A - Z Glossary Listing



Academic year:

The time period in which a student’s academic work must be completed. At UNI this consists of a Fall, Spring and Summer semester.

Adjusted Gross Income:

Wages, salaries, interest, dividends, etc., minus certain deductions from income as reported on a federal income tax return. Used by the Federal Methodology to determine eligibility for Pell grants and other forms of federal financial aid.




The person who assumes legal obligations for the repayment of a loan principal balance plus interest. In the case of a Federal Direct Loan, a Federal Perkins Loan, or a Federal Direct Grad PLUS Loan, the borrower is the student. In the case of the Federal Direct Parent PLUS Loan, the borrower is the parent.


The college administrator whose office manages billing and payment. The student account and the term bill are both administered by the Bursar’s Office. All financial aid funds are sent to the Bursar’s Office for disbursement into each student’s account.



Consortium Agreement:

A Consortium agreement allows a student to count credit hours taken at another institution toward their enrollment status at UNI for financial aid purposes.

Cost of Attendance (COA):

An estimate of the total costs for an academic year at UNI. COA includes tuition and fees; housing and meals; and allowances for books, transportation, and personal expenses.

Credit Balance:

The amount remaining in a student’s account after payment of all billed charges. See Disbursement.



Data Retrieval Tool (DRT):

The IRS Data Retrieval Tool allows students and parents to access the IRS tax return information needed to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and transfer the data directly into their FAFSA from the IRS web site. The Data Retrieval Tool is one of two options to satisfy the federal verification requirement (the other option is an IRS tax return transcript).


Failure to repay a loan according to the terms agreed to in the master promissory note. For most federal student loans, default will occur if no payment has been made in more than 270 days (unless the borrower has requested & received a deferment or forbearance). Borrowers may experience serious legal consequences if they default; borrowers having difficulty making monthly payments can choose a different repayment plan to continue making payments & avoid default.


A postponement of required payments on a loan, allowed under certain conditions (such as graduate school enrollment). During a deferment, interest does not accrue on Direct Subsidized Loans or Federal Perkins Loans; all other federal student loans will continue to accrue interest. Any unpaid interest accrued during the deferment period may be added to the principal balance of the loan(s).

Dependency Status:

The definition of an applicant as dependent or independent of parent finances in determining financial aid eligibility. Questions on the FAFSA determine dependency status for financial aid purposes. Dependency status for financial aid is unrelated to dependency for federal tax purposes.

Direct Loan:

See Federal Direct Loan.


The process by which funds are made available to students for use in meeting educational expenses. Financial aid funds and direct payments are disbursed to each student’s account (administered by the Bursar) to first pay any billed charges: tuition, fees, room & board, and any incidental expenses such as college health insurance. Any funds in excess of the billed charges constitute a credit balance.



Enrollment Status:

  • Undergraduate students:
    • Full-time: 12 credit hours
    • 3/4 time: 9 credit hours
    • Half-time: 6 credit hours
  • Graduate students:
    • Full-time: 9 credit hours
    • 3/4 time: 7 credit hours
    • Half-time: 5 credit hours

Expected Family Contribution (EFC):

A measurement of family finances based on the information provided in the FAFSA. The EFC is reported on the Student Aid Report (SAR) and used to determine eligibility for federal financial aid-for example, the Pell Grant.



FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid):

The basis for federal financial aid eligibility which must be completed by all U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and other eligible non-citizens who wish to be considered for financial aid. Apply on the Federal Student Aid website.

Federal Direct Loan:

A federal student loan, made through the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program, for which eligible students and parents borrow directly from the U.S. Department of Education at participating schools. Direct Subsidized Loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, Direct PLUS Loans and Direct Consolidation Loans are types of Direct Loans. The Federal Direct Loan program replaced the Stafford Loan Program.

Federal Methodology (FM):

The formulas used to determine a student’s eligibility for federal (Title IV) financial aid funds. The formulas take into account income, certain assets, certain expenses, family size and other factors. Retirement savings, home equity and non-custodial parents are not considered; stepparent finances are included.

Federal Work Study (FWS):

A form of need-based employment to help cover educational costs as part of a financial aid package. To help meet demonstrated financial need, UNI students may be eligible for either Federal Work Study (funded by the Department of Education; eligibility based on the FAFSA) or a department may hire a student using office funds.

Financial Need:

The portion of the cost of attendance (COA) beyond a family’s ability to contribute to college, as determined by the Office of Financial Aid. Demonstrated financial need is equal to the COA minus the family contribution (including student and parent contributions).


A period during which monthly loan payments are temporarily suspended or reduced based on certain types of financial hardship. A lender may grant forbearance at a borrower’s request if the borrower is willing but unable to make loan payments. During forbearance, principal payments are postponed but interest continues to accrue; unpaid interest accrued during the forbearance will be added to the principal balance, increasing the total amount owed. Distinct from deferment, in which loan payments are temporarily suspended because a student meets predetermined conditions, such as graduate school attendance.



