Glossary of Terms

Below are some of the common terms associated with financial aid packaging and awards. Additional information is made available via the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NAFSAA). For additional terms, please visit

  • Adjustment of Aid

    Adjustment to aid may be necessary if there are changes in the student’s financial situation, for example, corrections due to verification, discovery of data errors, changes in enrollment status, or a change in residency status. It is the student’s responsibility to notify the Office of Financial Aid of any additional funding received from any sources not listed on the initial award letter. Additional funding sources may require that other aid be reduced to avoid exceeding the student’s calculated financial need or cost of attendance.

  • Award Period

    The period in which Financial Aid is disbursed to a student account. All aid, including HCU scholarships and grants, is awarded for fall and/or spring semesters of an academic year. Summer awards are indicated separately on the award letter.

  • Cost of Attendance

    An estimate of the educational costs while studying at HCU for one academic year. It contains direct and indirect charges such as:

    • Estimated charges for one academic year of tuition and fees
      • Tuition – Charges assessed for classes and/or other coursework
      • Fees – Charges assessed for other college services (e.g. technology access, recreational center use)
    • Housing – Includes residence hall charges for on-campus students or an estimate of rent and utilities for an off-campus student
    • Food – Includes the cost of a meal plan and/or an estimate of the costs of food prepared at home
    • Estimated transportation and parking costs
    • Estimated costs for books and supplies
    • Purchase or rental of a computer
    • Miscellaneous costs such as personal hygiene, laundry, and reasonable entertainment
    • Other costs specific to certain student circumstances related to attendance, such as dependent care during periods of class attendance or study, expenses related to disabilities, study abroad, educational loan fees, and others
    • Student health insurance costs
  • Direct Subsidized Loan

    Direct Subsidized Loans are provided through the Department of Education which pays the interest for you while you are in school (at least half-time enrollment), and during your post-graduation grace period. *HCU will disburse aid twice per semester.

  • Direct Unsubsidized Loan

    Direct unsubsidized loans are offered to undergraduate, graduate, and professional students at a low fixed interest rate and flexible repayment terms. Students can defer interest payment while they are in school (at least half-time enrollment), however these loans do accrue interest while the student is enrolled. *HCU will disburse aid twice per semester.

  • Enrollment Status and Changes

    Each financial aid award requires a particular enrollment status. In general, undergraduates must be enrolled full-time (12 credit hours or more per semester) to receive the full allocation of most awards. If a student, at any time, falls below full-time financial aid awards (including loans) may be reduced or canceled. It is the student’s responsibility to notify the Office of Financial Aid of changes in enrollment status.

  • Entrance Counseling

    This is an online educational session to make sure you understand all aspects of taking out the student/parent loans.

  • Expected Family Contribution (EFC)

    An eligibility index that college financial aid staff use to determine how much financial aid you would receive if you were to attend their school. Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is a calculated figure by the Department of Education based on the data a student and/ or parent submits on the FAFSA application. The results of the calculation are on the Student Aid Report (SAR) after the FAFSA has completed and processed.

  • Family Financial Responsibility

    Many schools award institutional need-based scholarships and grants based upon a more comprehensive calculation of family financial circumstances. This can result in a higher (or lower) figure than the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) might indicate with its Expected Family Contribution (EFC) estimate.

  • Federal Pell Grant

    A federal grant provided by the federal government to undergraduate students who demonstrate exceptional financial need and have an Expected Family Contribution below a certain threshold established by the federal government. The Pell Grant award amount is prorated based on Enrollment Status.

  • Federal Work Study

    A federal program offered and administered by the institution that provides opportunity for part-time employment to students with financial need to help pay their educational expenses. Students apply for part-time employment while studying and attending the institution. Students will earn a paycheck for a max of 20 hours per week that they are allowed to work. Students can search for jobs at:

  • Gift Aid

    Funds awarded to the student that do not have to be repaid, unless the student fails to meet certain criteria, such as a service requirement that is specified as a condition of the gift aid or not completing the period for which the aid was awarded. Gift aid can include awards with titles such as grants, scholarships, remissions, awards, waivers, etc. Gift aid can be awarded based upon many factors, including (but not limited to) financial need, academic excellence, athletic, musical, and/or theatrical talent, affiliation with various groups, and/or career aspirations.

  • Grants

    A grant is a form of gift aid (see above definition) that is typically based on financial need. Federal Grants include PELL Grants / Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG). State Grants include the Texas Equalization Grant Program (TEG)

  • Income Share Agreement (ISAs)

    A student’s contract with their institution or a private entity to pay a percentage of their future earnings for a fixed period after graduation in exchange for funds to pay for their education while enrolled.

  • Master Promissory Note

    A master promissory note is a legal document in which you promise to repay your loan(s) and any accrued interest and fees to The Department of Education. It also explains the terms and conditions of your loan(s).

  • Merit Awards

    Merit Awards are a form of gift aid awarded based upon the student maintaining full-time enrollment status, meeting the GPA requirement, and other conditions specified on the award’s Terms and Agreement. Refer to the Terms and Agreement for each award to see the specific requirements.

  • Need-Based Awards

    Need is determined by the student’s Cost of Attendance minus their Expected Family Contribution, or Family Financial Responsibility (if applicable). The completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is required annually to determine students’ demonstrated need to award any need-based aid.

  • Release of Funds (Disbursement)

    Financial aid is credited to a student’s account after completion of all requirements. For student borrowers, loans will disburse only after entrance counseling and the Master Promissory Note (MPN) has been completed and signed. For parent borrowers, loans will only disburse after a credit check, application, and MPN has been successfully completed. Work-study will not be disbursed on the student account.

  • Satisfactory Academic Progress

    All students must demonstrate satisfactory academic progress in order to receive merit or need-based aid. Details are available on the HCU website or in the HCU Academic Catalog.

  • Scholarship

    Gift Aid that is typically based on merit, such as, academic excellence, talent, affiliation with various groups, or career aspirations or a combination of merit and need.

  • Unaccompanied Homeless Youth

    An unaccompanied homeless youth is a youth (21 years old or younger or still enrolled in high school) who lacks fixed, regular and adequate housing and is not living in the physical custody of a parent or guardian. Students who are experiencing homelessness or a risk of homelessness or are otherwise unaccompanied may still receive federal student aid. 

  • Unmet Need

    The student’s Cost of Attendance, minus their Expected Family Contribution or Family Financial Responsibility (if applicable), less any need-based aid received, such as Gift Aid, Federal Work-Study or Federal Direct Subsidized Loans.

  • Verification

    A federally mandated process to confirm the accuracy of data provided by selected applicants on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). To complete the verification process, the student, their parent(s), or spouse, if applicable, are required to provide certain documents to the school for review. If the documentation the student provides the institution doesn’t match what was reported on the FAFSA, verification can result in changes to the student’s financial aid eligibility, and/or financial aid offers.

  • Withdrawal

    If a student makes any changes in their enrollment status, financial aid may be reduced or canceled, and they may be required to repay awards already disbursed. Since withdrawals may also impact current or future aid eligibility, it is important that students consult a financial aid advisor before withdrawing from a class.