Financial Aid Dictionary

Financial Aid Counselors very quickly learn a new vocabulary when they begin reviewing and processing student applicants.  Here are some of the most frequently used terms and what they mean.

COA – Cost of Attendance

This is the estimated costs to attend school for one academic year.  It is made up of items that will be included on your bill (i.e. tuition, on campus room, on campus meal plan) and those expenses that you will not be billed for (i.e. books, personal expenses, travel)

EFC – Expected Family Contribution

Once your FAFSA is submitted and completed you will receive your EFC.  This number should not be taken literally, it is used by the Financial Aid Office to determine what aid programs you qualify for and how much you may receive from particular programs.

FAFSA – Free Application for Federal Student Aid

The FAFSA is the Department of Education’s form that you are required to complete every year if you would like to be considered for any type of federal or state need based financial aid.  The application is most easily accessed on the FAFSA website.


This is a calculation that takes your COA (cost of attendance) minus your EFC (expected family contribution), the result is your need, or the amount of additional funding that may need to be secured to pay your educational expenses

FSAID – FAFSA Username and Password

The FSAID is your electronic signature for the FAFSA.  Both students and parents are required to have an FSAID username and password to complete the online application.  You can apply for a FSAID at

SAR – Student Aid Report

Your SAR summarizes the information you submit on your FAFSA and provides you with your EFC.

Subsidized Loan

A loan for which the borrower is not responsible for the interest while in school, during the grace period, or in a deferment status.

Unsubsidized Loan

A loan for which the borrower is responsible for paying the interest regardless of the loan status, interest on an unsubsidized loan accrues from the date of disbursement and continues throughout the life of the loan.


Verification is a process where Radford University confirms the data reported on your FAFSA.  Additional documentation is requested from students and parents for applications that are selected for verification.

Definitions above are revised but provided by the Department of Education Student Aid on the Web.