We understand that financial aid has its own language, and we have developed this glossary to assist you as you navigate this process.


You can file an appeal to request more financial aid if there is new information that affects your family's ability to meet the expected family contribution, or if there is an aspect of your application you think may have been misunderstood during the review.  Additionally, if you received a more favorable need-based aid offer from another Ivy League institution, Stanford, Duke, or MIT, we welcome the opportunity to review the offer and will strive to calculate the same eligibility based on the information provided.
Academic year:
The time period in which your academic work must be completed. Cornell’s standard academic year consists of a fall semester (Aug-Dec) and a spring semester (Jan-May).
*Financial aid is based on the academic year and evaluated annually.
Award Offer:
An official document, issued by the Financial Aid office, describing a student’s full financial aid eligibility for the academic year. This offer includes your student and parent contributions, the cost of attendance, and the amounts and types of financial aid available to you. If you applied for financial aid and do not qualify, you will receive a notification letter explaining this. 
*Financial aid award offers may be revised at the discretion of the financial aid office based on changes in family circumstance or additional information.


The person who assumes legal obligations for the repayment of a loan principal plus any interest accrued. In the case of a Federal Direct Loan, Gardner/Shoemaker Loans, or a Federal Grad PLUS Loan the borrower is you, the student. In the case of the Federal Direct Parent PLUS Loan, the borrower is the parent.
The college administrator whose office manages billing and payment. The student account and the monthly bill are both administered by the Bursar’s Office. All financial aid funds are sent through the Bursar’s Office for disbursement into each student’s account.


Cost of Attendance (COA):
An estimate of the total costs for an academic year at Cornell. COA includes tuition and fees; room and board; and allowances for books, travel, and personal expenses. After subtracting the expected parent contribution and student contribution, financial aid covers the remaining cost of attendance. Your specific tuition rate will be based on New York state residency and which Cornell undergraduate college you attend. Students may qualify for aid to cover educational expenses exceeding the COA by requesting a Cost of Attendance Appeal.
Cost of Attendance Appeal:
If your actual expenses exceed Cornell’s budgeted cost to attend, we can award more loan or work funding to help you meet your actual costs through the Undergraduate Student Appeal Form. A common example of an increase to a student’s cost of attendance is for the Student Health Plan (SHP) expense.
CSS Profile:
This application must be completed by all students who wish to be considered for institutional financial aid at Cornell. Apply online at the CSS PROFILE website.
Custodial Parent/Household:
In situations where a student’s biological (or adoptive) parents are divorced, separated, or were never married, the custodial parent is defined as the biological (or adoptive) parent with whom the student lives more than 50% of the year. The custodial household will complete the FAFSA and all other required application materials. Cornell will review financial information for the custodial and noncustodial parents, and combine them to calculate the expected family contribution.


Data Retrieval Tool (DRT):
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) allows students and parents to access the IRS tax return information needed to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and transfer the data directly into their FAFSA from the IRS website. The Data Retrieval Tool is one of two options to satisfy the federal verification tax data requirement (the other option is an IRS tax return transcript).
Failure to repay a loan according to the terms agreed to in the master promissory note. For most federal student loans, default will occur if no payment has been made in more than 270 days (unless the borrower has requested & received a deferment or forbearance). Borrowers may experience serious legal consequences if they default; borrowers having difficulty making monthly payments can sometimes choose a different repayment plan to continue making payments & avoid default.
A postponement of required payments on a loan, allowed under certain conditions (such as graduate school enrollment). During a deferment, interest does not accrue on subsidized student loans.
Dependency Status:
The definition of an applicant as dependent or independent of parent finances in determining financial aid eligibility. If you are admitted to Cornell as a dependent student, you will remain as such for your time at Cornell. Even if you are considered independent for federal aid purposes, Cornell may consider you to be a dependent of your parents. If you believe you should be considered independent, contact our office to discuss your individual circumstances.
*Remember, dependency status for financial aid is unrelated to dependency for federal tax purposes.
The process by which funds are made available to students for use in meeting educational expenses. Financial aid funds and direct payments are disbursed to each student’s account (administered by the Bursar) to first pay any billed charges: tuition, fees, on-campus room and board, and any expenses not included in the Cost of Attendance, such as health insurance.


Employment Earnings Expectation (EEE):
The amount you are expected to earn through working during the academic year. EEE is a non-need based self-help component of your financial aid package. It is similar to Federal Work Study in that students are paid for 100% of their earnings, but no portion of the earnings paid are reimbursed to the employer.
Endowed Scholarship:
Students who are eligible for Cornell University Grants may also be eligible to receive a named endowed scholarship. Especially meaningful, these scholarships are established by individuals who care deeply about Cornell and its students. A named endowed scholarship does not change the total amount of financial aid awarded. You are automatically considered for these funds when you apply for financial aid and selection is based on a student’s best match with the donor’s criteria.


FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid):
The basis for federal financial aid eligibility which must be completed by all U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and other eligible non-citizens who wish to be considered for financial aid. Apply online at the federal student aid website. The FAFSA determines your eligibility for federal student aid. The CSS PROFILE and Cornell’s other application requirements determine your eligibility for institutional aid.
Family Contribution:
The expected family contribution combines the parent contribution and student contribution. When reviewing applications for parents who are divorced, separated, or were never married, Cornell will combine the contributions of both biological parents.
Federal Direct Loan:
A federal student loan, available through the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program, for which eligible students and parents borrow directly from the U.S. Department of Education at participating schools. Direct Subsidized Loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, Direct PLUS Loans and Graduate PLUS loans are types of Direct Loans. The Federal Direct Loan program replaced the Stafford Loan Program.
Federal Expected Family Contribution (EFC):
A measurement of family finances based on the information provided in the FAFSA. The EFC is reported on the Student Aid Report (SAR) and used to determine eligibility for federal financial aid-for example, the Pell Grant. Cornell’s calculated family contribution and subsequent aid eligibility are not based on the federal EFC but on our own need analysis.
Federal Methodology (FM):
The formulas used by the federal processor (via the FAFSA) to determine a student’s eligibility for federal (Title IV) financial aid funds. The formulas take into account income, certain assets, certain expenses, family size and other factors. Retirement savings, home equity and non-custodial parents are not considered; however, stepparent finances are included. Distinct from the Institutional Methodology (IM) formula, which is used to determine eligibility for Cornell financial aid funds.
Federal Work Study (FWS):
A form of need-based employment to help cover educational costs as part of the self-help component of the financial aid package. FWS eligibility is determined by your FAFSA. Your employer is reimbursed for a portion of your earnings from FWS by the Department of Education. Cornell students may be eligible for either FWS or Employment Earnings Expectation.
Financial Need:
The portion of the cost of attendance (COA) beyond a family’s ability to contribute to college, as determined by the Office of Financial Aid and Student Employment. Demonstrated financial need is equal to the COA minus the family contribution (including student and parent contributions). Cornell is committed to meeting 100% of demonstrated need.
A period during which monthly loan payments are temporarily suspended or reduced based on certain types of financial hardship. A lender may grant forbearance at a borrower’s request if the borrower is willing but unable to make loan payments. During forbearance, principal payments are postponed but interest continues to accrue; unpaid interest accrued during the forbearance will be added to the principal balance, increasing the total amount owed. Distinct from deferment, in which loan payments are temporarily suspended because a student meets predetermined conditions, such as graduate school attendance.


Grace Period:
A period of time after a borrower graduates, leaves school, or drops below half-time enrollment during which they are not required to make payments on certain federal student loans. Some federal student loans will accrue interest during the grace period, which will be added to the principal balance of the loan when the repayment period begins.
Financial aid that does not need to be repaid (free money). Many grants, including the Cornell Grant, are based on financial need, and your award may include institutional, state or federal grants. During the course of the academic year, your Cornell Grant may be replaced with a named, endowed scholarship.


Institutional Methodology (IM):
The formulas used to determine a student’s eligibility for Cornell financial aid funds. IM includes a review of income, assets, family size, home equity, and other factors; it also includes consideration of medical/dental expenses, elementary and secondary school tuition payments, and child support payments in determining a family’s total available income. In the case of divorced or separated parents, each biological parent is expected to contribute in proportion to their finances; however, stepparent finances are not included. Distinct from Federal Methodology (FM), which is used to determine eligibility for federal financial aid funds.
A loan expense charged for the use of borrowed money and paid by a borrower to a lender. Interest for federal student loans is calculated as a percentage of the unpaid loan principal amount.
Interest Rate:
The percentage at which interest is calculated on a loan.


A financial institution that provides loan funds to parents or students. For federal Direct Loans (including parent PLUS Loans), the Department of Education is the lender. For Gardner and Shoemaker Loans, Cornell is the lender. Lenders may use a loan servicer to coordinate the repayment of loans.
Student loans are a form of financial aid that must be repaid, generally after you graduate. As part of the awarding process, you may be awarded a need-based federal loan or a Cornell loan, or both. Many students and parents also choose to finance the parent contribution with private education loans.
Loan Origination Fee:
An administrative fee assessed by the lender and deducted from a loan before funds are made available. For example, if a student borrows $1,000 on a loan with an origination fee of 1%, $10 will be deducted from the total, with the remaining $990 being disbursed to the student account. The principal to be repaid in this example is still $1,000. Direct PLUS loan borrowers may request that the gross loan amount be increased to include the origination fee.
Loan Principal:
The amount originally borrowed. Simple daily interest is calculated based on the loan principal.
Loan Servicer:
An organization that manages loan payments and administrative functions on behalf of the lender. Students can look up the loan servicer by logging in to the National Student Loan Data System.


