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Glossary of Financial Aid Terms

There are many terms used throughout this website — as well as the world of financial aid — that may be unfamiliar to you. Below are commonly found terms and definitions to help you understand the financial aid process better.

The Federal Student Aid Glossary is another useful tool.


Academic Year – The academic year runs from July 1 to June 30 for all students. Summer is a trailer assigned to the previous academic year.  So a full academic year would be Fall, Spring, and Summer.


Award Letter – This is a letter from the financial aid office that lists the financial aid each student is eligible to receive.  Please remember this is not a bill and does not reflect the charges that will be on your bill from the business office.  This letter is to inform you of your awards for the upcoming year.


Cost of Attendance – The total amount it should cost the student to go to school including tuition, room and board, fees, books and supplies, transportation, and personal/miscellaneous expenses. Cost of attendance may vary depending on the student’s program and residential status.


Dependent Student – A dependent student is not 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, or someone with legal dependents other than a spouse. If you meet any of this criteria, you are considered a independent student for financial aid purposes.


Entrance Counseling – Federal regulations require all student borrowers to complete student loan entrance counseling. The purpose of the counseling session is to explain your rights and responsibilities of borrowing and to remind you of the importance of repaying the funds that have been borrowed.  Remember to borrow only what you need and to borrow responsibly. The entrance counseling required to receive your loans is not the same as the financial awareness counseling.


Exit Counseling – If a student received loans at Salem, they must complete exit counseling after they are enrolled less than half time at Salem or graduate. The purpose of this counseling session is to explain your rights and responsibilities of borrowing and to remind you of the importance of repaying the funds you have borrowed.


Expected Family Contribution (EFC) – Your EFC is the number that is used to determine your eligibility for need-based federal and state financial aid. This number results from the information you provided on your FAFSA application. Your EFC is reported to you on your Student Aid Report (SAR).  Your EFC is used to determine your need for financial aid.  Please see the formula below:

The Formula:  Cost of Attendance  –  Expected Family Contribution =  Financial Need


FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) – Each student who wants to apply for federal financial aid must complete the FAFSA at fafsa.gov.  Even if you only want to borrow loans or are only eligible to borrow loans, you must complete the FAFSA to establish eligibility.  To help you fund your education, the U.S. Department of Education offers a variety of student financial aid programs.

  • Some families may experience a significant change in their financial situation such as death of a wage earner, loss of a job, or loss of benefits. In such cases, the student's eligibility for financial aid may be reevaluated based on the family's current financial situation. To request a reevaluation, contact the Salem College Financial Aid Office at 336-721-2808.

Financial Aid Package - The total amount of financial aid (federal and non-federal) a student is offered by the school. The financial aid office combines various forms of aid into a “package” to help meet a student’s education costs using all available resources to give each student the best possible package of financial aid.


Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) – FERPA is a federal law designed to protect you.  It outlines who Salem can share your information with, and what rights you have as a student to your academic records.  Upon admission to Salem all students should sign a FERPA release form that explains your rights and allows you to give other people (mom, dad, husband, employer, grandma, etc.) access if you so wish.   


Federal Methodology (FM) – This tool, established by government statute, is used to calculate a student's eligibility for financial aid assistance, including Pell Grants, direct loan programs, state aid programs, and some institutional and private aid programs. FM measures the need of applicants with two basic considerations in mind: the expenses related to the total cost of education and a student's resources, including both parent and student financial situations. Most aid is determined by need. Financial need is the difference between educational cost and total family contribution.


Gift Aid – Gift aid is assistance received that does not typically have to be repaid. Gift aid may take the form of scholarships or grants funded by the institution, federal government, or state government.


Grants – Grants and scholarships are types of gift aid that do not have to be repaid. They may take the form of Salem College scholarships or grants, federal or state grants, or outside scholarships.


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, or someone with legal dependents other than a spouse. If you do not meet any of this criteria, you are considered a dependent student for financial aid purposes.


Loan – All loans are considered self-help aid. Loans must be repaid and all loans are optional. Therefore, when deciding whether to borrow, you should examine your need for assistance and your future ability to repay. Unlike consumer loans, student loans have longer terms of repayment and in most cases do not enter repayment until you leave school. Interest rates vary but are usually lower than rates on loans made to the general public. The precise terms of the loans are contained in the promissory notes that borrowers must sign.  There are many different types of loans available.  Here are some examples and their definitions:

  • Student Direct Subsidized Loan:  A student loan for which a borrower is not responsible for the interest while in an in-school, grace, or deferment status.
  • Student Direct Unsubsidized LoanA student loan for which the borrower is fully responsible for paying the interest regardless of the loan status. Interest on unsubsidized loans accrues from the date of disbursement and continues throughout the life of the loan.
  • Parent PLUS Loan: A parent loan that parents obtain based on a credit check to help with additional costs of college for their child. 
  •  Alternative/Private Loan:  Student loans that are based on credit and may require a co-signer.

Loan Servicer – The loan servicer is a student’s point of contact after the loan has been disbursed. You may find out your servicer and contact information from National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS).


Master Promissory Note (MPN) – A promissory note is a binding legal document you sign when you get a student loan. It lists the conditions under which you're borrowing and the terms under which you agree to pay back the loan. It will include information on how interest is calculated and what deferment and cancellation provisions are available to the borrower. It's very important to read and save this document 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.


Merit-Based Scholarships – At Salem College, merit-based scholarships are awarded by the Admissions Office and are not based on financial need.


Need-Based Aid – Financial aid that is need-based is determined by the financial information provided on your FAFSA. Need-based aid may be funded by the institution, federal government, or state government.


Outside Scholarships – A scholarship that comes from sources outside of the financial aid awarded by the institution, federal government, and state government. Outside scholarships may affect other components of your financial aid (such as loans).


Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) – SAP is a federal requirement that measures a student’s progress in school. A student must make SAP in order to continue receiving financial aid. Please see our web page for more information regarding SAP.


Student Aid Report (SAR) – Received after the FAFSA is filed, the SAR may include important information about the status of your application including missing information and/or missing signature that must be completed. This report is sent to the student only. The schools listed on your FAFSA will receive an Institutional Student Information Record (ISIR).


Scholarships – Scholarships and grants are types of gift aid that do not have to be repaid. They may take the form of Salem College scholarships or grants, federal or state grants, or outside scholarships.


Self-Help Aid – Self-help allows the student to take responsibility for funding their education. Self-help aid includes work-study opportunities and loans. Self-help aid can be accepted or declined.


Work-Study Program – Work-study is a component of self-help aid. The work-study program at Salem is designed to promote the part-time employment of college students who have demonstrated financial need and who require the wages from employment to pursue their educational objectives.  Work study is an opportunity to work and will not be deducted from your bill with the business office.  


Verification – Verification is a process required by the federal government to verify the data submitted on the FAFSA.  If you are selected for verification you will receive an email or a mailed letter from Salem requesting certain documents.  All forms can be found on our website, click on FORMS on the right. Please do NOT submit any information to Salem until we request it. Financial aid will not be finalized and/or disbursed to your student account until the verification process is complete.