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College Terminology

ACCES-VR (formerly VESID)

Adult Career and Continuing Education Services-Vocational Rehabilitation (ACCES-VR) is a combined state and federal program which provides training funds to eligible students.


These letters are acronyms for the American College Test and the Scholastic Aptitude Test. Both tests are designed to measure a student's level of knowledge in basic areas such as math, science, English, and social studies. Colleges may require the results of either the ACT or SAT before granting admission.

Advanced Placement (AP)

AP classes are typically available at a student's high school. These are advanced, college-level courses that can be transferred for college credit. A minimum score on the AP exam, which may vary from college to college, is required for credit.

Aid for Part-Time Study (APTS)

State grant program that provides grant assistance for eligible part-time students enrolled in approved undergraduate studies.


Application is the process by which a prospective student submits the required forms and credentials to their chosen institution. Application criteria may include one or more of the following: previous academic records, test scores, interviews, recommendations, and other information provided by the applicant. Depending on the application requirements of a particular school, the student can gain Acceptance to the institution if the decision is a positive one to the applicant Admission is the status granted to an applicant who meets the prescribed entrance requirements of the institution. (It must be noted that there is a wide variation nationwide in the Application/Acceptance/Admission policies of higher education institutions. Check the college catalog for specific requirements of the schools you are considering).


Cash in checking, savings, trust, stocks, bonds, other securities; i.e., real estate, income-producing property, business equipment, and business inventory which are considered in determining expected family contribution.

Associate Degree

The associate degree is granted upon completion of a program of at least two, but less than four, years of college work. Associate of arts and associate of science degrees are conferred upon students who successfully complete programs designed for transfer to a baccalaureate-granting institution. The associate degree requires completion of a minimum of 60 credit hours, exclusive of physical education activity courses or military science courses, with a cumulative GPA of 2.0 (a "C" average).

Award Letter

A means of notifying financial aid applicants of the assistance being offered. The award letter usually provides information in the types and amounts of aid offered, as well as specific program information, student responsibilities and the conditions, which govern the award. The letter provides students with the opportunity to accept or decline the aid offered.

Bachelor's Degree (also called Baccalaureate Degree)

This is the undergraduate degree offered by four-year colleges and universities. The bachelor of arts degree requires that a portion of the student's studies be dedicated to the arts - literature, language, music, etc. The bachelor of science degree requires that a portion of the studies be in the sciences - chemistry, biology, math, etc. The minimum credit hour requirement for a bachelor's degree is 120 hours.


The bill is sent out several weeks before the beginning of the semester. It includes mandatory charges, a list of optional items, and approved financial aid credits. (Revised bills are available only upon specific request.) A statement is sent out when necessary during the semester, which reflects the student's optional item selections and the status of the student's account.


The estimated cost of attendance for an institution; usually includes tuition, fees, books, supplies, room, board, personal expenses, and transportation. Other expenses may be included.

Business Assets

Property that is used in the operation of a trade or business, including real estate, inventories, buildings, machinery and other equipment, patents, franchise rights, and copyrights. All are considered in determining a family's expected contribution.

Campus-Based Financial Aid Programs

The Federal Perkins Loan, the Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant, and the Federal Work-Study Programs. These three programs are called "campus-based" because the funds are administered directly by the college's Financial Aid Office, which awards these funds to students using federal guidelines.

Campus Spending Account (CSA)

Included on the bill as an optional item. Funds in this account can be used at the campus bookstore and for vending, laundry, and copying machines. The funds can also be used for dining on-campus or for off-campus purchases with our Campus Partners.


College catalogs provide all types of information that parents and students need to know about a school. They list, for example, the institution's history and philosophy, policies and procedures, accreditation status, courses of study, degrees and certificates offered, physical facilities, admission and enrollment procedures, financial aid, student life activities, etc.

Certificate Programs

Certificate programs are designed to provide specific job skills. Certificate programs require a minimum of 30 credit hours of vocational course work and generally do not require any general education course work (communication, humanities, social science, natural science, etc.).

Challenging a Course

A procedure that allows a student to take a test to prove competency in a certain area and receive college credit for a class.

