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Financial Aid TermDefinition

Ability to Benefit (ATB)

One of the criteria used to establish student eligibility to receive Title IV program assistance is that a student must have earned a high school diploma or its equivalent. In the past, students who did not earn a high school diploma or General Educational Development (GED Certificate) could demonstrate that they had the "ability to benefit" from higher education or training by passing an approved ability-to-benefit (ATB) test. Effective July 1, 2012, ATB test can no longer be accepted in place of a high school diploma or GED. This applies only to students who first enroll in a program of study on or after July 1, 2012.                                                     

Academic AmnestyAcademic amnesty is designed to provide former credit students an opportunity to re-enter Howard Community College without the burden of previous poor academic performance (i.e., grades of D and/or F). The purpose of the policy is to allow the student a fresh start. If a request for academic amnesty is approved, a student may have certain previously completed courses eliminated from the computation of his or her grade point average; these courses cannot be applied toward graduation. The criteria for academic amnesty are outlined in the college catalogue. Academic amnesty is not considered when determining Satisfactory Academic Progress for financial aid purposes.
Academic Year

At HCC, the academic year begins with the fall semester and ends with the summer term. It is a period of at least 30 weeks of instructional time during which a full-time student is expected to complete at least 24 credits.

Accrual Date

This term is used in relation to loans. It is the day interest charged on an educational loan begins to accrue.

Award Notification Letter

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At HCC, the award notification letter is the official document issued by financial aid services that informs the student of the award(s) he or she has been granted. It provides instructions on how to access the award information and lists all the financial aid awarded. Additional information about financial aid and the agreements of receiving these awards are also included in the notification letter.

Bookstore Funds
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Students who are awarded financial aid in excess of tuition and fees can use the excess financial aid funds in the HCC bookstore. The amount will be limited to no more than $900 per semester or the amount of the excess aid, whichever is lower. Purchases are limited to required or optional books and supplies for registered coursework as well as bus passes. To learn how to determine if you have excess financial aid funds to use in the HCC bookstore, click here.

The process of adding unpaid interest to the principle balance of an educational loan, thereby increasing the total amount to be repaid.

Census Date

Students may receive aid only for classes in which they are registered as of the last date to drop for the regular semester. Students may not receive aid for late start classes such as Office Technology or mini-session classes such as Microsoft, unless they registered for these courses before the end of the official drop period. The Schedule of Classes contains the specific date for each term.

Citizen/Eligible Non Citizen

You must be one of the following to receive federal student aid:

·         U.S. Citizen

·         U.S. national (includes natives of American Samoa or Swain's Island)

·         U.S. permanent resident with an I-151, I-551, or I-551C
          (Alien Registration Receipt Card)

·         If you're not in one of these categories, you must have an Arrival Departure Record (I-94) from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) showing one of the following designations:

  •           Refugee
  •           Asylum Granted
  •           Indefinite Parole and/or Humanitarian Parole
  •           Cuban Haitian Entrant, Status Pending
  •           Conditional Entrant (valid only if issued before April 1, 1980)

Permanent residents of the Freely Associated States may be eligible for federal student aid. Citizens of the Freely Associated States are eligible for Pell Grants, SEOG, or Work Study only.

Nonimmigrant visas include the F-1, F-2 or M-1 Student Visa, B-1 or B-2 Visitor Visa, J-1 or J-2 Exchange Visitors Visa, H series or L series Visa (which allow temporary employment in the U.S.), or a G series Visa (pertaining to international organizations).  A "Notice of Approval to Apply of Permanent Residence (I717 or I464)" does not qualify as documentation for eligible non citizens and cannot receive federal aid or need-based aid from at HCC.


A loan program that allows a borrower to combine various educational loans into one new loan. By extending the repayment period (up to 30 years depending on the loan amount) and allowing a single monthly payment, consolidation can make loan repayment easier for some borrowers.

Cost of Attendance

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The cost to attend an institution, which includes tuition, fees, books and supplies, room and board, travel and miscellaneous expenses while attending school. The cost of attendance is determined by HCC using guidelines established by federal regulations. At HCC, the COA is built on averages.


