Glossary of Terms

Do you know your FAFSA from your CSS PROFILE? Your PLUS Loan from your Pell Grant? You're going to run into some financial aid terms over and over again, so this glossary will help you keep all the names, initials, and acronyms straight.

Academic Year

The school year, usually from the beginning of September through the end of May.


Billed costs

Costs directly charged by the College, such as tuition, fees, housing, meals, and health insurance. If you will not be covered by your family's medical insurance, you will be charged the medical insurance premiums of $2,844 (estimated).


College of the Holy Cross Loan

An institutional student loan program offering a fixed interest rate to students who demonstrate financial need. The loan is awarded by the Office of Financial Aid based on demonstrated financial need, and the program is administered by the College with a limited amount of funds available each year. The College of the Holy Cross Loan was created in response to the expiration of the Federal Perkins Loan Program.



Any individual required to provide consent and approval for federal tax information (FTI) along with their signature on the FAFSA form, including the student; the student’s spouse; a biological or adoptive parent; or the parent’s spouse (stepparent). This is a new term and requirement  for the 24-25 FAFSA.



Each contributor will need to provide their consent to their Federal Tax Information (FTI) being included in the FAFSA, even if they did not file a U.S. tax return. Beginning with the 2024-2025 FAFSA, all contributors must provide consent in order for a student to be eligible for federal aid.


Cost of Attendance (COA)

Also known as the cost of education or "budget." The total amount it should cost the student to go to school. This includes tuition and fees, housing and food, allowances for books and supplies, transportation, and personal and incidental expenses. Loan fees, if applicable, may also be included in the COA.



For a child or other person to be considered a dependent, they must live with you and you must provide them with more than half of their support. Parents cannot both claim the same child as a dependent if they file separate tax returns. 


CSS Profile

A College Scholarship Service (CSS) application that allows you to be considered for need-based Holy Cross financial aid. Visit the CSS Profile website to create a College Board account and complete your CSS Profile application. Incoming freshmen applicants should submit a CSS Profile application before November 15 for Early Decision or January 15 for Early Decision 2 and Regular Decision.  Returning students should complete the CSS Profile each year by November 1.



For a child or other person to be considered your dependent, they must live with you and you must provide them with more than half of their support. Parents cannot both claim the same child as a dependent if they file separate tax returns.


Entrance Counseling

Entrance counseling reviews the borrower’s rights and responsibilities and the terms of the borrower’s loans. First time federal loan borrowers must complete entrance counseling before their federal loans disburse to their account 


Expected Family Contribution

The expected family contribution (EFC) is a measure of the family’s financial strength. It is a minimum measure of the family’s share of college costs. It is used to determine the student’s eligibility for student financial aid in the calculation of financial need. Despite the name, it is not the amount of money the family will pay for college. Most families will pay more than the EFC because the financial aid offer may include loans and/or student employment.



The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a form that collects your family's financial information to determine your eligibility for Federal aid programs. If you're applying for financial aid from Holy Cross, you must submit a FAFSA. To complete the application, see FAFSA's website. Please note the 2024-2025 FAFSA will not be released until December 2023.

Incoming freshman applicants should submit a FAFSA before November 15 for Early Decision or January 15 for Early Decision 2 and Regular Decision; returning students should submit an updated FAFSA by November 1.


FAFSA FTI Approval

Formal approval granted by an applicant and any applicable contributors for a given FAFSA cycle (for example: December 2023 to September 2025 for the 2024-25 FAFSA form) to retrieve and use FTI to determine an applicant’s federal financial aid eligibility as well as permit the redisclosure of FTI by the Department to an eligible institution; state higher education agency; or a designated scholarship organization for the application, award, and administration of student aid programs. IMPORTANT: An applicant and contributor (if applicable) must provide approval once each year. If FAFSA FTI approval is not provided, the student will not be eligible for any Title IV aid until the approval is provided by each contributor.


FAFSA Submission Summary

Formerly known as the Student Aid Report (SAR); the student’s output document providing a summary of data input on the FAFSA form.


Family Size

Formerly known as “household size” on FAFSA form; the number of family members and dependents in the applicant’s household as determined from the tax return.


Federal Direct Parent PLUS Loan

Federal Direct Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students, which allow parents with good credit to borrow each year up to the cost of education minus financial aid.


Federal Direct Loan

A federally-funded student loan program. To learn more about Federal Direct Loans, visit the Federal Student Aid website


Federal Direct Subsidized Loan 

A federal student loan where a borrower isn’t generally responsible for paying interest while in an in-school, grace, or deferment period. This loan is based on financial need. 


Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan 

An unsubsidized loan offers students a lower fixed interest rate and flexible repayment terms. It’s not based on financial need.


Federal Methodology

A type of need analysis using the information presented on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Federal Methodology determines financial need for federal aid according to the regulations set by the U.S. Department of Education.


Federal Pell Grant

The largest federal aid program, in which students receive offers directly from the federal government. It is designed to assist students from low-income households. To qualify for a Pell Grant, a student must demonstrate financial need by completing and submitting the FAFSA form. 


