Instructional Leadership, emphasis: K-12 School Leadership (MEd)
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NAU financial aid glossary

Definitions to assist you navigate financial aid at NAU

We understand financial aid language can sometimes be confusing. That’s why we’ve put together a helpful list of terms you might see as you navigate applying for financial aid and paying for college. As always, if you need additional help or have questions, give us a call at 928-523-4951 or email


Academic calendar

The way in which NAU structures its academic programs and measures progress over the program’s length. NAU’s programs and Title IV programs fall under the standard term.

Academically related activity

Course activity where there is an opportunity for direct interaction between the instructor and a student. Please refer to the Withdrawal Policy for a list of acceptable forms of this activity.

Academic year

For NAU programs that measure program length in credit hours, an academic year consists of a minimum of 30 weeks of instructional time and 24 semester credit hours. A week is a consecutive seven-day period. A week of instructional time is any week in which at least one day of regularly scheduled instruction or examinations occurs or, after the last scheduled day of classes for a term or payment period, at least one day of study for examinations occurs. Instructional time does not include any vacation periods, homework, or periods of orientation or counseling.


The process of evaluating a student’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) information and determining the types and amounts of financial aid a student is eligible for. Awards are made based on financial need, academic level, career type, and enrollment status. This is also known as “packaging.”


Capitalized interest

Capitalized interest occurs when unpaid interest is added to the principal amount of your loan. More information may be found on the Federal Student Aid website.

Consumer information

Schools participating in Title IV programs must disclose certain information to students and the public. This includes information about financial aid, the campus, facilities, student athletes, and educational programs, as well as campus security and fire safety, drug and alcohol abuse and prevention, and programs about them. Additional information can be found on the Consumer information website.

Cost of attendance (COA)

A student’s total cost of attending NAU for one academic year. It includes tuition and fees, housing, food, books and supplies, transportation, and personal expenses. Students cannot be funded above their COA each year.



A period of time when student loan payments are not required. A student loan is considered to be deferment as long as the student is enrolled at least half time. After graduating or dropping below half-time enrollment, the deferment grace period is an additional six months for subsidized and unsubsidized loans. If a student has a subsidized loan, interest will not accrue during deferment. For unsubsidized loans, interest accrues during deferment.

Disbursement of financial aid

The process of financial aid (scholarships, grants, loans, etc.) being released to a student’s account to pay for tuition and other university charges. Financial aid disbursements occur Monday through Saturday, beginning 10 days before the first day of each semester or summer session. Students with courses beginning later in a term will receive a disbursement no sooner than 10 days prior to the start of their first course.


Earned vs. unearned aid

Students who receive federal financial aid must earn the aid they receive by staying enrolled in and successfully completing courses. The amount of aid earned is prorated based on the number of days in attendance. The percentage of earned aid is subtracted from 100% in a Return of Title IV calculation to determine the amount of unearned aid that must be returned. Please refer to the Withdrawal Policy for more information.

Employee Tuition Reduction Program (e-TRP)

Used for reduced tuition at NAU, ASU, and UofA for eligible employees, employee’s spouse, and dependent children. (Formerly EARP).

Enrollment status

A student’s course load affects financial aid eligibility. Students can be funded at full-time, three-quarter time, or half-time. The number of units for each course load for financial aid purposes is:

Academic careerFull-timeThree-quarter timeHalf-time
Undergraduate12+ credit hours9–11 credit hours6–8 credit hours
Graduate9+ credit hours7–8 credit hours5–6 credit hours
A Pell grant may be awarded to undergraduate students enrolled less than half-time.

Entrance counseling for financial aid

An interactive online counseling session that must be completed before students can receive a federal student loan. This counseling provides information about being an educated borrower and managing educational expenses. It is school-specific, so counseling completed at one school does not transfer to another.

Exit counseling for financial aid

An interactive online counseling session that must be completed after a student loan borrower graduates or drops below half-time enrollment. This counseling provides information about repaying a student loan and the rights and responsibilities as a borrower.

Expected Family Contribution (EFC)

An amount, based on information provided on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and a federal needs analysis formula, used to estimate a student’s and/or family’s financial strength. This amount is used to calculate the amount of federal, state, and institutional financial aid a student is eligible to receive. The EFC is reported on the Student Aid Report (SAR).

Note: This phrase will sunset June of 2024, replaced by the Student Aid Index (SAI) with the 2024-25 FAFSA.


Federal Work-Study (FWS)

A federally funded employment program for students with financial need, as determined by information provided on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Students earn a paycheck every two weeks by working on or off campus in FWS positions. The money earned does not have to be used to pay university charges.

Financial need

Financial need is the difference between Cost of Attendance (COA) and Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Grants, the subsidized loan, and some scholarships require a student to have financial need in order to receive them.

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. FAFSA processing calculates the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and determines federal student aid eligibility. This free form is found on Federal Student Aid. The FAFSA must be completed each year and opens October 1.


Gift aid

Financial aid that does not have to be repaid or earned through work as long as 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. Federal direct subsidized and unsubsidized loans have a 6-month grace period. Federal loans have a 9-month grace period.


A form of financial gift aid. Each grant has different requirements and funding levels.



