Scholarship Glossary

Here are some commonly used terms and their definitions.

Academic year

A period comprising at least 30 weeks of instructional time, traditionally August or September through May.


Accreditation of U.S. educational institutions is done by regional and specialized accrediting associations. The U.S. Department of Education recognizes accrediting bodies for purposes of institutional financial aid eligibility and other areas in which the federal government has an interest.

Below half-time

A student who is enrolled in 5 or less credits is considered below half-time and may not be eligible for most types of financial aid.

Cost of attendance

The total cost of attending college, including tuition and general fees; room and board; lab fees; books; travel costs; supplies; and sometimes child care. In Oregon, these costs currently total approximately $14,000 per year at community colleges; $19,000 per year at state universities; and $35,000 or more per year at private institutions. The cost of attendance varies by school and is determined by each academic institution.

Cost of tuition and fees

Tuition and general fees (excluding housing, etc.). These costs currently total approximately $3,500 per year at community colleges; $6,500 per year at state universities; and $25,000 or more per year at private institutions.   

Direct Loan Program

Schools generally participate in the Direct Loan Program. Under the Direct Loan Program, funds for the loan come directly from the federal government rather than from a private lender. Eligibility rules and loan amounts are determined by the federal Department of Education.

Expected Family Contribution (EFC)

The amount that the federal government determines a family can afford to contribute toward college costs, based on the family income and assets reported on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form.

Federal aid

See Title IV funds.

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)

federal program offering grants to undergraduate students, with awards dependent on 1) the student's financial need; 2) the availability of funds; and 3) the amount of other aid the student has received.

Financial need

The difference between the cost of attendance at a college and the Expected Family Contribution.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

form used by the federal government to a) assess students' financial need; b) set an Expected Family Contribution toward educational costs; and c) verify a student's eligibility for aid in the form of federal grants, loans and work study. All applicants for need-based aid must complete this form every year. For the purposes of calculating student need, home equity is not considered part of the family's assets. Within a month of submitting the FAFSA, the student should receive a Student Aid Report (SAR). Although some of the information needed for the FAFSA is based on income taxes, you should not wait until you have completed your tax forms to submit the FAFSA. You may use income estimates for the FAFSA and then correct errors later.


An undergraduate student who is enrolled for 12 credits or more is generally considered to be attending full-time. A graduate student is generally considered full-time when enrolled for 9 or more credits.

Graduate student

A student who holds a bachelor's degree and is studying for an advanced degree.

Higher education

This term refers to all programs for high school graduates, including vocational and technical schools and programs at two- and four-year colleges and universities.

Hope Scholarship Tax Credit

A federal tax credit (that is, a reduction in the taxes owed by a family) to help low-income families with out-of-pocket tuition expenses, up to $1,500 per student for each of the first two years of post-secondary education. (Note: A family cannot claim this tax credit and the Lifetime Learning Tax Credit for the same student in the same year.) 

Lifetime Learning Tax Credit

A federal tax credit (that is, a reduction in the taxes owed by a family) for low-income families equal to 20 percent of the first $10,000 of out-of-pocket tuition expenses, to a maximum of $2,000 per student per year. (Note: A family cannot claim this tax credit and the Hope Scholarship Tax Credit for the same student in the same year.)

Oregon Opportunity Grant

An education grant awarded through a program funded by the State of Oregon and the federal government to help low-income families. The program is administered by the Oregon Student Access Commission and does not require a separate application. It is only for low-income undergraduate students attending an educational institution in Oregon. Students may receive the grant for four academic years. Eligibility is determined at the college's financial aid office. Students must also complete the FAFSA.

Oregon Student Access Commission (OSAC)

A state agency charged with the responsibility for administering a statewide scholarship program, OSAC works closely with high schools and colleges to ensure that application information is available to students. Also, OSAC provides a single application process for students seeking scholarships from a number of sources (including most of OCF's scholarships).


A student who is enrolled for 6 to 8 credits per term is generally considered to be attending part time. Most scholarships do not allow part-time attendance.

Pell Grant

A federal grant awarded to undergraduate students is on based on the Expected Family Contribution, which is determined by the FAFSA. Students do not need to repay Pell Grants if maintains eligibility criteria.

Perkins Loan

A low-interest federal loan offered to students with exceptional financial need, for a maximum of $5,500 per undergraduate year of study or $8,000 per graduate year of study. The total you can borrow as an undergraduate student is $27,500; graduate is $60,000 (includes undergraduate amount).

Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students (PLUS)

A federal program offering loans to graduate students and to parents of undergraduate students. Under this program, repayment may begin immediately or the borrower may defer payment until the student has finished school.

SAR (Student Aid Report)

A financial aid document generated for a student by the federal application processor. The SAR contains financial aid and other information reported by the student on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The student's Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is printed on the front of the SAR; this is the figure colleges use to determine eligibility for aid.


Funds used to pay for higher education that do not have to be repaid. Scholarships may be awarded based on any number of criteria, such as academic promise or achievements; special talents; participation in particular groups or activities; or career goals.

Stafford loan

A federal loan program that gives students up to 10 years from graduation to pay the balance. For subsidized Stafford loans, the federal government pays the interest while the student is enrolled at least half-time. For unsubsidized Stafford loans, the student pays the interest. If the student is enrolled at least half-time, the interest from the unsubsidized will accrue and then be added to the loan amount once the student drops below half-time.

Three quarter-time

An undergraduate student is generally considered three quarter-time when enrolled from 9 to 11 credits for the term.

Title IV funds

Federal financial aid programs authorized under the Higher Education Act of 1965 (as amended), including federal subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford loansParent Loans for Undergraduate Students, federal Pell Grants, federal Work-study and  Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants.


A list of all courses that a student has taken at a particular high school or college, with the grades the student earned in each course.

Undergraduate student

A student who has graduated from high school and is studying for a bachelor's degree.

Work study

A program centered at a college through which students work part-time to help fund their education. A student's earnings through work-study programs are generally subject to federal and state income tax, but exempt from FICA taxes if the student is enrolled full-time and working less than half-time. Federal work study is supported by federal funds that an academic institution receives to provide on campus job opportunities to high need students as determined by FAFSA. Institutional work study is supported by institutional funds to provide on campus job opportunities, but does not necessarily require high need.