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Financial Aid Terms

In order to assist you in navigating the financial aid process, the Office of Student Financial Assistance has compiled a glossary of terms referring to financial aid.


  • Academic Engagement - Participation in academic related activities, such as, but not limited to, taking exams/quizzes, completion of an academic assignment, paper or project, participating in an online discussion about academic matters, initiating contact with a faculty member to ask a question about the academic subject studied in the course.
  • Academic Year - The nine-month period a student is enrolled in classes for the fall and spring semester.
  • Alternative Loan - A non-federal loan made by a lender such as a bank or credit union.
  • Award Letter - A letter that is provided to students telling them how much aid they are eligible to receive at that school. The types of aid and amounts will be based on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) information. The award letter will also provide you with the terms and conditions of your awards.


  • Bookstore Funds - Financial aid funds that students are able to apply towards required book and supply purchases in the campus Bookstore. The funds available for the purchase of books would be any remaining financial aid funds after covering tuition costs.


  • Cost of Attendance - The total amount it will cost you to go to school for an academic year. The cost of attendance includes tuition and fees; room and board (or a housing and food allowance); and allowances for books, supplies, transportation, loan fees, and dependent care.


  • Default - Failure to repay a loan according to the terms agreed to in the promissory note. For most federal student loans, you will default if you have not made a payment in more than 270 days. You may experience serious legal consequences if you default.
  • Deferment - A postponement of payment on a loan that is allowed under certain conditions and during which interest does not accrue on Direct Subsidized Loans, Subsidized Federal Stafford Loans and Federal Perkins Loans. All other federal student loans that are deferred will continue to accrue interest. Any unpaid interest that accrued during the deferment period may be added to the principal balance (capitalized) of the loan(s).
  • Dependency Status - The determination of a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) applicant as dependent or independent.
  • Dependent Student - A student who does not meet any of the criteria for an independent student. An independent student is one of the following: at least 24 years old, married, a graduate or professional student, a veteran, a member of the armed forces, an orphan, a ward of the court, someone with legal dependents other than a spouse, an emancipated minor or someone who is homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
  • Direct Subsidized Loan - A low interest, need based loan where the federal government will pay the interest while you are enrolled at least six credit hours.
  • Direct Unsubsidized Loan - A low interest, non-need based loan where the student is responsible for the interest on the life of the loan.
  • Disbursement - Payment of financial aid funds to cover a student's tuition and/or book costs.


  • Eligible Degree Program - A program of organized instruction or study of a certain length that leads to an academic, professional, or vocational degree or certificate, or other recognized education credential.
  • Entrance Loan Counseling - An online counseling program that all Direct Loan Borrowers are required to complete before loan funds can be released.  This is a U.S. Department of Education requirement.  The counseling session  explains your responsibilities and rights as a student borrower.
  • Expected Family Contribution - Your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is an index number used to determine your eligibility for federal and state financial assistance. This number results from the financial information provided on your FAFSA.


  • Free Application for Federal Student Aid - The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the federal application that all students must complete to apply for federal, state and some institutional aid. The FAFSA is completed every academic school year.
  • Federal Work Study - Federal Work-Study provides student aide jobs for undergraduate and graduate students with financial need, allowing them to earn money to help pay educational expenses. The program encourages community service work and work related to the student's course of study.
  • Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 - The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, as amended, sets forth requirements designed to protect the privacy of student education records. FERPA governs (1) release of education records and (2) access to education records
  • Financial Need - The difference between the cost of attendance and your expected family contribution.
  • Financial Aid Self Service - The student portal that contains all of your financial aid information in one place, allowing you to view your financial aid status, review next steps, submit financial aid documents, view your awards and accept or cancel loan offers.
  • Federal Student Aid ID - The Federal Student Aid ID (FSA ID) is a username and password combination that serves as a student's or parent's identifier to allow access to personal information in various U.S. Department of Education systems and acts as a digital signature on some online forms.


  • Grants - Financial aid, often based on financial need, that does not need to be repaid (unless, for example, you do not successfully complete your classes and funds are returned to the U.S. Department of Education.


  • Institutional Student Information Record (ISR) -  This is the electronic version of your Student Aid Report that the school receives after you have filed your FAFSA.