Citizen/Eligible Non-Citizen

Students must be one of the following to receive federal student aid: U.S. Citizen; U.S. national (includes natives of American Samoa or Swain's Island); U.S. permanent resident who has an I-151, I-551, or I-551C (Alien Registration Receipt Card).

Clinical Liability Insurance

A fee included on the semester bill for liability insurance coverage for students enrolled in clinical programs.


A college is an institution of higher education that grants degrees and certificates. The term is also used to designate the organizational units of a university such as the College of Education or the College of Engineering.

College Level Examination Program (CLEP)

CLEP is the most widely accepted credit-by-examination program in the United States today, helping students of all ages earn college degrees faster by getting credit for what they already know. By receiving a satisfactory score, students earn from 3 to 12 college credits toward their college degree for each CLEP taken, depending on the exam subject.

Commuter Student

A student who is not an on-campus resident. "Commuter" often refers to a student living at home with their parent(s) or guardian while attending college.

Comprehensive Student Fee

A fee paid by all students in order to provide quality services to everyone. The fee is comprised of an activities fee, Alumni Fee, athletics fee, college fee, educational technology fee, health fee, and a transportation fee.


Combining all federal student loans under one repayment plan.

Consolidation Loan

A loan made to a student when an eligible lender pays off existing student loans and creates one new loan. Students can combine certain eligible existing student loans into one loan and increase their repayment time frame 10 to 30 years depending on the balance. Students must be out of school.

Cost of Attendance (also known as Cost of Education)

The student's cost of attendance includes not only tuition and fees, but also the student's living expenses while attending college. The college, within guidelines established by federal regulations, estimates the cost of attendance. The cost of attendance is compared to the student's expected family contribution to determine the student's need for aid.

Course Audit

When an instructor allows a student to attend a class, but the student receives no college credit.

Course Registration Number (CRN)

A CRN number is assigned to each class and is used for online registration.

Credit Hours

Courses taken in college are measured in terms of credit hours. To earn one credit hour, the student must attend a class for a minimum of 750 minutes (one classroom hour [50 minutes] per week for the whole semester [15 weeks]). Laboratory classes will require more class time per credit hour. Typical college classes are three credit hours, but college classes can range from less than one credit hour to 12 or more credit hours.

Cross Registration

An agreement between two colleges that allows full-time students to take courses at another college free of charge.


Failure to repay a loan in accordance with the terms of the promissory note. This may also result from failure to submit requests for deferment or cancelation on time. If one defaults, the school, organization that holds the loan, the state, and the federal government can all take action to recover the money, including notifying national credit bureaus of your default. This may affect the student's credit rating for a long time.

Deferment of Loan

A condition during which payments of principal are not required, and for Perkins and Stafford Loans, interest does not accrue. The repayment period is extended by the length of the deferment period.

Deferred/deferral (financial aid credits)

Temporary deferment of payment may be granted at bill-processing time for students who have proof of financial aid or scholarships that will cover the billed amounts. All financial aid paperwork requirements should be completed.


Degrees are rewards for the successful completion of a prescribed program of study. There are three basic types of degree: associate, baccalaureate or bachelor's, and graduate -- post-baccalaureate degrees (master's and doctorate degrees) offered through graduate schools.


To be overdue on one or more payments on a loan.

Dependent Student

A student who must use parental information on the financial aid application based on dependency criteria, established by the funding source. A student who does not qualify as an independent student. (See Independent Student.)


The process by which financial aid funds are made available to students for use in meeting educational and related living expenses.

Education Opportunity Program (EOP)

EOP is a NYS-funded program, which provides academic and financial assistance for eligible students who show the potential for success but are not totally prepared for their chosen major. EOP students may take up to three years to graduate.

Expected Family Contribution (EFC)

The amount the student's family is expected to contribute towards the cost of attendance, for the purpose of the student financial aid programs. The EFC is printed on the front of the Student Aid Report.

Express TAP Application (ETA)

The application used to apply for the New York State Tuition Program.

Extra-Curricular Activities

These are non-classroom activities that can contribute to a well-rounded education. They can include such activities as athletics, clubs, student government, recreational and social organizations and events.


