Financial Aid

Types of Aid

Financial Aid

Glossary of Terms

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Sometimes the world of financial aid can seem confusing. Because of this, Northwest University has assembled this list of different financial aid terms you may come across. This glosssary is modified from the “Financial Aid Glossary” as seen on FastWeb by Kay Peterson, Ph.D.

Academic Year

The period in which school is in session. For Northwest University, the period is typically late August through early May.

Accrual Date

The date on which interest charges on an education loan begin to accrue.


Cash in checking and savings accounts, trusts, stocks, bonds, other securities, real estate (excluding primary residence), income-producing property, business equipment, and business inventory. Considered in determining Expected Family Contribution (EFC).

Asset Protection Allowance

The portion of the parents’ assets that are not included in the calculation of the parent contribution (calculated by the Federal Methodology formula).

Associate Degree

A two-year college degree.

Award Letter

Official letter from the financial aid office of the college that lists all of the financial aid for which the student is eligible.

Bachelor’s Degree

A four-year college degree.


The estimated cost of attendance for a student at an institution. Used to determine the maximum financial aid a student is eligible for. Typically includes tuition, fees, book, supplies, room and board, personal expenses, and transportation.

Campus-Based Programs

U.S. Department of Education federal student aid programs administered by colleges and universities. Includes Federal Perkins Loan, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) and Federal Work Study.

Central Processing System (CPS)

The computer system that receives the student Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The Central Processing System performs database matches and calculates the official Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and send out the Student Aid Report (SAR).

Commuter Student

A student who lives at home and commutes to school.

Consolidation Loan

Loan that allows the borrower to lower their monthly payments by combining their original loans into one loan. Consolidation loans typically have longer repayment periods and greater interest accrual. Borrower benefits may be affected.


Individual who assumes responsibility for a loan if the borrow fails to repay. Student are typically required to have a co-signer when they are applying for a student loan (non-federal loans) from a bank.

Cost of Attendance

See budget.

Custodial Parent

In cases where a student’s parents are divorced or separated, the custodial parent is the parent with whom the student lived with the most during the past 12 months. If the student did not live with either parent during the past 12 months, then the custodial parent would be the parent with whom the student last lived with.


Failure to repay or otherwise meet the terms and condition of a loan. Default typically occurs after six months of delinquent payments. Penalties include a bad credit rating, loss of future financial aid eligibility, withholding of tax refunds, garnishing of wages, and loss of monthly payment options.


Period during which the repayment of loan is suspended because the borrow meets certain eligibility requirements (e.g. enrolled in college at least half-time).


Failure to make a scheduled loan payment.

Dependency Status

Status that determines if parental information is required on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). There are two status’:

1. Dependent Students: required to provide parental information on the FAFSA.
2. Independent Students: not required to provide parental information on the FAFSA.

Dependency status is determined by seven questions:

1. Will you be 24 by January 1st?
2. Will you be working on a graduate or professional degree?
3. Are you married as of the day you file the FAFSA?
4. Do you have children whom you provide more than half of their support?
5. Do you have legal dependents (other than children or spouse) that you provide more than half of their support?
6. Are you an orphan or a ward/dependent of the court until age 18?
7. Are you a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces?

You are considered Dependent if you answer “No” to all the questions. You are considered Independent if you can answer “Yes” to at least one of the questions.


The process by which financial funds are made available to students for use in meeting educational expenses. Funds are applied directly to the student’s account, although some funds may be disbursed directly to the student (i.e. WA State Aid).

For Northwest University, a student’s financial aid is credited to their account in equal disbursements per semester after the add/drop period, and after all of their documentation has been submitted and reviewed. The amount disbursed each semester is indicated on your award letter. For example, a $1,000 grant will be disbursed $500 for Fall Semester and $500 for Spring Semester.

Enrollment Status

Status determined by how many credits you are enrolled for. The amount you are eligible for in financial aid is determined by the student’s enrollment status. Typically students must be enrolled at least half-time to qualify for financial aid.

Some Northwest University Institutional Aid requires full-time status. The chart below outlines credits and status’ at Northwest University:

Credits Status
0 – 5 Less than half-time
6 – 8 Half-time
9 – 11 Three-quarters time
12+ Full-time

Expected Family Contribution (EFC)

The dollar amount that a family is expected to pay toward their student’s educational costs. EFC is based on family earnings (parent and student), assets, family size, and the number of family members in college.


See Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

Family Contribution

See Expected Family Contribution (EFC).

Federal Methodology

The need analysis formula used to determine a family’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The Federal Methodology considers taxable and nontaxable income and assets, family size, and the number of family members in college.

Federal Pell Grant

Federal grant program for undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need according to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Federal Perkins Loan

Low interest (5%) Federal loan for students with exceptional financial need as determined by the Free Application for Federal Student aid and the University.

Federal PLUS Loans (Parent Loans for Undergraduate Students)

Federal loans available to parents of dependent students to help finance their child’s education. Parents may borrow up to the difference between educational costs and the financial aid their child is already receiving.

Federal Processor

The Federal Processor is the organization that processes the information submitted on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and uses it to compute eligibility for federal student aid.

Federal Stafford Loan

Federally-guaranteed, low-interest rate loan for students. There are two types of Federal Stafford Loans: subsidized (need-based) and unsubsidized (non need-based). Both types allow deferment of payments until a student leaves school.

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)

These are federal grants for students with exception financial need as determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and the University.

Federal Work Study (FWS)

Federally sponsored Work Study Program provided undergraduate and graduate students with school-year part-time employment. Eligibility is based on financial need. These employment opportunities would be on-campus for Northwest University.

Financial Aid Administrator

Also referred to as Financial Aid Counselor. University employee responsible for preparing and communicating information about student loans, grants, scholarships, and employment programs to students and agencies. Also responsible for advising, awarding, reporting, counseling, and supervising student financial aid office functions.

Financial Aid Package

The total amount of financial aid a student receives, including grants, loans, and work study. The financial aid package is reported to the student on the award letter.

Financial Need

The difference between the student’s educational costs and the Expected Family Contribution (EFC).

Fixed Interest Loans

Interest rate stays the same throughout life of the loan (e.g. Stafford Loan).


The approved temporary suspension of loan payments due to a financial hardship (interest continues to accrue). Forbearance is granted by the lender.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

The Federal application used to apply for most forms of financial aid. Apply for FAFSA online.

Gift Aid

Grants and scholarships that do not need to be repaid.

Grace Period

The period after a student either graduates or leaves school and before loan payments must begin (typically six to nine months).


Financial aid that does not have to be repaid – typically based on financial need.

Guarantee Fee

A percentage of the loan that is paid to the guarantor to insure the loan against default. The fee is usually 1% of the loan amount.


A state agency or private, nonprofit organization that insures the loan against default with the guarantee fee.

Income Contingent Repayment

Payments where the size of the monthly payments depends on the income earned by the borrower. As the borrower’s income increases, so do the payments.

Institutional Methodology

A formula some schools devise to determine financial need for allocating their own institutional financial aid funds.


A bank, credit union, or other financial institution that provides funds to the student or parent for their educational loans.

Master Promissory Note

A legally binding contract a student signs for the Stafford Loans. This promissory note only needs to be signed once at the attending college or university and can be used to request additional Stafford Loans for up to 10 years. The promissory note details the terms of the loan and obligates the borrower to repay.

Merit-based Aid

Financial aid based on academic, artistic, athletic, or other merit-oriented criteria. This financial aid is not need-based.

Needs Analysis

The process used by a college to evaluate an applicant’s financial resources and determine how much the student or family can pay toward the cost of the education.


A financial aid administrator’s attempt at combining various types of student aid (grants, loans, scholarships, and employment) to help meet a student’s financial need.

Parents’ Contribution

A quantitative estimate of the parents’ ability to contribute to postsecondary educational expenses.


The amount borrowed or owed on a loan.

Professional Judgment

For need-based Federal aid programs, financial aid administrators can adjust the available income of the family, the cost of attendance, or change the dependency status (with documentation) when extenuating circumstances exist.

Northwest University recognizes that an individual student may be facing extenuating circumstances such as a change of employment (such as reduction in pay, decrease in hours, or loss of employment), medical expenses not covered by insurance, tuition paid for a family member attending a private school (K-12), or emergency situations. Please communicate your special circumstance to the Financial Aid Services Office. A form can be sent to you where you can document the special circumstances and we will determine if any additional aid is available. Please allow 4 weeks for processing.

Promissory Note

A legally binding contract a student signs before receiving loan funds. The promissory note needs to be signed for each loan requested. The promissory note details the terms of the loan and obligates the borrower to repay. The parent would sign the promissory note for the PLUS Loan.

Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP)

A school’s policy concerning the minimum number of courses that must be completed each semester, the maximum time frame, and the minimum GPA required to receive financial aid.

Northwest University’s Satisfactory Academic Progress Policy contains the following guidelines:

Class Credits GPA
Freshman 1-29 1.7
Sophomore 30-59 1.9
Junior 60-89 2.0
Senior 90+ 2.0

In addition to the GPA requirements outlined above, the student must complete at least 67% of the credit hours attempted each semester (any classes withdrawn from are still considered attempted). If a student completes less than 67% of the credits attempted, they will be given a warning for unsatisfactory academic progress during the next period of enrollment.

Student’s who do not complete at least six credits during one term will have their financial aid suspended for the next term. In addition, students who are on probation for two consecutive semesters will be suspended from financial aid for the next term.

Northwest University understands that students sometimes cannot maintain satisfactory academic progress due to extenuating circumstances. Students may appeal their status by submitting a written appeal.

For a detailed copy of Northwest University’s Satisfactory Academic Progress Policy, please contact the Financial Aid Services Office at 425.889.5210.


A form of financial assistance that does not need to be repaid. Scholarships are generally offered to students who show potential for distinction, or who possess certain characteristics important to the scholarship provider (such as academic performance, talent, hobbies, ethnicity, etc.)

Secondary Market

An organization that buys loans from lenders, which provides the lender with the capital to issue new loans (i.e. SallieMae).


An organization that is paid by a lender to administer their student loan portfolio.

Simplified Needs Test

An alternative method of calculating the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) for families with adjusted gross incomes less than $50,000, who have filed or are eligible to file an IRS Form 1040A or 1040 EZ, or who are not required to file an income tax return.

Student Aid Report (SAR)

The official report sent to the student after submitting the FAFSA. It contains the responses to the FAFSA question as well as the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and allows you to make any necessary corrections for re-submittal.

Student Contribution

A quantitative estimate of the student’s ability to contribute to their postsecondary education expenses.

Title IV Programs

Federal student aid programs authorized under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended. Includes Federal Pell Grant, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, Federal Work Study, Federal Perkins Loan, Federal Stafford (Subsidized and Unsubsidized) Loan, and Federal PLUS Loan.

Undergraduate Student

A student who has not yet received a bachelor’s degree.

Unmet Need

The difference between a student’s total cost of attendance at a specific institution and the student’s total available resources, including financial aid.


The review process in which the financial aid administrator requests documentation from the family to verify the accuracy of the data on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

For Northwest University, if you are selected for verification, any additional documentation that is needed will be communicated to you through your Award Letter. After all documents have been submitted and reviewed, any corrections to the data will be submitted to the Department of education (if need be). A revised Award Letter will be sent to you notifying you of the completion of verification and if there are specific actions needed. Your award(s) will not be disbursed, and Federal Stafford Loans will not be originated until verification is complete.

Washington State Work Study

Washington State sponsored Work Study Program provides undergraduate and graduate students with school-year part-time employment. Eligibility is based on financial need. These employment opportunities would be off-campus for Northwest University. Read more about the Work Study Program.


The ability of an enrolled student to either cease attending certain courses, or cease attending all courses.

For Northwest University, if you withdraw from specific courses, those courses are considered “attempted” and therefore are included in calculating whether satisfactory academic progress was made.

In regards to Northwest University’s total withdrawal policy, if you have received financial aid during the semester in which you are totally withdrawing, you are not considered to be making satisfactory academic progress. Future aid will be cancelled and you will not be eligible to receive additional financial aid. You will receive information as to what you must do to regain eligibility for financial aid should you choose to return to Northwest University.

According to federal regulations, federal funds must be returned to federal programs based on the percent of the term that a student is no longer enrolled. The Financial Aid Services Office will determine how much of a student’s federal aid was “unearned” as defined by the federal regulations, and then return the “unearned” aid in the following order to the programs from which the student received the aid:

  1. Federal Unsubsidized Stafford Loan
  2. Federal Subsidized Stafford Loan
  3. Federal Perkins Loan
  4. Federal PLUS Loan
  5. Federal Pell Grant
  6. Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)
  7. Other Title IV Programs

In addition, Northwest University grants and scholarships will be removed from the student’s account during the semester of withdrawal. Northwest University's withdrawal policy.

Work Study

An employment program designed to facilitate part-time work. Read more about the Work Study Program.