Financial Aid Glossary

Cost of attendance (COA)

This includes the cost of tuition, room & meals, and books.

SAI (Student Aid Index)

A standardized formula based on information provided by the family on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is used to help colleges and universities determine a family’s Ability to Pay.

Financial need

This is simply the difference between the COA and the SAI. While the COA will vary from school to school, the SAI remains constant. Thus, financial need will vary from school to school.

Financial aid

In general, financial aid refers to those resources (other than the family’s personal resources) that are used to pay the costs of attendance. Financial aid consists of grants (usually based on financial need), scholarships (usually based on academic performance or other merits), low interest loans, and on-campus employment (for example, the Federal Work-Study Program). In some cases, financial aid may actually exceed financial need. However, this “overaward” situation is not allowed if any of the financial aid is based on financial need. Grants and scholarships are always awarded first. If additional aid is needed to meet financial need, then on-campus student employment and need-based student loans are awarded.

Subsidized and unsubsidized loans

These terms refer to “interest characteristics” of loans. With a “subsidized” loan, the federal government pays the interest while a student is enrolled. By contrast, the student is responsible for the interest on an “unsubsidized” loan. Repayment of student loans, both subsidized and unsubsidized, can be deferred until after graduation. Accrued interest on an unsubsidized loan is “capitalized” prior to repayment. The amount of financial need relative to other aid received determines whether or not a student loan is subsidized. For example, if a particular student’s financial need is $20,000 and grants, scholarships, and student employment total $10,000, the student would be eligible for a $3,500 subsidized loan. The remaining loan eligibility will be a $2,000 unsubsidized. Parent loans are not subsidized. EMU sends comprehensive descriptions of student and parent loan programs along with the initial packet of application forms (in January) and with the financial aid notification.

Cash payment

To calculate the cash payment, the total amount of financial aid is subtracted from the cost of attendance. On-campus employment is considered financial aid. However, since this aid is received bi-weekly beginning mid-September and is based on actual hours worked, employment eligibility should be excluded when determining cash payment.

Monthly payment plan

EMU uses the services of CASHNet, to provide students and families with the option of making monthly payments, beginning in July, instead of making a single cash payment at the beginning of each semester.  For more information regarding payment options visit the EMU Business Office.

Financial Aid Notification letter

This “letter” is the method by which the Financial Assistance Office informs a prospective student of the types and amounts of financial aid he or she is eligible to receive. Revised financial aid notification letters are emailed to students whenever changes occur in eligibility as a result of corrected or additional information that is relevant to the financial aid application process.


The federal government requires a financial aid office to verify the data reported on the FAFSA of selected students. When a file is selected for verification, students and parents will be requested to provide the Financial Assistance Office with copies of tax returns and to complete one or more additional documents.

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