Federal SEOG

The Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, a limited, federally-provided fund which Holy Cross allocates to its most needy students. Students eligible for Pell Grants will receive first consideration.


Federal Work-Study (FWS)

A federal program offered and administered by the College that provides opportunity for part-time employment to students with financial need to help pay non-billed costs. Funds are paid out through a paycheck, as earned.


Financial Aid 

Financial aid is money to help pay for college. 



An FSA ID consists of a username and password which gives you access to the U.S. Department of Education’s online systems and also serves as your legal signature when completing electronic documents such as the FAFSA.


Federal Tax Information (FTI)

Data and information related to federal tax paying. It includes a return or return information received directly from the IRS or obtained through an authorized secondary source such as the U.S. Department of Education. FTI also includes any information created by the recipient that is derived from a federal return or return information received from the IRS or obtained through an authorized secondary source. Other return information considered FTI includes the taxpayer's name; mailing address; identification numbers including Social Security number or employer identification number; any information extracted from a return, including names of dependents or the location of a business; information on whether a return was, is being, or will be examined or subject to other investigation or processing; information contained on transcripts of accounts; the fact that a return was filed or examined; investigation or collection history; or tax balance due information.


FUTURE Act Direct Data Exchange (FA-DDX)

FA-DDX  replaces the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) to transfer an individual’s FTI to the Department. This data transfer is now required and is no longer optional.


Gift Aid

Gift aid can include awards with titles such as grants, scholarships, remissions, awards, waivers, etc. Gift aid can be awarded based upon many factors, including financial need and merit (academic, athletic, musical). Merit scholarships will be renewed each year provided that you continue to make good academic progress and maintain a satisfactory disciplinary record. Need-based grants can change each year based on changes in income, assets, and the number of dependents enrolled as undergraduate students in a college or university.



A type of financial aid based on financial need that the student does not have to repay.


Institutional Methodology

A type of need analysis using the information presented on the CSS Profile. Institutional Methodology provides a fair and equitable determination of a family’s financial need for Holy Cross funded aid.



Through the Institutional Documentation Service (IDOC), the College Board collects families' federal tax returns and other documents on behalf of the College of the Holy Cross.  The Financial Aid office can then review students' documents electronically. All tax documentation is required to be submitted through IDOC; we cannot accept tax documentation through email or in our office. 


Legal Guardianship

Legal guardianship is a designation by a court that authorizes someone to care for an individual in place or absence of parents. If you are under a legal guardianship, you would be considered an independent student. 


Master Promissory Note (MPN)

The MPN is a legal document in which you promise to repay your loan(s) and any accrued interest and fees to the US Department of Education or other entity for private loans. It also explains the terms and conditions of your loan(s); for instance it will include information on how interest is calculated, when interest is charged, and deferment and cancellation provisions. Direct PLUS and Direct Subsidized / Unsubsidized loans have different MPNs. MPNs must be completed before loans are disbursed to a student’s account. 


Need/Financial Need

The difference between the COA and the SAI is the student’s financial need-the difference between the cost of attending the school and student’s resources. The financial aid notification is based on the amount of financial need. The process of determining a student’s need is known as need analysis. 


Net Costs

The amount of billed and non-billed costs remaining after all grants and scholarships are applied. Net cost can be covered through a variety of courses including: savings, income, and education loans. 


Non Billed Costs

Non-billed costs are estimated expenses that are not paid directly by the College, such as books, supplies, transportation, loan fees, and personal expenses.


ROTC Incentive Grants

Grants covering standard room charges for four-year Holy Cross students participating in the Navy, Army, or Air Force Reserve Officers Training Corps programs. For more on this, see "ROTC scholarships and stipends" on the Scholarships and Grants page.


Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP)

A student must make this in order to continue receiving federal or institutional aid. If students fail to maintain academic standing consistent with the school’s SAP policy, they are unlikely to meet the school’s graduation requirements, 



A form of financial aid given to undergraduate students to help pay for their education. Most scholarships are restricted to pay all or part of tuition expenses, though some scholarships also cover housing and meals. Scholarships are a form of gift aid and do not have to be repaid. Many scholarships are restricted to students in specific courses of study or with academic, athletic, or artistic talent.


Self-Help Aid

Financial aid in the forms of loans and student employment 


Student Aid Index (SAI)

Replaces the federal term of Expected Family Contribution; formal evaluation of a student’s approximate financial resources to contribute toward their postsecondary education for a specific award year.


Title IV

A category of federal educational aid that includes Federal Direct Loans, Pell Grants, the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant and Federal Work-Study.



Verification is a review process in which the financial aid office determines the accuracy of the information provided on the student’s financial aid application. If a student’s FAFSA is selected for verification, the college financial aid administrator will compare the info submitted on the FAFSA with independent documentation of the information, such as IRS tax transcripts and W-2 and 1099 forms. The U.S. Department of Education uses a risk-based model to select approximately one third of FAFSAs for verification.