Glossary of Frequently Used Financial Aid Terms
Understanding the following terms will help you easily navigate the federal financial aid1 process. Reference this list as you plan your funding for each term or when reviewing important aid documents.
Academic Year—Walden’s financial aid academic year is defined as three consecutive quarters or semesters for course-based programs. For Tempo Learning® Programs, the annual academic year is defined as 52 weeks and a specific number of credit equivalencies based on the program. Please refer to Walden's Office of Financial Aid Terms and Conditions for more information.
Aggregate Level—This is the maximum loan amount set by the federal government that students can receive over their entire academic career. Students can review their outstanding loan balances from Walden and any prior schools on StudentAid.gov.
Annual Award Year—The annual award year begins when the student begins classes (see Overlapping Loans for exceptions) and continues for three consecutive semesters or quarters. For example, the award year for a student on the quarter calendar that begins in winter would include winter, spring, and summer quarters. A second award year would include fall, winter, and spring quarters. Award years continue on a rolling basis until a program is completed. However, federal grant programs must follow a set award year that runs from July 1 to June 30.
Please refer to Walden's Office of Financial Aid Terms and Conditions for the Tempo Learning® annual award year definition.
Annual Limit—The maximum amount of federal financial aid that a student can receive in an academic year. Annual limits differ by federal aid program.
Book Advance—A process that allows students who need assistance with the cost of books to receive an early payment of up to $500 against their future financial aid refund. Book advance processing begins no earlier than four weeks before the term begins.
Contributor—[Effective 2024-25 FAFSA® forward] Any individual required to provide consent and approval for federal tax information (FTI) along with their signature on the FAFSA® form. This would include the student; the student’s spouse; a biological or adoptive parent; or the parent’s spouse (stepparent).
Cost of Attendance (COA)—The estimated combined cost for tuition, fees, books, course materials, supplies, equipment, living expenses (food and housing), transportation and personal expenses for a particular program within an award year. A financial aid offer cannot exceed the student’s cost of attendance.
Disbursement—A disbursement occurs when the government sends federal loans and grants to the school to pay a student’s bill (tuition, fees, and book advance). If the disbursed amount is greater than the student’s billed amount, a refund is created. The school sends the refund to the student by the student’s selected payment method within 14 days following disbursement.
Drop—The process of dropping a course any time before the start or within the add/drop period without any tuition charges and without it appearing on your transcript. In addition, federal funds may have to be returned to federal programs, which could result in the student owing a balance to Walden (see Return of Title IV Funds), depending on the date of drop.
Eligibility—Eligibility for loans and grants can stop or change depending on many different factors. There are three broad categories of eligibility rules:
- Basic rules—Overall requirements include, but are not limited to, being admitted into an eligible program, having a valid social security number (few exceptions), being a U.S citizen or eligible noncitizen, graduating from high school or receiving an equivalent, not being in default on a federal student loan, and confirming financial information on the FAFSA if selected for the verification process.
- Year in school rules—The amount of federal aid a student receives depends on degree level, progression toward completion, and total amount of federal aid previously used for prior learning at Walden or other institutions.
- Registration rules—The amount of federal aid a student receives depends on the number of credits the student is taking each term. A minimum number of credits are required to qualify for federal aid, and only courses that count toward degree requirements can be counted for federal aid purposes.
Expected Family Contribution (EFC)—[Used through 2023-24 FAFSA] The amount of money that a student is expected to contribute toward their education according to the federal FAFSA results. The EFC is used to determine if undergraduate students qualify for need-based Pell Grants or federal subsidized loans.
Federal Financial Aid Programs—These programs include the federally funded grants and loans offered to students to pay for their education. The government funds are sent directly to the school on behalf of the student for bill payment and refund processing. Federal financial aid programs are highly regulated with strict rules set by the U.S. Department of Education, but there may be differences in how schools administer the programs. We strongly recommend that you familiarize yourself with Walden’s Office of Financial Aid Terms and Conditions and contact the Office of Financial Aid anytime you want to make an enrollment or program change.