The faculty is composed of persons who teach classes for colleges. Some colleges differentiate between faculty and instructors. Instructors are hired to teach a specific class or classes, while faculty members have contracts with the college that require additional duties beyond teaching. Faculty members are also referred to as professors.

Federal Pell Grant

An award to help undergraduates pay for their education after high school.

Federal Perkins Loan

A low-interest loan to help students pay for their education. These loans are for both undergraduate and graduate students with exceptional financial need, as determined by the school. For undergraduate students, priority is given to Federal Pell Grant recipients. Federal Perkins Loans are made through a college's financial aid office.

Federal Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students (PLUS) Loans

Parents borrow to help pay for their child's education. This loan is made to the parent by a bank, credit union, or savings and loan association. Interest rates are linked to the 52-week treasury bill rates, but may not exceed 12 percent. May be used to replace the EFC.

Federal Stafford Loan (Subsidized and Unsubsidized)

Low-interest loans that are made to students attending college at least half-time. Loans are made by a bank, credit union, or savings and loan association. These loans are insured by the guaranty agency in each state and reinsured by the federal government. The federal government pays the interest on the loan while the student is in college (subsidized), or the student is responsible for paying the interest (unsubsidized). Repayment rates will vary between the subsidized and unsubsidized loans under this program.

Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (FSEOG)

One of the campus-based programs for undergraduate students of exceptional financial need who have not completed their first baccalaureate degree and who are financially in need of this grant to enable them to pursue their education. Priority for FSEOG awards must be given to Pell Grant recipients.

Federal Work-Study

Provides part-time employment to students attending institutions of higher education who need the earnings to help pay the cost of their post-secondary education. FWS gives students an opportunity to earn money to help pay educational expenses. The program encourages community service work.


Fees are additional charges not included in the tuition. Fees may be charged to cover the cost of materials and equipment needed in certain courses; and they may be assessed for student events, programs and publications.

Financial Aid Award

Aid for paying college expenses is made available from grants, scholarships, loans, and part-time employment from federal, state, institutional, and private sources. Financial aid from these programs may be combined in an "award package" to meet or defray the cost of education. The types and amounts of aid awarded are based upon financial need, available funds, student classification, academic performance, and sometimes the timeliness of application.

Financial Aid Entrance Interview

A meeting whereby the financial aid counselor advises the student of their rights and responsibilities.

Financial Aid Exit Interview

A meeting whereby the financial aid counselor provides loan repayment information to the student before he/she enters repayment.

Financial Aid Package

The combination of financial aid funds (loans, grants, scholarships, and employment) awarded to an individual student by a college.

Financial Need

The difference between the student's cost of attendance and the expected family contribution.


A temporary cessation of repayment of loans allowing an extension of time for making loan payments, or accepting smaller loan payments than were previously scheduled.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

The application for federal student aid, filled out by the student, that collects household and financial information used to calculate the expected family contribution.

Full-time Enrollment/Part-Time Enrollment

A full-time student is enrolled in 12 or more credit hours in a semester (full-time status for a summer term may require fewer credit hours). A part-time student is enrolled in fewer than 12 credit hours in a semester.

Grace Period

The period of time that begins when a loan recipient ceases to be enrolled at least half-time and ends when the repayment period starts. Loan principal need not be paid and interest does not accrue during this period.

Higher Education Services Corp. (HESC)

This state agency administers New York State's grant and scholarship awards, and the Federal Family Education Loan programs.


A hold is placed on a student's account when money is owed to the college, either for an unpaid semester balance or for incidental charges such as parking tickets or residence hall damage. Failure to satisfy outstanding obligations will result in the holding of transcripts and may prevent registering for classes for the next semester.

Honor Roll

Students are placed on honor rolls for GPAs (grade point average) above certain specified levels. Criteria for president's, dean's or other honor rolls vary at different institutions. In most cases, students must be enrolled full-time to be eligible.

Housing Waiver

All commuting students must have a housing waiver approved each academic year in order to have room fee charges excluded from the semester bill.

Independent Student

For federal student aid purposes, students who meet at least one of the following criteria:

Born before Jan. 1, as listed on FAFSA

Veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces

Graduate/professional student


Ward of the Court (until age 18) or both parents deceased

Legal dependents (other than spouse) for whom the student provides over half of the child's support

Documented by the financial aid counselor using professional judgment

Institutional Aid

Financial aid available through the college. Usually consists of grants and/or scholarships.


