Financial Aid
US University Terminologies


Academic Advisor: School official, usually assigned by your college or university, who can help choose your classes and make sure you are taking the right courses to graduate.

Academic Dismissal: is the final action taken when students are not making satisfactory progress toward a degree or when students readmitted after suspension show no improvement in their cumulative average or otherwise fail to meet conditions set by the college.

Academic Probation: The minimum acceptable cumulative grade point average (GPA) needed for graduation is 2.0. Therefore, any GPA below 2.0 is a warning to a student that such work will not permit graduation.

Academic Standing: A student’s academic standing depends upon the number of degree credits completed and the cumulative Grade Point Average (GPA).

Academic Suspension: Students will be subject to suspension following any fall or spring semester when any of the following conditions apply: 1. The student’s earned semester GPA is 0.00. 2. The student has failed to fulfill the terms of an academic contract. 3. The student is already on probation and has earned a semester GPA of 1.0 or below. 4. The student is already on probation and has not met required cumulative GPA minima (at least 1.7 for students with 0-23 earned credits; at least 2.0 for students with 24 or more earned credits) unless the student’s semester GPA is 2.0 or higher. 

Asynchronous: Course activity is not organized around scheduled class times and students and faculty do not interact with one another simultaneously in real-time. Asynchronous courses can be partially or entirely self-paced and are typically held online.

Blended Course: Course activity is a mix of online activity and in-person meetings with the online components comprising 20-99% of the total course activity. Online activity can be either synchronous or asynchronous while in-person meetings are synchronous. 

Blended Program: The program has a mix of in-person, online, and blended courses with online courses comprising 50% or more of the total required courses/credits. 

Course Number: The number used to designate a course. You usually need this number in order to register for a class. Example: HTY 103.

Hybrid: A mix of asynchronous and synchronous interactions.

In-Person Course (coded as On-Site Classroom): Course activity is organized around scheduled class meetings and is delivered in a classroom or other in-person environment. Courses are synchronous and students are required to physically be at a certain place at a certain time.

Program Dismissal: Due to accreditation, licensure, and career standards, some academic programs have more stringent academic and ethical standards than the University academic guidelines. Failure to meet program requirements will lead to dismissal from these programs.

Online Course: All course activity is delivered online to remote participants with no required in-person meetings or on-campus activity. Courses can be either synchronous or asynchronous and students can access the course remotely from a laptop or desktop computer.

Online Program: All courses in the program are online courses. Students can complete the program remotely using a laptop or desktop computer with no required in-person meetings. Online courses in the program can be either synchronous or asynchronous.

Remote Course: Emergency remote courses are developed quickly in response to a crisis. Faculty re-imagine assignments and activities now that students do not have physical access to resources, such as physical assets in libraries and laboratories. 

Summer Session Courses for Suspended and Dismissed Students: Students who are notified of suspension or academic dismissal from the university while attending a summer session or winter term course will be allowed to complete that course for a grade and credit. Students under suspension or dismissal will not be allowed to take any subsequent courses without the permission of the associate dean of their college.

Synchronous: Course activity is organized around scheduled class meetings and students and faculty interact with one another simultaneously in real-time. Synchronous courses can be in-person, video or web conference, or online. 

Traditional Classroom Program: The majority of courses in the program are in-person courses. However, the program may also include some online or blended courses.

Video Conference Course: Course activity is organized around scheduled class meetings and is delivered via video conference to remote classrooms. Courses are synchronous and students are required to go to a remote classroom at a physical location to access the course at a certain time.

Financial Aid

Academic Year: The enrollment period beginning on the first day of classes in the fall term and concluding on the last day of exams in the spring term. 

Add/Drop Period: The University of Maine allows students to add courses, to change sections within a course or to alter the grading option for a course through the first five class days of each semester.  Courses may be dropped over a much longer period, but students will receive no tuition refund for courses dropped after the tenth day of classes each semester. 

Alternative Loan: Alternative loans are educational loans provided by private organizations called lenders. Most are credit-based loans, and some will require periodic payments of principal and interest once disbursed. 

Annual Loan Limits: The annual loan limits for Federal Direct Stafford Loans is the total amount of loan eligibility that a student has within one academic year.

Anticipated Resources: Anticipated Resources are outside aid that is generally not listed on a student’s award.  Students are able to report Anticipated Resources on their MaineStreet account to notify the Bursar’s Office that there are funds coming to cover a balance. 