Federal Pell Grant—A federal grant generally awarded to undergraduate students who have not yet earned a bachelor’s or professional degree. The amount a student receives depends on their financial need, cost of attendance (COA), how many credits they are enrolled for, and whether they are attending for a full academic year or less.
Federal Perkins Loan—Walden does not participate in this loan program.
Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)—A federal grant awarded to undergraduate students who are enrolled in their first undergraduate program of study and who have exceptional financial need. Funding is extremely limited. Pell Grant recipients with the highest need will be considered first for FSEOG until funds are exhausted.
Federal Direct Loans—
- Subsidized Loan—A federal need-based loan available only to undergraduate students. The U.S. Department of Education pays the interest on this loan while the student is enrolled at least half-time in school.
- Unsubsidized Loan—A federal loan available to undergraduate and graduate students and is not need-based. Eligibility is not based on need or credit history. The student pays the accruing interest while enrolled in school, unless the student arranges to postpose their interest payments.
- Graduate PLUS Loan—A federal loan available to graduate students enrolled at least half time who do not have an adverse credit history. Students may borrow up to the cost of attendance minus any other financial aid received. Students are responsible for the interest that accrues, beginning on the date the loan is disbursed, but payment may be deferred.
- Parent PLUS Loan—A federal loan available to all parents of dependent undergraduate students regardless of income. Qualification is solely based on good credit. Parents may borrow up to the total education costs for the year, minus any other financial aid that the student is receiving. Repayment begins 60 calendar days after the loan has fully disbursed, unless a deferment is requested. During any period that a payment is not required, interest will still accrue on the loan.
Financial Aid Offer—The school’s official determination of a student’s federal loan and grant amounts for the award year. Financial aid offers can include loans that must be repaid or grants that generally are not repaid.
Financial Need—The difference between the cost of attendance (COA) and the family’s ability to pay for school. The amount is used to determine the student’s eligibility for need-based aid. For award years through 2023-24 if the COA is $30,000 and the expected family contribution (EFC) is $10,000, then the financial need amount is $20,000. For award years starting in 2024-25, if the COA is $30,000 and the student aid index (SAI) is $10,000, then the financial need amount is $20,000.
Free Application for Federal Student Aid® (FAFSA®)—FAFSA® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Education. All students who wish to receive federal financial assistance for college must complete the application and send it to the institution(s) they will attend. Students can complete the online FAFSA® at https://studentaid.gov/h/apply-for-aid/fafsa.
Leave of Absence (LOA)—A student who requests to take a break from school without having to withdraw from the university applies for a leave of absence. Students must apply for a leave of absence, not to exceed six months, through Walden’s Office of Academic Advising. For federal financial aid purposes, an LOA (for course-based programs) is considered the same as a drop or withdrawal, and federal loans and grants may have to be returned to federal programs, which may result in students owing a tuition balance to Walden (see Return of Title IV Funds). When a student loan borrower begins a leave of absence, the student must begin repaying outstanding student loans.
Please refer to Walden's Office of Financial Aid Terms and Conditions for the Tempo Learning® loan information.
Loan Period—The period assigned to a Direct Loan is typically the same as the three-term annual award year that includes three disbursements—one for each term. However, in instances of an overlapping loan, a loan period can be one or two terms and, therefore, may not directly match the annual award year.
Please refer to Walden’s Office of Financial Aid Terms and Conditions for the Tempo Learning® loan information.
Origination—A school-initiated electronic process that “registers” data about each Direct Loan—such as amount, loan period, and disbursement dates—with the U.S. Department of Education. Once the school determines a student’s financial aid offer amount and all additional steps are completed, the school originates the loan with the U.S. Department of Education’s system—Common Origination and Disbursement (COD). The department communicates to Walden if the loan has been accepted or rejected in the COD system. Once it is accepted by COD, the loan record moves to the disbursement stage. Generally, Walden will originate a student loan at least one week before the loan period begins.
Overlapping Financial Aid—Federal regulations require schools to monitor annual award year rules when the student changes schools or programs. When a student receives financial aid at one school and then attends another school during the same annual award year, the new school must adjust the financial aid amount to ensure that a student is not offered financial aid beyond their eligibility. This can also happen if a Walden student changes from a semester-based program to a quarter-based program or changes modalities.