Grace Period:

A period of time after a borrower graduates, leaves school, or drops below half-time enrollment during which they are not required to make payments on certain federal student loans. Some federal student loans will accrue interest during the grace period, which will be added to the principal balance of the loan when the repayment period begins.


Financial aid that does not need to be repaid. Many grants are based on financial need (Repayment may be required under certain uncommon circumstances–for example, if a student withdraws from school mid-semester and owe a refund).



Hometown Scholarships:

These are scholarships that students receive that are not offered by UNI.



A loan expense charged for the use of borrowed money and paid by a borrower to a lender. Interest for federal student loans is calculated as a percentage of the unpaid loan principal amount.

Interest Rate:

The percentage at which interest is calculated on a loan(s).




A financial institution that provides loan funds to parents or students. For federal Direct Loans (including parent PLUS Loans), the Department of Education is the lender. For federal Perkins Loans, UNI is the lender.

Loan Origination Fee:

An administrative fee assessed by the federal government and deducted from a loan before funds are made available. 

Loan Principal:

The amount originally borrowed. Simple daily interest is calculated based on the loan principal.

Loan Servicer:

An organization that manages loan payments and administrative functions on behalf of the lender. Students can look up the loan servicer by logging into the Federal Student Aid website.



Master Promissory Note:

A binding legal document setting out the contractual terms of a loan. A signed master promissory note must be on file before loan funds can be sent to the student account. Promissory notes can be completed on the Federal Student Aid website.


Funding distributed on the basis of academic or artistic accomplishments or individual leadership, rather than a family’s ability to pay for college.



Need Analysis:

The process by which financial aid officers assess each family’s ability to pay for the cost of a college education. The biggest factors in need analysis are income, assets, family size, and number of children in college; many other factors are incorporated to a lesser degree. The goal of need analysis is to provide an equitable and consistent assessment of each family’s unique financial situation.


Funding distributed on the basis of each family’s financial strength and ability to pay for college, primarily considering income, assets, family size and number of children in college.

Net Price Calculator:

A tool to estimate financial aid eligibility at UNI based on family finances. The Net Price Calculator is the best source of early financial aid information for college planning. If you have a complicated financial situation and are unsure how to answer certain questions on the Net Price Calculator, please feel free to contact our office.



Offer ​Letter:

An official document, issued by the Office of Financial Aid & Scholarships letting students know that their financial aid is ready and instructing them to log into their MyUNIverse to view their offer.

Origination fee:

See Loan Origination Fee.



Pell Grant:

Financial aid awarded by the Department of Education based on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The Pell Grant does not need to be repaid.

PLUS Loan:

Federal loans available to parents of undergraduate students. (PLUS Loans are also available directly to graduate students).




The college administrator whose office manages enrollment, class registration, and academic standing.

Repayment Plan:

The amount of monthly payments and total repayment period for a loan. The Standard Repayment Plan consists of equal monthly payments over a period of ten years. Borrowers can switch to another repayment plan that better fits their monthly finances by contacting the loan servicer. There is never a financial penalty for making early loan payments or paying more than the minimum required amount.

Room and Board:

The expected cost of student housing (room) and food (board).




Money awarded to a student for educational expenses. Scholarships do not need to be repaid. At UNI, hometown scholarships may replace other forms of financial aid, first replacing loans then the UNI Access Grant then work study eligibility.

Special Circumstances:

Unusual situations affecting a family’s finances that were not reported in the FAFSA or on family tax documents. We welcome additional information about special circumstances, which may affect financial aid eligibility upon review by the Office of Financial Aid & Scholarships.

Stafford Loan:

See Federal Direct Loan. Stafford Loans were the ancestors of the current Direct Subsidized and Direct Unsubsidized Loans; Direct Loans replaced the program that administered Stafford Loans.

State Grant:

Funds awarded by state governments based on residency and financial need.

Student Aid Report (SAR):

A summary of the information reported on the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).

Subsidized Loan:

Loan for which interest does not begin to accrue until the student leaves school. See also Direct Loan Program.



Tax Return Transcript:

An official IRS document confirming data from the federal tax return. A tax return transcript is one of two options to satisfy the federal verification requirement (the other option is using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool).



Unsubsidized Loan:

Loan for which interest begins to accrue after the loan funds are received; payments do not need to be made until the student leaves school.

UNI Scholarship Application:

This application is required for all scholarships offered by UNI except those offered by the Office of Admissions.




A process, required of approximately 30% of students by Department of Education, through which financial aid officers check the information on a student’s financial aid application against the tax information received by the IRS. Verification can be completed either by using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or by requesting a tax return transcript from the IRS. Being selected for verification is essentially random and does not indicate a problem with your taxes or your financial aid application.



Work Study:

See Federal Work Study