Assistantship: Graduate assistantships normally require at least 20 hours per week devoted to teaching or research and are generally prohibited from working elsewhere in addition to the assistantship.

Award Letter: Also referred to as the “Financial Aid Award” or “Financial Aid Package”, this is notification of the various types, terms and requirements of the financial aid funds offered. The award is prepared and sent by the college, either by e-mail or regular mail.

Borrower (loan): A borrower is a student or parent who has applied, met specific requirements and received a monetary loan from a lender.  The individual initiating the request signs a promissory note agreeing to pay the loan lender back during a specified timeframe. 

Budget: The University of Maine System calculates both the direct costs and the indirect costs to create an annual budget for students based on what the average student will incur for costs over the academic year (these costs include tuition/fees, room/board, books/supplies, travel and loan fees).

Cost of Attendance: The total estimated cost of attending a college for one year. A cost of attendance budget usually includes costs for tuition and fees, room and board, books, travel, miscellaneous educational expenses and loan fees. 

Default: Default is a legal term which describes a borrower’s failure to repay a loan according to the terms agreed upon when he/she signed a promissory note.

Deferment: A deferment is a temporary suspension of loan payments for specific situations such as enrollment in school, unemployment, or economic hardship.

Degree Program: A degree student is active in a degree program (a course of study leading to an academic degree).

Department Scholarship: Academic scholarships are offered to students directly from university colleges and departments.  Some may require a separate scholarship application. 

Dependent Student: A dependent student is defined by the FAFSA.  A dependent student does not meet the criteria established for independent students and are required to submit parent information on the FAFSA.

Direct Costs: Items which appear on a student’s bill are considered direct costs. These include tuition and fees, and can include room and board (if a student lives on campus).

Direct Loan: Loans made through William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program are referred to as Direct Loans. Eligible students and parents borrow directly from the U.S. Department of Education at participating schools.

Disbursement: Payment of loan proceeds by the lender to the college or during consolidation to the loan holders. During consolidation, this term refers to sending payoffs to the loan holders of the underlying loans being consolidated.

Enrollment Adjustment: A student’s financial aid award is based on a student’s total enrollment. If a student changes the number of credits they are enrolled in, their financial aid award may be subject to adjustment.

Entrance Counseling: An educational session that first time Stafford and Graduate PLUS loan borrowers must complete before the loan funds can be disbursed. 

Exit Counseling

Students with federal educational loans are required to receive counseling upon graduating or withdrawing (i.e., leave school), during which the borrower’s rights and responsibilities and loan terms and conditions are reviewed with the student.

Expected Family Contribution (EFC): The minimum amount a family is expected to contribute to a student’s education, based on family earnings, net assets, savings, size of family and number of students in college. 

FAFSA: This federal form is the required application for all federal and state financial aid. The FAFSA is often used by colleges to determine eligibility for institutional funds. 

FAFSA Correction: Students and parents who initially complete the FAFSA using tax estimates or who identify an error,  need to update their information by making a correction to their FAFSA.

Federal SEOG: Grants awarded to undergraduate students who have exceptional financial need and have not completed their first baccalaureate degree. 

Federal Work-Study: This federal program provides part-time employment for undergraduate and graduate students with financial need, allowing them to earn money to help pay education expenses.

FERPA: The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act is a federal law designed to protect the privacy of a student’s educational records.  Under FERPA, directory information may be publicly shared by the University, unless the student specifically requests that directory information not be released. In compliance with FERPA, the University of Maine will not release student grades, schedules, or financial aid information to parents, spouses or others, unless written permission is given by the student.

Financial Aid Package: The total financial aid a student receives. Federal, state and institutional aid such as grants, loans, work-study, and scholarships are combined in a “package” to help meet the student’s need.

Fixed Interest Rate: On a fixed interest loan, the interest rate remains the same for the life of the loan.

Forbearance: An authorized period of time during which the lender agrees to temporarily postpone a borrower’s principal repayment obligation due to some hardship experienced by the borrower, such as unemployment. Interest continues to accrue and usually must be paid during the forbearance period. 

Full-time Enrollment: Certain aid programs require full-time enrollment. For undergraduate students, full-time enrollment is at least 12 credits; for graduate students, full-time enrollment is at least 6 credits.

Grace Period: Specified period of time between the date a student graduates or drops below half-time status and the date loan repayment begins. There is only one grace period per federal student loan.