The fee charged to borrow money. The student pays the lender interest in addition to repaying the principal (the sum borrowed). Usually, interest is calculated as a percentage of the principal and paid in monthly payments.


The party that gives you a loan whether it is a bank, credit union, savings and loan association, a college, the government, or another organization.

Letter Grades/Grade Point Averages (GPAs)

Most colleges use both letter grades and GPAs in determining students' grades. Most colleges compute GPAs using the following method: A's are worth 4 points; B's are worth 3 points; C's are worth 2 points; D's are worth 1 point; and F's are worth 0 points. To compute a GPA, multiply the number of hours a course is worth by the number of points for the letter grade, then add up the totals for each course and divide by the number of credit hours.


Are awards made with a formal agreement for repayment with interest.


A major is composed of those classes prescribed or outlined by an institution for completion of a program of study leading to a degree or certificate.

Master Promissory Note

A legal document that the borrower signs to get a loan in which the borrower promises to repay the loan, with interest, in specified installments. The Master Promissory Note will also include any information about the grace period, deferment or cancellation provisions, and the student's rights and responsibilities with respect to the loan.


To apply, be accepted, and enroll in a degree-granting program at a college or university.

Monthly Payment Plan (MPP)

A monthly payment is available which allows the cost of education to be spread over a period of up to four payments per semester. There is a participation fee to cover administrative expenses but no interest or finance charges.

Need Analysis

The process of analyzing the household and financial information on the student's financial aid application and calculating an expected family contribution. A system used to estimate a student applicant's need for financial assistance to help meet their educational expenses. Need analysis consists of two primary components: (a) determination of an estimate of the applicant's and/or family's ability to contribute to educational expenses; and (b) determination of an accurate estimate of educational expenses.


To take college course work without being accepted into a degree-granting program at that institution.

Non-Taxable Income

All income received that is not reported to the Internal Revenue Service or is reported but excluded from taxation. Such income would include but not be limited to any untaxed portion of Social Security benefits, welfare payments, untaxed capital gains, interest or tax-free bonds, IRAs, Keogh, dividend exclusion, military or other subsistence and housing allowances, retirement contributions and child support.

Nursing Student Loans (NSL)

Loans available to nursing students attending approved nursing schools offering a diploma, associate, baccalaureate, or graduate degree in nursing.

Optional Items/Fees

Listed on the semester bill. The student must indicate which of these items should be added to the total semester charges: graduation fee, vehicle registration fee, yearbook fee, medical insurance, amount for campus spending account, and level of meal plan.

Origination Fee

A fee charged by the federal government deducted from the principal that serves as an insurance against loan default.


Generally any amount of campus-based aid or a Federal Family Education Loan that exceeds the student's financial need. (The Overaward concept does not apply to the Federal Pell Grant Program.)

Part-Time Student

One who attends an institution on less than a full-time basis as defined by the institution.

Prerequisites (Prerequisite Courses)

A prerequisite is a condition that must be met before a student can enroll in a course. The prerequisite can include a specific skill level (a minimum ACT, SAT or basic skills test score) or the completion of a specific course, called a prerequisite course. For example, Nursing I is a prerequisite for Nursing II.

Private/Public Institutions

Private and public institutions differ primarily in terms of their source of financial support. Public institutions receive funding from the state or other governmental entities and are administered by public boards. Private institutions rely on income from private donation, or from religious or other organizations and student tuition. Boards of trustees govern private institutions.

Process (the bill)

All semester bills must be processed by the due date, even if no money is owed (zero-balance bill). Bills may be processed by the student on the college's Web site or returned by mail for processing. It is by processing the bill that a student notifies the college of which items are to be included in the semester charges and how the bill is being paid (financial aid credits, check, cash, or credit card).

Professional Judgment

While the method for determining students' need for federal student aid is defined in the law, the law does allow the financial aid counselor to use their professional judgment. Professional judgment can be used in three areas: the aid counselor can choose to override a student's dependency status to make a student independent; the counselor can adjust the components of a student's cost of attendance; and the counselor can adjust the elements used to calculate a student's Expected Family Contribution. These adjustments must be made on a case-by-case basis, and the reasons for the adjustment must be documented in the student's file.

