Help - Glossary

The following glossary listing contains definitions/descriptions of terms that are related to Federal student aid Title IV programs and/or acronyms.

The terms are listed according to alphabetical order. You can select the All link to view a listing of all of the glossary terms, or you may select the letter equal to the first letter of the term.




Office of Management and Budget Circular designated A-133

A-number (ARN)

An identifying number assigned by DHS to identify and keep track of individuals who have been or are in contact with the immigration process. Used by ED to verify the immigration status of noncitizens applying for federal student aid.


American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers


Adjusted Available Income


Administrative Cost Allowance

Academic Attendance and Attendance at an Academically-Related Activity

The criteria schools must use to determine whether a student has ceased attendance. A school must perform a Return of Title IV Aid (R2T4) calculation for students who have withdrawn (or otherwise ceased attendance). Criteria include but are not limited to

  • physically attending a class where there is an opportunity for direct interaction between the instructor and students;
  • submitting an academic assignment;
  • taking an exam, an interactive tutorial, or computer-assisted instruction;
  • attending a study group that is assigned by the institution;
  • participating in an online discussion about academic matters; and
  • initiating contact with a faculty member to ask a question about the academic subject studied in the course.

Academic attendance and attendance at an academically-related activity do not include activities where a student may be present, but not academically engaged.

Academic Calendar

The way in which a school structures its academic programs and measures progress over the program's length. For purposes of the FSA programs, there are three basic types of academic calendars: standard term, nonstandard term, and nonterm.

Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG) Program

A previously offered grant program authorized by the Higher Education Act (HEA) under which grants were awarded during the first and second academic years of study to eligible financially needy undergraduate students who successfully completed rigorous secondary school programs of study.

Academic Year

For a program that measures program length in credit hours,

  • a minimum of 30 weeks of instructional time; and
  • 24 semester or trimester hours or 36 quarter credit hours.

For a program that measures program length in clock hours,

  • a minimum of 26 weeks of instructional time; and
  • 900 clock hours.

For purposes of defining an academic year,

  • a week is a consecutive seven-day period;
  • a week of instructional time is any week in which at least one day of regularly scheduled instruction or examinations occurs or, after the last scheduled day of classes for a term or payment period, at least one day of study for final examinations occurs; and
  • instructional time does not include any vacation periods, homework, or periods of orientation or counseling.

Demand for immediate repayment of the entire outstanding balance of a loan.

Accepted Master Promissory Note (MPN)

Once a borrower completes an MPN, it is examined in the Common Originations and Disbursement (COD) system for completeness. If, during processing, COD finds that all of the required fields on an MPN have been completed correctly, COD will accept the MPN. An accepted MPN is one of the criteria required for a loan to be booked.

Access Device

A card, code, or other means of access to a financial account, or any combination thereof, that may be used by a student or parent to initiate electronic fund transfers.


A record in the general ledger that is used to collect and store similar information. For example, a school will have a cash account in which every transaction involving cash is recorded.

Accounting Data

Journals, ledgers, and other records, such as spreadsheets, that support financial statements. It may be in computer-readable form or on paper.

Accounting Records

Records of initial accounting entries and supporting records, such as checks and records of electronic fund transfers; invoices; contracts; general and subsidiary ledgers; journal entries and other adjustments to the financial statements that are not reflected in journal entries; and records, such as work sheets and spreadsheets, supporting cost allocations, computations, reconciliations, and disclosures.

Accounting Standards Codification (ASC)

The Codification, prepared by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), reorganizes the thousands of U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) pronouncements into roughly 90 accounting topics and displays all topics using a consistent structure. It also includes relevant U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) guidance that follows the same topical structure in separate sections in the Codification.

Accounts Receivable

Debts due from customers from sales of products and services reported as a current asset.


The status of public recognition that a national accrediting agency recognized by the Department grants to an institution or educational program that meets the agency's established requirements.

Accrual Basis of Accounting

The accounting method under which revenues are recognized on the income statement when they are earned (rather than when the cash is received).


Automated Clearinghouse


Audit Control Number


The Higher Education Act (HEA) of 1965, as amended, 20 U.S.C. 1071 et seq.

Actual Disbursement Record

A disbursement record submitted to the Common Origination and Disbursement (COD) system indicating that the school has disbursed funds to the student or plans to within the next seven days.

Actual Interest Rate

The annual interest rate charged on a loan, which may be equal to or less than the applicable interest rate on that loan.


Americans with Disabilities Act


Average Daily Balance

Adjusted Gross Income (AGI)

An individual's adjusted gross income as reported to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The rules for calculating AGI are set by the IRS, not the Department.

Adjusting Entries

Journal entries usually dated the last day of the accounting period to bring the balance sheet and income statement up to date on an accrual basis (as required by the matching principle and the revenue recognition principle).


Anticipated Disbursement Listing

Administrative Capability

The ability a school must demonstrate in providing the education it promises and properly managing the FSA programs. The standards of administrative capability are set forth in 34 CFR 668.16.