Half-time Enrollment: Half-time enrollment is at least six credit hours per semester for undergraduate students and at least 3 credit hours per semester for graduate students. Some programs such as the Direct Loan Program require that a student be enrolled at the University of Maine at least half-time.

Independent Student: An independent student is one of the following: at least 24 years old, married, a graduate or professional student, a veteran, a member of the armed forces, an orphan, a ward of the court, or someone with legal dependents other than a spouse.

Indirect Costs: Items which do not appear on your bill but are still a cost associated with being a student are considered indirect costs. These costs include room and board (if you live off campus), books and supplies, travel and miscellaneous educational expenses.

Less than Half-time Enrollment: Undergraduate students are considered less than half-time if they are enrolled in 5 credits or less, and Graduate students are considered less than half-time if they are enrolled in 2 or less credits. Students who are less than half-time are generally not eligible for most types of federal financial aid.

MaineStreet: MaineStreet is the University of Maine’s student access portal.  Students are able to access their financial aid, registration, admission, billing and other important information.

MaineStreet Message Center: The MaineStreet Message Center allows different offices on campus to notify individual students of important information regarding their student accounts.  Students receive emails when they receive a new Message Center communication.

Master Promissory Note (MPN): A promissory note is a signed document containing a written promise to pay a stated sum to a specified person. All students borrowing Direct Stafford loans (and parents borrowing Direct PLUS loans) for the first time need to sign a Master Promissory Note.

Merit Scholarship: Administered by the Office of Admissions, The University of Maine’s merit scholarships are designed to acknowledge and attract excellent students to Maine’s only major research, land-grant and sea-grant university.

Need: Demonstrated eligibility for financial aid as determined by comparing a school’s cost of attendance with the expected family contribution (Need = COA – EFC).

Need-Based Financial Aid: Resources made available to a student, based on demonstrated need.

Non-Degree Student: A non-degree student is a student that is not active in a degree program. Generally, non-degree students are not eligible for federal financial aid.

Opportunity Maine: Refers to a Tax Credit for Educational Opportunity offered by the State of Maine to students who completed all coursework at and graduated from a Maine institution, who live, work and pay taxes in Maine and have student loans taken out after January 1, 2008.

Outside Scholarship: An outside scholarship is a scholarship awarded to a student by a donor, other than the university, federal or state government.  Students receiving outside scholarships are required to report the information to the Financial Aid Office through MaineStreet Self-Service.

Pell Grant: The largest federal grant program. Eligibility and award amounts are determined by the college based on established federal guidelines.

Perkins Loan: Federally-insured loans funded by the federal government and awarded by the school. The loans feature a subsidized, low interest rate and are repayable over an extended period.

PIN: A Federal Student Aid PIN (Personal Identification Number), or PIN is a unique number assigned to students by the Department of Education. The PIN allows secure access to online resources and applications relating to student aid. Parents of dependent students must also apply for a PIN to complete the parent sections on the FAFSA. 

PLUS Loan: Federally-insured credit-based loans for parents of dependent students and independent graduate students.

Promissory Note: A promissory note is a binding legal document a student signs for a student loan. It lists the conditions under which students borrow and the terms under which they agree to pay back the loan.

Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP): To be eligible to receive federal student financial aid, students must meet and maintain the school’s standards of satisfactory academic progress toward a degree or certificate offered by our institution.

School Code: When students complete the FAFSA, the school code for each school they are applying to, is required.  The University of Maine’s school code is 002053.

Selective Scholarship: The University of Maine Office of Student Financial Aid administers a variety of scholarships. In some cases, the donor of a scholarship fund will specify certain selective criteria the recipient of the scholarship must meet. 

Selective Service Registration: In order to be eligible for federal student aid students must register with the Selective Service if: You are a male born on or after Jan. 1, 1960, at least 18 years old, and not currently on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Self-Service: Self-Service on MaineStreet allows students to report to the Financial Aid Office if they plan on being less than full-time for a semester, changing housing plans (living on campus, living off campus or living with parents), report graduation term and report outside aid.

Special Circumstances: Students are encouraged to contact our office if special circumstances exist (such as change in the student’s or parents’ employment, loss of benefit or other type of income, changes in marital status or unexpected costs) that may impact their financial aid eligibility.