Participation—Student participation is the academic engagement of a student within their academic courses. A predetermined level of participation is required to receive a federal aid disbursement. Students who stop participating during the term or payment period may have to return funds to the federal programs and may owe a tuition balance to Walden (see Return of Title IV Funds).
Primary or Custodial Parent—For a dependent student whose parents are divorced or separated, the primary or custodial parent is the parent who provides the greater portion of the student’s financial support and is required to provide their information (and if applicable their spouse’s information) on the FAFSA form.
Refund—Once financial aid is disbursed to the Walden student account to pay for tuition, fees, and book advance (if any), any remaining financial aid is sent to the student as a refund. This process has two steps:
- Refund Processing—The school disburses federal funds for the term/payment period to the Walden student account to pay tuition, fees, and, if present, the book advance.
- Refund Release—Walden sends the refund for the term/payment period to the student by the student’s chosen method within 14 calendar days of the disbursement date.
Renewal—Financial aid is offered for another award year using the same FAFSA that was used for the prior award year. Not all students are eligible for renewal and may be required to complete a new FAFSA for every new award year.
Return of Title IV Funds (R2T4)—Federal regulations require Walden’s Office of Financial Aid to apply a formula established by the U.S. Department of Education called Return of Title IV Funds (R2T4) to determine the amount of federal financial aid a student has earned as of the student’s official or unofficial withdrawal date. The amount of federal financial aid returned to federal aid programs is determined by the amount of time a student spends in an academically related activity (see Participation). Please refer to Walden’s Office of Financial Aid Terms and Conditions for more information.
Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP)—A federal requirement to maintain a set of minimum academic progress standards in order to be eligible for federal financial aid. These standards are separate and distinct from Walden’s academic progress standards. Regardless of a student’s academic standing with Walden, if a student does not meet federal SAP standards, they could lose eligibility for financial aid. There are three academic progress standards for SAP:
- Minimum course completion rate—Students must complete 67% of their attempted courses at Walden University
- Minimum cumulative program GPA—2.0 undergraduate*/3.0 graduate
- Maximum time frame—Varies by program (please refer to Walden's Office of Financial Aid Terms and Conditions)
*Some Walden bachelor's programs have GPA requirements that are higher than 2.0. The minimum financial aid GPA requirement will be the same as the University GPA requirement for those programs. Please refer to the Walden Student Handbook for your program GPA requirement.
Please refer to Walden's Office of Financial Aid Terms and Conditions for the Tempo Learning® SAP requirements.
Student Aid Index (SAI)—[Effective 2024-25 FAFSA] Replaces the expected family contribution (EFC) and is an evaluation of the student’s financial resources to contribute toward their education according to the federal FAFSA results. The SAI is used to determine if undergraduate students qualify for need-based Pell Grants or federal subsidized loans.
Unusual Enrollment History (UEH)—The U.S. Department of Education added the Unusual Enrollment History (UEH) Flag to the ISIR (Institutional Student Information Record) to indicate whether students have an unusual enrollment history in regard to the receipt of Federal Pell Grant and/or Federal Direct Loan funds (not including a Direct Consolidation Loan, Perkins Loan or a Parent PLUS loan). The U.S. Department of Education enforced this process to determine if recipients were enrolling with the sole purpose of collecting Title IV credit balances.
Verification—In accordance with U.S. Department of Education regulations, Walden University is required to verify the accuracy of financial aid application information for selected students. The U.S. Department of Education and/or Walden University may randomly select students for verification or may select students based on predetermined criteria. Students selected for verification are required to submit additional information. Additional information for the verification process may include but is not limited to the following: IRS tax return transcripts/signed 1040 tax returns and schedules, W-2s, IRS verification of non-filing, identification documents, and a signed Statement of Educational Purpose.
Withdrawal—This occurs when a student withdraws from a course after the add/drop period or when a student officially leaves the university. The course withdrawal is noted on the transcript, and the student will be charged tuition for the course. In addition, federal funds may have to be returned to federal programs, which may result in the student owing a balance to Walden (see Return of Title IV Funds), depending on the date of withdrawal.