Master Promissory Note (MPN):
A binding legal document setting out the contractual terms of a loan. A signed master promissory note must be on file before loan funds can be disbursed to your Bursar account. Promissory notes for Direct and PLUS loans are signed online.
Funding distributed on the basis of academic, artistic, or athletic accomplishments or individual leadership, rather than a family’s ability to pay for college. Cornell does not provide merit-based scholarships; all funding is based on financial need.


Need Analysis:
The process by which financial aid officers assess each family’s ability to pay for the cost of a college education. The biggest factors in need analysis are income, assets, family size, and number of children in college; many other factors are incorporated to a lesser degree. The goal of need analysis is to provide an equitable and consistent assessment of each family’s unique financial situation.
Funding distributed on the basis of each family’s financial strength and ability to pay for college, primarily considering income, assets, family size and number of children in college. Cornell provides exclusively need-based financial aid. There are no merit-based awards available through Cornell.
Net Price Calculator:
A tool to estimate financial aid eligibility at Cornell based on family finances. The Net Price Calculator is the best source of early financial aid information for college planning. If you have a complicated financial situation and are unsure how to answer certain questions on the Net Price Calculator, please feel free to contact Financial Aid.
Noncustodial Parent/Household:
In situations where a student’s biological (or adoptive) parents are divorced, separated, or were never married, the noncustodial parent is defined as the biological (or adoptive) parent with whom the student lives less than 50% of the year. If you are applying for financial aid at Cornell, both biological parents are expected to submit application materials, from which we will calculate an amount they can contribute. If you have no contact with your noncustodial parent, or unique circumstances prevent them from submitting application materials, contact our office for information about the Noncustodial Parent Waiver Petition.
National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS):
The National Student Loan Data System is a federal database of financial aid information. It includes loan and grant summaries and information about the loan servicer for Direct Subsidized or Direct Unsubsidized Loans.


Outside Scholarship:
Non-need-based money awarded to a student for education outside Cornell’s financial aid resources. Sources of outside scholarships include but are not limited to: private donors, tuition benefits, crowd-sourced funds, VA benefits, ROTC scholarships, and stipends. Scholarships typically do not need to be repaid. At Cornell, outside scholarships replace other forms of financial aid, first replacing self-help, and then Cornell Grant aid. These funds can also be used to replace Cornell's standard student contribution.


Parent Contribution:
Our determination of parents’ ability to pay for college in the current academic year. The expected parent contribution is calculated by Cornell financial aid officers based on an in-depth assessment of income, assets, family size, number in college, and many other factors. The parent contribution as calculated by our office is different from the federal EFC (Expected Family Contribution), which is based on a much simpler formula and used primarily to determine eligibility for federal funds such as the Pell Grant.
Pell Grant:
Need-based financial aid awarded by the Department of Education based on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The Pell Grant does not need to be repaid.
PLUS Loan:
Federal loans available to parents of undergraduate students as well as directly to graduate students. The borrower must be a U.S. Citizen or eligible non-citizen.


The college administrator whose office manages enrollment, class registration, and academic standing.
Repayment Plan:
The amount of monthly payments and total repayment period for a loan. The Standard Repayment Plan consists of equal monthly payments over a period of ten years. Borrowers can switch to another repayment plan that better fits their monthly finances by contacting the loan servicer. There is never a financial penalty for making early loan payments or paying more than the minimum required amount.
Room and Board:
The expected cost of student housing (room) and food (board).


The term self-help refers to a portion of the financial aid package that allows students to help finance their own education. Financial need may be met with student loans and/or employment expectation (FWS or EEE). Loans and work may be subsidized or unsubsidized based on the FAFSA application.
Special Circumstances:
Unusual situations affecting a family’s finances that were not reported in the CSS PROFILE or on family tax documents. We welcome additional information about special circumstances via the Appeal Application, which may result in additional aid upon review by financial aid officers.
State Grant:
Funds awarded by state governments based on residency and financial need. NY state residents may qualify for the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP), by completing the FAFSA. Need-based state grants will replace Cornell Grant funds.
Student Aid Report (SAR):
A summary of the information reported on the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).
Student Contribution:
The Student Contribution (SC) is a combination of a Summer Savings Expectation (SSE) and a Student Contribution from Assets (SCA). The SSE is the amount Cornell expects you to earn and save during the summer before the academic year. The SCA is a 25% contribution of the assets held in your name that were not earned and saved by you or your parents.
Subsidized Loan:
Loan for which interest does not begin to accrue until the student leaves school.


Tax Return Transcript:
An official IRS document confirming data from the federal tax return. A tax return transcript is one of two options to satisfy the federal verification requirement for tax information (the other option is using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool).


Unsubsidized Loan:
Loan for which interest begins to accrue after the loan funds are disbursed.


A process, required of approximately 30% of students by Department of Education, through which financial aid officers check the information on a student’s financial aid application against the tax information received by the IRS. Tax-related verification requirements can be completed either by using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or by requesting a tax return transcript from the IRS.