  • Monetary Award Program (MAP) Grant - The MAP Grant is awarded to Illinois residents who attend approved Illinois colleges and demonstrate financial need. MAP Grants are limited based on the number of applicants and funding levels appropriated by the Illinois General Assembly.
  • Master Promissory Note - A binding legal document that you must sign when you get a federal student loan. The MPN can be used to make one or more loans for one or more academic years (up to 10 years). It lists the terms and conditions under which you agree to repay the loan and explains your rights and responsibilities as a borrower. It's important to read and save your MPN because you'll need to refer to it later when you begin repaying your loan or at other times when you need information about provisions of the loan, such as deferments or forbearances.


  • Non-Attend - When a student registers for a class but does not participate, whether through quizzes, tests, assignments or physical attendance. Reports of Non-Attendance can affect your financial aid.
  • Natinal Student Loan Database System (NSLDS) - Students can view their financial aid history online through the National Student Loan Database System.  Students can also access their loan information, as far as total amount borrowed and servicer information.


  • Origination Fee - The fee deducted by the Direct Loan Program proportionately from each loan disbursement you receive. This means the money you receive will be less than the amount you actually borrow. You're responsible for repaying the entire amount you borrowed and not just the amount you received.


  • Pell Grant - A Federal Pell Grant, unlike a loan, does not have to be repaid. Federal Pell Grants usually are awarded only to undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need and who have not earned a bachelor's or a professional degree.
  • PLUS Loans - Federal PLUS loans are loans that parents of dependent, undergraduate students can use to help pay education expenses. Unlike the Federal Direct Loans, the Federal PLUS loans are not guaranteed. There is a credit check for the parent and the loan is in the parent's name, not the student's name.


  • Refund Check - Any excess financial aid funds that are remaining after covering required tuition and book costs.  Refund checks are available to students in the form of a check that must be picked up from the Cashiers Office.  A refund check is typically issued about 10 to 14 business days after the date of financial aid disbursement.
  • Refund Period - A specific period in which students can drop classes and receive either a 100% or 50% refund on the class. The refund period can be found in your myACCESS by clicking on your class schedule.  You can also contact the Registration Office.
  • Return of Title IV - This is the federal government refund policy.  Students who stop attending all classes prior to the 60% date of the term may be required to return their federal aid - including grants and loans. This also applies to students who receive a failing grade or withdrawal in class for failure to attend.  The date used for this determination is the last date of attendance at an academically related activity.


  • Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) - The US Department of Education requires that all financial aid students make satisfactory academic progress in order to continue receiving federal student aid. In other words, you have to make good enough grades, and complete enough classes (credits, hours, etc.), to keep moving toward successfully completing your degree or certificate in a time period that's acceptable to your school.
  • SAP Appeal - The process by which a student can submit a typed, signed appeal requesting their financial aid eligibility be reinstated.  The basis for the appeal would be due to extenuating circumstances that prevented a student from maintaining Satisfactory Academic Progress.  The final decision is made by the appeal committee.
  • Scholarships - Scholarships, unlike loans, don't need to be repaid. Scholarships are offered by schools, employers, individuals, private companies, nonprofits, communities, religious groups, and professional and social organizations. Eligibility for scholarships can be based on merit, need, community service, academic program and population specific.
  • Selective Service - A system under which men are called up for military service.  This is also referred to as the draft.
  • Servicer - A company that collects payments, responds to customer service inquiries, and performs other administrative tasks associated with maintaining a federal student loan on behalf of a lender.
  • Special Conditions Review - A process by which students can address changes in their financial situation since completing the FAFSA.
  • Student Aid Report (SAR) - A summary of the information you submitted on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You receive this report (often called the SAR) via email a few days after your FAFSA has been processed or by mail within 7-10 days if you did not provide an email address. If there are no corrections or additional information you must provide, the SAR will contain your EFC, which is the number that's used to determine your eligibility for federal and state aid.
  • Suspension - Student has failed to meet Satisfactory Academic Progress. When a student is placed on discontinuance they are no longer eligible to receive federal or state aid, including loans. Students do have the option to appeal their discontinuance status.


  • Tax Return Transcript - A Tax Return Transcript is requested through the IRS. The Tax Return Transcript is different than a Federal Tax Return. A Tax Return Transcript is simply a line-by-line print out of your Federal Tax Return.


  • Verification - Verification is the process your school uses to confirm that the data reported on your FAFSA is accurate. Your school has the authority to contact you for documentation that supports income and other information that you reported.


Contact Information

Office of Student Financial Assistance
Seaton Computing Center (SCC), Room 123
(630) 942-2251
Fax: (630) 942-2151

Summer Hours

  • Monday and Tuesday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Wednesday and Thursday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Friday, closed

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