Borrowed money that must be repaid, with interest, according to the terms of the signed Master Promissory Note. Loans cannot be canceled 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. Several repayment options are available, and forgiveness is possible for some service employment categories. See Loan Repayment and Consolidation.


Master Promissory Note (MPN)

A legal document that serves as a lending contract for a student or parent borrowing a federal student loan. It documents the student’s or parent’s promise to repay the funds and the terms and conditions for repayment. A single MPN may be used for several loans and at different institutions.


National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS)

The US Department of Education’s database for Title IV grants and loans. Information comes from schools, loan servicers, and the Department of Education. All Title IV financial aid awarded is listed on a student’s record, and both students and schools can access this information.


Offer letter

A letter or email sent to a student explaining their financial aid offer. You will be notified via email if your financial aid awards have changed. You may view your awards in LOUIE at any time. An offer letter reprint may be requested through our office.

Official withdrawal

A student is considered officially withdrawn when they initiate the drop of all of the term’s courses either through LOUIE or in the form of written documentation to the Office of the Registrar. Please refer to the Withdrawal Policy for more information.


The process through which and point at which a school creates and certifies a loan.

Origination fee

The amount a borrower is required to pay the Department of Education to help defray the costs of subsidizing a Direct Loan.


The disbursement of more federal aid funds to a student than they are eligible to receive.


Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students (PLUS)

Available to parents of dependent undergraduate students to assist in paying for educational costs up to the student’s Cost of Attendance. The funds are loaned by the US Department of Education. Parents first submit a PLUS application, which includes a credit check, at Student Aid. If the credit check is approved, the parent(s) must also complete a Master Promissory Note. If denied, the student is then eligible for additional unsubsidized loan funds.

Payment period

For students at NAU enrolled in an eligible program that measures progress in credit hours and uses standard terms (semesters), the payment period is the academic term.

Private loan

A loan from a private 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. Northern Arizona University cannot recommend specific lenders.



Refunds are sent to a student if the total charges owed to Northern Arizona University are less than their financial aid disbursement. Processing time for a refund by direct deposit is approximately 3–5 days. By paper check via US mail, to the student’s refund address in LOUIE, the refund timeline is approximately 10–15 days.

Repayment of financial aid

The act of repaying a student or parent loan. This term also refers to the period of time when a student or parent is required to make payments on a loan, e.g., “in repayment.”

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 (unofficial withdrawal). The next semester’s aid will not disburse until all owed money is returned to the school.


Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP)

Standards of performance and progress required to maintain eligibility for federal and institutional financial aid. More information may be found on the SAP policy page.

Self-help aid

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

Student Aid Index (SAI)

The Student Aid Index is an index number calculated using information the student and contributor(s) provide on the FAFSA form. It will be used to calculate how much and what types of financial aid students are eligible to receive. The SAI replaces the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) starting in the 2024–25 award year. SAI value can range anywhere from -1500 to 999999.

Student Aid Report (SAR)

A summary of the information provided on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), delivered to the student via email within a few days or by mail within 7–10 business days after the FAFSA is submitted. This report contains the student’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which is used to determine financial aid eligibility.

Student wage

Student employment governed only by university policy and standard wage and labor laws. Students do not have to demonstrate financial need.

Subsidized loan

A loan in the student’s name that is based on financial need and available to undergraduate students only. Interest does not accrue while in deferment status. The Department of Education pays the interest on this type of loan as long as the student is enrolled at least half-time and during the grace period.


Title IV Federal Student Aid

Financial Student Aid programs, administered by the Department of Education, authorized under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended (HEA). Title IV funds offered at NAU are: Federal Pell Grant, Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH Grant), Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG), Federal Work-Study (FWS), Federal Direct Loans – subsidized and unsubsidized, and Parent and Grad PLUS loans.

Tribal Financial Need Analysis (FNA)

A form completed by the student, the NAU Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid, and the student’s tribe to determine funding eligibility. The school provides information about the student’s Cost of Attendance and other financial aid, then the tribe determines how much it is able to contribute toward the student’s educational costs.

Tuition scholarships

Tuition scholarships offered to new incoming students based on academic achievement. Incoming students are automatically evaluated for these scholarships upon their admission to Northern Arizona University.


Unofficial withdrawal

A student is considered unofficially withdrawn if s/he received all fail (F) grades or a combination of all fail (F) and withdraw (W) grades. Please refer to the Withdrawal Policy for more information.

Unsubsidized loan

A loan in the student’s name that is not based on financial need. It is available to both undergraduate and graduate students. Interest begins accruing after disbursement and continues to accrue during the grace period and deferment. The student is not required to make payments on either the principal or interest while attending school at least half-time; however, there is no early-payment penalty if the student chooses to do so.




A federally required review process to confirm the accuracy of information reported on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Verification is one component of NAU’s efforts to accurately award financial aid to students based on their need and to maintain compliance with federal regulations. If selected for verification, students will be notified after the university receives their FAFSA information.


Winter aid

Financial aid is not awarded separately for winter session. To use financial aid for a winter session course, a student must have enough spring financial aid to pay spring semester charges as well as winter session charges. A student must submit an Application for Deferment of Winter Charges to delay payment of winter charges until spring financial aid can cover them.