Administrative Cost Allowance (ACA)

Funds an institution participating in the Federal Pell Grant, Federal Perkins Loan, Federal Work Study (FWS), or Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) programs is entitled to receive for an award year if it advances funds under the Federal Perkins Loan Program, provides FWS employment, awards grants under the FSEOG Program, or disburses Federal Pell Grants to students in that year.

Administrative Forbearance

In certain circumstances, the Department grants forbearance without requiring documentation from the borrower. For more detail of the conditions under which a borrower must be granted administrative forbearance see 34 CFR 685.205(b).

Administrative Offset

Funds withheld from a participating school to collect program review, audit, and formal fine debts. The Department withholds a portion of a school's G5 (Grant Payment System) authorized payments and applies them toward the school's debt.

Administrative (Non Judicial) Wage Garnishment

Process by which a guarantor or the Department, under Section 488A of the HEA, may intercept a portion of the wages of a FSA borrower who is not making required repayments or, in the case of an FFEL loan, a loan for which a guarantee agency has been reimbursed by the Department.

Administrative Relief

See Extended Processing.


Actual Disbursement Roster

Advance payment
A payment that a Federal awarding agency or pass-through entity makes by any appropriate payment mechanism, including a predetermined payment schedule, before the non- Federal entity disburses the funds for program purposes.
Advance Payment Method

A school operating under this payment method is permitted to request funds in the school's Available Balance the school needs to make disbursements within three days of receipt of the funds.

Adverse Credit History

For federal student aid purposes, a financial history that negatively impacts eligibility for a federal education loan. A parent, graduate student, or professional student who has an adverse credit history (as defined in the Direct Loan Program regulations) is not eligible to receive a Direct PLUS Loan unless he or she (1) documents to the satisfaction of the Department that there are extenuating circumstances, or (2) obtains an endorser for the loan who does not have an adverse credit history.

Adverse Opinion

Auditor's opinion that financial statements do not fairly present the financial position, results of operations, or cash flows in conformity with generally accepted accounting principles.

Affirmative Confirmation

A process under which a school obtains written confirmation of the types and amounts of FSA program funds that a student wants for an award year before the school credits the student's account with those loan funds.


An officer or employee of a covered institution or an institution-affiliated organization.

Aggregate Basis

One of the ways a school can match its federal allocation in the FSEOG Program. In this approach a school ensures that the sum of all funds awarded to all FSEOG recipients in a given award year consists of 75% federal dollars and 25% qualified nonfederal funds. Note that each of a school's FSEOG recipients must receive some FSEOG federal funds.

Aggregate Loan Limit

The statutory maximum amount of principal an individual may borrow for all loans of a specific type, for all years of postsecondary study.


Adjusted Gross Income

Aging of Drawdown

The process of tracking the time elapsed from the date funds were drawn down to the date a school fully substantiates the drawdown by submitting actual disbursement records.

Agreement to Serve

An agreement under which the individual receiving a TEACH Grant commits to meeting his or her service obligation, and to complying with notification and other provisions of his or her agreement.


Available Income


American Institute of Certified Public Accountants


Funds awarded to a school for use during a specific period of time. Campus-based funds (Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant [FSEOG], Federal Work-Study [FWS], and Federal Perkins Loan) are allocated to a school on an awardyear basis. Sometimes referred to as obligation, award, or authorization.

Allowable Costs

See Cost of Attendance.

Allowance for Doubtful Accounts

A contra asset account with a credit balance used to reduce the carrying amount of accounts receivable to net realizable value. The allowance balance is the estimated total of uncollectable accounts included in accounts receivable.

American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)

The national organization of certified public accountants.

Amount of Title IV Aid Earned by a Student

For Return of Title IV Funds purposes, the percentage of the payment period or period of enrollment, as applicable, completed by the student multiplied by the total Title IV aid disbursed plus the total Title IV Aid that could have been disbursed to the student.


Dear Colleague Letter designation for training announcements

Annual Award (in the Federal Pell Grant Program)

The amount a student would receive under the applicable Payment Disbursement Schedule for a given level of enrollment (full time, half time etc.), Estimated Family Contribution (EFC), and COA.

Annual Award (in the TEACH Grant Program)

The maximum TEACH Grant amount a student would receive for enrolling as a full-time, three-quartertime, half-time, or less-than-half-time student and remaining in that enrollment status for a year.

Annual FSA Compliance Audit

The audit that a third-party servicer must submit each year. If the servicer contracts with several schools, a single audit can be submitted that covers its administrative services for all those schools.

Annual Loan Limit

The statutory maximum a student may borrow at his grade level for one academic year. It varies by grade level, dependency status of borrower, etc.

Annual Percentage Rate (APR)

The yearly cost of borrowing money reflected as a percentage rate.

Annual Security Report

A report that participating schools are required to compile and file annually with the Department that summarizes the schools compliance with the requirements of 34 CFR 668.46.

Anticipated Disbursement Record

A disbursement record submitted to the COD system indicating the amount and dates of funds the school plans to disburse more then seven days from the date submitted.


Asset Protection Allowance

Applicable Interest Rate

The maximum annual interest rate that a lender may charge under the Act on a loan.

Application Receipt Date

Field on a SAR/ISIR showing the date a paper application was received by the FAFSA processor or the date an electronic FAFSA transmission was received by the CPS.