Stafford Loan: Long-term, low-interest loans administered by the Department of Education. The loans come in two forms – subsidized and unsubsidized. Subsidized loans are based on need; unsubsidized loans are not. The interest on the subsidized loan is paid by the federal government while a student is enrolled.

State of Maine Grant: The State of Maine Grant is a need-based grant program for Maine residents. To apply, students must file the FAFSA by May 1 and meet the EFC requirements.

Student Aid Report: A federal output document, containing financial and other information reported by the student on the FAFSA, sent to a student by the federal application processor. The student’s eligibility for aid is indicated by the Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which is printed on the document.

Subsidized: A loan for which a borrower is not responsible for the interest while in an in-school, grace, or deferment status. Subsidized loans include Direct Subsidized, Direct Subsidized Consolidation Loans, Federal Subsidized Stafford Loans and Federal Subsidized Consolidation Loans.

Three-Quarter Time Enrollment: Undergraduate students are considered to be three-quarter time if they are enrolled in 9 to 11 credits.

University of Maine Grant: University of Maine Grants are awarded to undergraduate students with exceptional financial need as determined by information provided on the FAFSA, specifically, the expected family contribution.

Unsubsidized: A loan for which the borrower is fully responsible for paying the interest regardless of the loan status. Interest on unsubsidized loans accrues from the date of disbursement and continues throughout the life of the loan.

Verification: A review process to ensure that the information you provided on the FAFSA is correct. The Financial Aid Office may ask you to submit documentation, such as income tax forms.

(Please refer to the Financial Aid Glossary for comprehensive definitions:


Academic Integrity: Following ethical guidelines in the work you do for your classes (for instance, citing a book you used to write a paper so people know where the information you’re sharing is coming from).

Article: A work of nonfiction writing found in a periodical or anthology.

Bibliography: A list of all the works you’ve used in your paper, generally appearing at the end.  Both in-text citation and bibliographies are necessary in most papers.  May also be called a reference list or a works cited page.

Book: A published individual work about a topic. 

Citation: A way of giving written credit to others whose writing and/or ideas you have used in your own research.

Concept Map: A visual representation of concepts/ideas and the relationships between them.  (See “How do I write a research question?” for a visual example.)

Databases: Searchable websites that collect articles from many different periodicals.

In-text Citation: Giving written credit within the text of your paper to someone whose writing and/or ideas you have used.  Both in-text citation and reference lists (or bibliographies) are necessary in most papers.

ISBN Number: An International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is assigned to identify a particular book title/version.

Journal: A periodical that publishes articles about academic research.

Library Catalog: A searchable database listing the individual materials (books, periodicals, databases, etc.) accessible by a library.

Library Stacks: The shelves in a library where printed materials (books, bound periodicals) are stored.

Paywall: When you search on the open web, find an information source, but cannot access it without paying money.

Peer-reviewed Article: A scholarly article that has been reviewed by a committee of experts before publication.

Periodical: A work published as a series of issues on a certain schedule.  Newspapers, scholarly journals, and magazines are all periodicals.

Plagiarism: Using someone else’s writing or ideas without giving them credit, whether on purpose or accidentally.

Popular Article: An article written for general readers (in other words, readers not expected to have particular academic or professional backgrounds).

Reference List: A list of all the works you’ve used in your paper, generally appearing at the end.  Both in-text citation and reference lists are necessary in most papers.  May also be called a bibliography or a works cited page.

Research Question: A question you ask about your research topic that directs your research.  Academic papers answer, or try to answer, research questions.

Scholarly Article: An article written by and for an academic audience (faculty, students, etc.), most often involving research of some kind.

Thesis Statement: A statement that answers your research question and is the central point of your academic paper.

Topic: The issue or idea your paper is about.

Trade Article: An article written by someone working in a particular field (boatbuilding, publishing, etc.) for readers who also work in that field.

US University Terminologies

Academic Year: The academic year at most US colleges and universities starts in August or September and ends in May. 

Academic Advisor: School official, usually assigned by your college or university, who can help choose your classes and make sure you are taking the right courses to graduate. 

Add/Drop: The period at the beginning of classes when you can change your class selection.

Associate’s Degree: A type of degree awarded to students at a U.S. college or university, usually after two years of classes. 

Associate Dean: Academic leader who reports to a Dean, and works closely with students in a UMaine college. 

Audit: To attend a class without receiving a grade and not for academic credit. 

Bachelor’s Degree: Also called “undergraduate degree.” It is usually after four years of university studies. 

