their tax return, as well as their parents’ tax return and W2s (if applicable).

Winter Aid 

To receive financial aid for winter session, students must have enough spring financial aid to cover both the winter session and all of the spring semester. Students submit a Winter Session Intent form to Financial Aid which will be evaluated and approved or denied.

Withdrawal Processing 

See Return of Title IV Funds