A distribution of amounts available for obligation into amounts available for specified time periods, programs, activities, projects, objects, or combinations thereof. The apportioned amount limits the obligations that may be incurred.


A form of budget authority provided by law that permits federal agencies to make payments out of the Treasury for specified purposes.

Approved Leave of Absence (LOA)

For Return of Title IV Funds purposes, a temporary interruption in a student's program of study. LOA refers to the specific time period during a program when a student is not in attendance.


Annual Percentage Rate


Alien Registration Number (also known as A-number)


Auditing Standards Board


Tangible or intangible items which have probable economic benefits that can be obtained or controlled.

Assets (on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA))

Cash on hand, including the amount in checking and savings accounts, time deposits, money market funds, trusts, stocks, bonds, other securities, mutual funds, tax shelters, qualified education benefits, and the net value of real estate, income producing property, and business and farm assets. For a detailed explanation see the Higher Education Act, as amended, Part F, Section 480(f).


The transfer of all rights, authorities, and privileges associated with a Perkins Loan from a school to the Department of Education. Schools may assign both defaulted and non-defaulted loans to the Department at any time during the program year. If a school is liquidating its Perkins portfolio and withdrawing from the Perkins Loan Program or if the school is closing, the school must assign all its Perkins Loans (both defaulted and non-defaulted) to the Department.

Associate Degree School of Nursing

A school that provides primarily or exclusively a two-year program of postsecondary education in professional nursing leading to a degree equivalent to an associate degree in the United States.


Ability to Benefit

Athletically Related Student Aid

Any scholarship, grant, or other form of financial assistance, the terms of which require the recipient to participate in a program of intercollegiate athletics at the institution. Other student aid, of which a student-athlete simply happens to be the recipient, is not athletically related student aid.


Agreement to Serve


The process of assigning benefits or costs to time periods, programs, activities, projects, objects, or combinations thereof.

Audit Accountability and Resolution Tracking System

The Department's tool used to track, monitor and report day-to-day on the post-audit status of single audits, GAO audits, OIG-issued internal audits, external audits and alternative products (reports or memoranda issued by OIG that are not audit reports but raise issues that may need to be addressed by management).

Audit Finding
Deficiencies which the auditor is required by §200.516 Audit findings, paragraph (a) to report in the schedule of findings and questioned costs.
Audit Guide of Federal Student Financial Assistance Programs at Participating Institutions and Institution Servicers

Published by the Department's Office of the Inspector General (OIG), it assists independent auditors (IPAs) in performing audits of Federal Student Aid.

Audit Plan

A description and schedule of audits to be performed in a certain period of time (ordinarily a year). It includes the areas to be audited, the type of work planned, the high-level objectives and scope of the work, and includes other items such as budget, resource allocation, schedule dates, and type of report issued.

Audit Trail or Transaction Trail

Chains of evidence provided through coding, cross references, and documentation connecting accounting balances and other summary results with original transactions and calculations.

Auditing Standards Board (ASB)

Board authorized by the AICPA to promulgate auditing and attest standards, quality control standards procedures, and implementation guidance for AICPA members performing such services.

Public accountant or a Federal, state, local government, or Indian tribe audit organization, that meets the general standards specified for external auditors in generally accepted government auditing standards (GAGAS). The term auditor does not include internal auditors of nonprofit organizations.
Auditor Independence Statement

A statement regarding the requirement that an auditor be independent of the entity examined. Intended to remind financial statement users about the auditor's obligations related to independence and to serve as a reminder to auditors of these obligations.


Amount of FSA funds a school is currently eligible for in the year and program in question. The authorization is also called the Current Funding Level (CFL). Please note that in Direct Loan and TEACH Grant programs, you might also hear the authorization referred to as the Cash Control Amount (CCA).

Automated Clearing House (ACH)

An electronic clearing system in which a data processing center handles payment orders that are exchanged among financial institutions, primarily through telecommunications networks. ACH systems process large volumes of individual payments electronically.

Automatic Zero EFC

The result when an independent student or a dependent student's parents have income below a specific threshold and meet one of a group of other criteria, such as not needing to file a Form 1040 U.S. tax return. The flag indicates that the student met the statutory criteria for the automatic zero EFC calculation. See Simplified EFC Formulas.

Available Balance

Amount of cash available for a school to draw down through G5. The available balance is the difference between the authorized amount and the school's net drawdowns to date.

Available Income (Parents')

In general, parents' available income is determined by deducting from total income (as defined in HEA,section 480)

  • federal income taxes;
  • an allowance for state and other taxes;
  • an allowance for social security taxes;
  • an income protection allowance;
  • an employment expense allowance; and
  • the amount of any tax credit taken by the parents under section 25A of the Internal Revenue.

Application and Verification Guide


Automated Voice Response

Award Periods

The length of time in G5 during which schools can perform certain cash management functions. There are four award periods 

  1. performance period,
  2. liquidation period,
  3. suspension period, and
  4. closeout period.
Award Year

The period beginning July 1 and ending June 30 of the following year.


Academic Year (may refer to Award Year in some contexts)