Bursar’s Office: The office where you pay your bill. 

Career Center: An office which helps with choosing a major or a career, offers internship and job searching support. 

College: At UMaine, an academic unit which includes multiple departments (See: “department”) 

Commencement: The graduation ceremony. 

Co-requisite: A class you need to take together with another class.

Course Number: The number used to designate a course. You usually need this number in order to register for a class. Example: HTY 103. 

Credit Hour: The number of hours assigned to a specific class. This is usually the number of instructional hours per week. The number of credit hours you enroll in determines whether you are a full-time student or a part-time student. 

Dean: Academic leader of a UMaine college. 

Department: Smallest academic unit hosting one academic program. Ex. History department. 

Department Chair: The faculty member who is the lead administrator of a department. 

Doctorate: Highest academic degree. Awarded after a master’s degree. 

Elective: A class you can take that is not specifically required by your major or minor. 

Extracurricular Activities: Groups you belong to outside of class, such as sporting teams, clubs and organizations. 

Faculty: Generic term for the professors and instructors at a university. Faculty member = Professor = Lecturer = Instructor.

Financial Aid: Money you receive for your university tuition or expenses that you may or may not have to pay back. (See: “Grant,” “Loan,” and “Scholarship”) 

Freshman: First-year college student. 

Full-time Student: A student who enrolls in the required minimum number of courses each term. 

General Education Classes: Classes that give undergraduate students basic knowledge of a variety of topics. Students often must take general education classes in order to graduate. 

Grade point average (GPA): The average of all of the course grades you have received, on a four-point scale. 

Grant: A form of financial aid from a non-profit organization (or the US government) that you do not have to repay. 

Greek Life: The generic name for fraternities and sororities, which are student organizations. They often have specific student housing options for their members. 

Honors: UMaine College which provides an Honors degree, always combined with another major. 

Internship: A temporary job, paid or unpaid, usually in the field of your major. You may be able to receive college credit for an internship. Junior: Third-year college student. 

Loan: A form of financial aid that you must repay. 

Major: Your primary area of study. Your college major is the field you plan to get a job in after you graduate (for example: business, linguistics, anthropology, psychology). 

Master’s Degree: The awarding of a master’s degree requires at least one year of study (and often more, depending on the field) after a student earns a bachelor’s degree. It is also called a “graduate degree”. 

Minor: Your secondary area of study, often optional. Fewer classes are required for a college minor than for a major. Many students’ minors are a specialization of their major field. For example, students who want to become a science reporter might major in journalism and minor in biology. 

Non-resident: A student who is not an official resident of the state where a public university is located. Tuition at public universities is less expensive for residents of the state. 

Office Hours: Time set aside by professors or teaching assistants for students to visit their office and ask questions or discuss the course they teach. Your professor or teaching assistant will tell you at the beginning of the term when and where office hours will be every week. 

Online Classes: Courses you take on a digital devise from a distance instead of in a traditional classroom. 

Part-time Student: A student who does not enroll in enough credit hours to become a full-time student. Part-time students often take only one or two classes at one time. 

Prerequisite: A class that is completed before another class. (For example, Astronomy 100 may be a prerequisite for Astronomy 200.) 

Private University: A university that is privately funded. Tuition for a private college or university (before scholarships and grants) is the same for all students. 

Professional Advisor: Similar to “academic advisor”, often a staff member.

Public University: A university that is funded by the government. Public colleges and universities are less expensive for residents of the state where they are located. 

Quarter: Type of academic term. A school with this system generally will have a fall quarter, winter quarter and spring quarter (each about 10 weeks long), along with a summer term. (See also: “Semester”) 

Research Assistant: A graduate student working in a lab on research. Scholarship: A form of financial aid that you do not have to repay. 

Semester: Type of academic term. A school with this system generally will have a fall semester and a spring semester (each about 15 weeks long), along with a summer term. (See also: “Quarter”) 

Senior: Fourth-year college student. You are a senior when you graduate from college. 

Sophomore: Second-year college student. 

Syllabus: A description of a course which also lists the dates of major exams, assignments and projects, usually distributed in the first class meeting. 

Teaching Assistant (TA): A graduate student who is teaching your lecture or recitation. 

Term: The length of time that you take a college class. (See also: “Quarter” and “Semester”) 

Transcript: An official academic record from a specific school. It lists the courses you have completed, grades, and other information such