Glossary of Financial Aid Terms

Award notification:

An aid offer, may be tentative at first, including various known types and amounts of financial aid you may receive from federal, state, private, and/or school sources based on current information.  This combination of aid is your financial aid package.  

Cost of Attendance (COA):

The estimated cost of attending this institution for one academic year per federal guidelines. The amount includes the following for one academic year (two semesters): 

  • Tuition – Charges assessed for classes
  • Fees – Charges assessed for other college services
  • Estimated living expense -- allowance for rent, utilities, and food for off-campus living
  • Estimated transportation costs
  • Estimated books and supplies
  • Miscellaneous costs

Data Retrieval Tool:

The IRS Data Retrieval Tool electronically transfers federal tax return information into a FAFSA.  The data retrieval tools can be used by both students and parents. 

Direct Costs:

Expenses the student/family pays to the college.

Enrollment Level:

Level of the degree-granting program in which a student is enrolled. The Columbia State basic level of enrollment is: undergraduate (students seeking an associate's degree, a certificate, or a baccalaureate degree. The amounts and types of financial aid a student is eligible for is determined, in part, by their enrollment level.

Enrollment Status:

Academic workload (or course load), as defined by the institution, that a student is carrying for a defined academic period. This normally relates to the number of credit hours or clock hours taken by a student during a given academic period. For Columbia State enrollment status is:

  • Full-time status = at least 12 credit hours
  • Three-quarter time status = at least 9-11 credit hours
  • Half-time status = at least 6-8 credit hours.
  • Less than Half-time status = 1-5 credit hours.

Expected Family Contribution (EFC):

A measure of how much the student and his/her family can be expected to contribute to the cost of the student's education for the year. The EFC is calculated according to a formula specified in the law and is based upon the information provided by the student and his/her family during the FASFA filing process.

Federal Direct Student Loan:

Loan funds provided to the student by the U.S. Department of Education, through the school. Repayment of principal begins six months after the borrower ceases to be a student on at least a half-time basis. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the annual application. There are two types of William D. Ford Federal Direct Student Loans: subsidized and unsubsidized. Students with financial need can qualify for a subsidized loan, and the government pays the interest on the loan while the student remains enrolled at least half time. Students who don't demonstrate financial need qualify for an unsubsidized loan and interest accrues while the student is in school. An institutional loan application is required at Columbia State and available on the website.

Federal Parent Loan (PLUS):

A William D. Ford Federal Loan Program that allows qualified parents to apply for up to the Cost of Attendance each year in a parent loan, less any financial aid. PLUS loans must be repaid with interest. 

Federal Pell Grant:

A grant provided by the federal government to qualified undergraduate students who demonstrate exceptional financial need and have an Expected Family Contribution below a threshold designated annually by the U.S. Department of Education, based on the amount of program funds appropriated by Congress. 

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG):

A grant provided by the federal government to qualified undergraduate students who demonstrate exceptional financial need. Priority is given to Pell Grant recipients and funds must be awarded by the school in lowest EFC order.

Federal Work-Study (FWS):

A program that provides part-time employment to students attending institutions of higher education who need the earnings to help meet their costs of postsecondary education and encourages students receiving FWS assistance to participate in community service activities.


Your Federal Student Aid ID is the username and password you use when you visit certain U.S. Department of Education websites. The FSA ID is used to sign legally binding documents electronically.

Gift Aid:

Funds awarded to the student that do not have to be repaid, unless the student fails to meet certain terms, such as a service requirement, specified as a condition of the grant. Gift aid includes awards with titles such as grants, scholarships, remissions, waivers, etc. Gift aid can be awarded based upon many factors, including (but not limited to) financial need, academic excellence, athletic, musical, and theatrical talent, affiliation with various groups, or career aspirations.


Gift aid awarded to the student that does not need to be repaid. Grants are typically based on financial need.

Indirect Costs:

Expenses incurred as a result of attendance that the student/family may pay to a third party (merchant, landlord, etc.) other than the college.

Out-of-pocket Cost:

Difference between the cost of attendance and all gift aid. Out-of-pocket cost can be covered through a variety of sources, including: savings, income and educational loans.  

Refunds or disbursements: 

Generally, your aid will cover a full academic year and your college will disburse (pay out) any remaining awards in at least two payments, also called refunds, once each term. Refund dates are published in the Columbia State catalog.  Class participation at census dates (also listed in the catalog) are confirmed prior to refunds. Work-study jobs are paid once per month