Promissory Note

The Federal Perkins and the Nursing Student Loan Program (NSLP) loans both require a promissory note to be signed each semester in order to receive those funds. These notes can be signed in the Student Accounts Office or they are mailed to the student for signature. Other types of loans also have promissory note requirements.


When total payments for the semester are greater than the total charges, the difference is refunded to the student by check. Refunds are not available until the school has received the actual payment of various forms of financial aid and the bill is fully paid.

Repayment Schedule

A plan, attached to the promissory note at the time a borrower ceases at least half-time study, which sets forth the principal and interest due on each installment and the number of payments required to pay the loan in full. It includes the interest rate, the due date of the first payment, and the frequency of payments.

Residential Student

A student who does not live at home (with parents or guardian) during the academic year. An off-campus student is one who does not live in the institutionally provided housing. An on-campus resident student is one who lives in housing facilities owned and/or maintained by the institution.

Resident/Non-resident Status

The amount of tuition a student pays to a public (state-supported) college is determined by the student's state residence status. If a student is a resident of the state, then the student pays a lower tuition rate. A non-resident will pay a higher tuition rate. Residency requirements vary from state to state but are determined by where a student's parents live and if the student is younger than a certain age. Tuition rates for private colleges are not based on residency. Specific residency requirements must be met in order to be considered a NYS resident for tuition billing purposes, including residing in the state for 12 months prior to the start of classes.

Residential College

Colleges which have on-campus housing for students, called residence halls.

Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP)

The progress required of a financial aid recipient according to the school's approved published policy.


A form of financial assistance which does not require repayment or employment and is made to a student who demonstrates distinction in high school, usually in academic performance, the arts, or athletics.

School Year

A period of time, generally not less than eight months, in which a full-time student would normally be expected to complete the equivalent of two semesters, two trimesters, three quarters, or 900 clock hours.


A company hired by the lender to perform account services for its student loans. These services may include application and repayment processing, customer information, and accounting.

Student Aid Report (SAR)

The federal "output document" printed by a FAFSA processor and mailed to the student. The SAR contains the family's financial and other information as reported by the student on the financial aid application. The student can make corrections/update information on the SAR and submit it to the federal processor. The student's eligibility for aid is indicated by the estimated family contribution printed on the front of the SAR. Schools receive an electronic version of the SAR from the FAFSA processor, called the ISIR.

State University Supplemental Tuition Assistance (SUSTA)

Assists in paying the difference between TAP (Tuition Assistance Program) and tuition at state-operated colleges for students whose families are eligible to receive a maximum TAP award and are subject to the $200 annual reduction, commonly referred to as the "Upper Cut."

Tuition Assistance Program (TAP)

A grant sponsored by New York State for New York residents attending an approved postsecondary institution in New York on a full-time basis. Applicants must meet income and residency eligibility. Apply using the FAFSA and the ETA or CUNY application (see ETA).

Taxable Income

Income earned from wages, salaries, and tips as well as interest income, dividend income, business or farm profits, and rental or property income.

Title IV

Federal regulations regarding the award and disbursement of financial aid funds, as well as the return of funds for students who withdraw during the semester.


The transcript is a permanent academic record of a student at a college. It may show courses attempted, grades received, academic status, and honors received.


Tuition is the amount paid for each credit hour of enrollment. Tuition does not include the cost of books, fees, or room and board. Tuition charges vary from college to college and are dependent on such factors as resident or out-of-state status, level of classes enrolled in (lower, upper, or graduate division), and whether the institution is publicly or privately financed.


An undergraduate is a student who is pursuing a certificate, associate's, or baccalaureate degree.

Unmet Need

The difference between a specific student's total available resources and the total cost for the student's attendance at a specific institution.


A person who has served on active duty in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or Coast Guard, and who was discharged other than dishonorably. Veterans are considered to be independent. There is no minimum length of service requirement.

Veterans Educational Benefits

Assistance programs for veterans and service persons or dependents of veterans for education and training. Example: Montgomery GI Bill.

Ward of the Court

A person who is under the supervision of the court.