Financial Aid Glossary for Newbies: Acronyms You Should Know


Financial aid glossary of acronyms in the house! Each industry has its jargon, including acronyms, and financial aid is no different. Acronyms can be helpful mnemonic devices, (who still remembers PEMDAS from middle school math?) or they can serve as an excuse to give an organization a super long name (I’m looking at you, NASFAA).

As a financial aid newbie, you have a mountain of information to learn to maintain compliance and perform your job. That’s why CampusLogic staffers compiled this quickie cheat sheet to help you keep track of the main financial aid acronyms you’ll come across.

13 Acronyms of Financial Aid

AGI – Adjusted Gross Income

Student’s or his/her family’s wages, salaries, interest, dividends, etc., minus certain deductions from income as reported on a federal income tax return.

ATS – Agreement to Serve 

The binding agreement a student must sign to receive a TEACH Grant. By signing the ATS, the student agrees to teach (1) full-time (2) in a high-need field (3) at a low-income school or educational service agency that serves certain low-income schools, and (4) for at least four complete academic years within eight years after completing (or ceasing enrollment in) the course of study for which he/she received the grant.

COA – Cost of Attendance

The total amount it will cost to go to school—usually stated as a yearly figure. COA includes tuition and fees; room and board (or a housing and food allowance); and allowances for books, supplies, transportation, loan fees and dependent care. It also includes miscellaneous and personal expenses, including an allowance for the rental or purchase of a personal computer; costs related to a disability; and reasonable costs for eligible study-abroad programs.

DRN – Data Release Number 

The four-digit number assigned to a student’s FAFSA that allows him/her to release FAFSA data to schools he/she did not list on his/her original FAFSA. A student will find this number below the confirmation number on his/her FAFSA submission confirmation page or in the top right-hand corner of his/her Student Aid Report (SAR).

ED – Department of Education 

The U.S. Department of Education is the agency of the federal government that establishes policy for, administers and coordinates most federal assistance to education.

EFC – Expected Family Contribution

This is the number that’s used to determine a student’s eligibility for federal student financial aid. This number results from the financial information students provide in their FAFSA.

FAFSA – Free Application for Federal Student Aid 

The FREE application used to apply for federal student aid, such as federal grants, loans, and work-study.

ISIR – Institutional Student Information Record 

ISIRs contain processed student information reported on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), as well as key processing results and National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) financial aid history information. ISIRs are sent electronically to schools by the Central Processing System (CPS).

LEU – Lifetime Eligibility Used

The amount of all Federal Pell Grant aid (in percentage) awarded to a student divided by the amount of Pell Grant aid he/she would have been eligible to receive based on full-time enrollment. The amount of Federal Pell Grant funds a student may receive over his or her lifetime is limited by federal law to be the equivalent of six years of Pell Grant funding.

NASFAA – National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators

The largest postsecondary education association with institutional membership in Washington, D.C., and the only national association with a primary focus on student aid legislation, regulatory analysis, and training for financial aid administrators in all sectors of post-secondary education. NASFAA provides professional development for financial aid administrators, advocates for public policies that increase student access and success, serves as a forum on student financial aid issues, and is committed to diversity throughout all activities.

NSLDS – National Student Loan Data System 

A centralized database, available at, which stores information on federal grants and loans. NSLDS contains information on how much aid a student has received, his/her enrollment status, and loan servicer(s). Students can access NSLDS using their Federal Student Aid PIN.

SAR – Student Aid Report 

A summary of the information a student submits on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The student receives this report via email a few days after the FAFSA has been processed or by mail within 7-10 days if the student did not provide an email address. If there are no corrections or additional information the student must provide, the SAR will contain his/her EFC, which is the number that’s used to determine eligibility for federal student aid.

TEACH – Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant

A federal grant that provides up to $4,000 per year to students who agree to teach for four years at an elementary school, secondary school or educational service agency that serves students from low-income families and to meet other requirements. If the service obligation is not met, the grant is converted to a Direct Unsubsidized Loan.

Questions or Feedback

We hope you find this guide helpful. Welcome to the profession. We look forward to providing you more useful guides. If you’re interested in receiving additional tools, email us at and tell us to give you the goods!


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