Failure to repay a student loan according to the terms agreed at the time the borrower signed the promissory note. If the borrower defaults, the school, the organization that holds the loan, the state, and the federal government can all take action to recover the money, including notifying national credit bureaus of the default. The borrowers wages and/or tax returns may be garnished, and borrower will no longer be eligible to receive federal financial aid.


An authorized period of time during which a borrower may postpone principle and interest payments. Deferments are available while borrowers are in school at least half time, enrolled in a graduate fellowship program or rehabilitation training program, and during periods of unemployment or economic hardship. Other deferments may be available depending on when and what you borrowed. To obtain additional information one should contact their servicer.

Dependency Status

(Independent vs. Dependent)

When you apply for federal student aid, the answers provided to questions on the FAFSA will determine whether you are considered dependent or independent. All dependent students must report parental income and assets in addition to your own. You may be considered independent for federal programs if you meet one of the following conditions: 1) You are 24 years or older. 2) You will be enrolled in a master's or doctorate program (beyond a bachelor's degree) at the beginning of the school year in which you are attending college. 3) You are married as of the day you apply (or you're separated but not divorced). 4) You are currently serving on active duty in the military for purposes other than training. 5) You have children who will receive more than half their support from you during the academic year for which you are applying. 6) You have dependents (other than your children or spouse) who live with you and who will receive more than half their support from you during the academic year for which you are applying. 7) When you were 13 or older, both of your parents were deceased, you were in foster care, and/or you were a ward of the court. 8) As of the day you apply, you are an emancipated minor as determined by a court in your state of legal residence. 9) As of the day you apply, you are in legal guardianship as determined by a court in your state of legal residence. 10) At any time on or after July 1 before the start of the academic year for which you are applying, your high school or school district homeless liaison determined you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless. 11) At any time on or after July 1, before the start of the academic year for which you are applying, the director of an emergency shelter program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development determined you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless. 12) At any time on or after July 1, before the start of the academic year for which you are applying, the director of a runaway or homeless youth basic center or transitional living program determined you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or were self-supporting and at risk of being homeless. 13) You are a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Direct Loans

Loans made through the William D. Ford Federal 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. Direct Loans include subsidized and unsubsidized Direct Stafford Loans (also known as Direct Subsidized Loans and Direct Unsubsidized Loans), Direct PLUS Loans, and Direct Consolidation Loans. Borrowers repay these loans directly to the Department of Education.


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The release of financial aid funds to a student’s account for processing of payments and refunds if the awards are greater than the student’s expenses.  HCC begins disbursing financial aid funds after the census date for the term. See the Course Schedule of Classes for specific dates.

Eligible Program

A program of organized instruction or study that leads to an academic, professional, or vocational degree or certificate or other recognized educational credential that prepares students for gainful employment in a recognized occupation. All eligible programs also must meet specific Title IV Aid eligibility criteria.  Please see the schedule of classes for a listing of financial aid eligible programs at HCC.

Eligible SchoolA postsecondary school approved by the Department of Education (ED) to participate in Title IV programs. ED and the school's accrediting or state agency may determine that some but not all academic programs offered by the school are considered eligible for Title IV aid.
Enrollment Status

This refers to the status assigned to a student based on the number of credits in which he/she is enrolled for a given term. Students enrolled in 12 or more credits are assigned a full-time status; students enrolled in 9-11 credits are three-quarter-time status; 6-8 credits are half-time status and 5 credits or less are less-than- half-time status.

Entrance/Exit Interviews

These are required counseling sessions (either online or in-person) that all federal student loan borrowers are required to attend. Entrance Interviews are required before new loan borrowers are eligible to receive their first loan disbursement. Exit Interviews are required at the time the borrower stops attending at least half-time, graduates, or stops attending the institution.

Expected Family Contribution (EFC)

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An amount calculated through the FAFSA (see below) that a student and parents can reasonably be expected to contribute toward college costs. For federal student aid purposes the EFC is computed according to federal guidelines. The EFC is subtracted from total costs of attendance to arrive at an estimate of a student's demonstrated need.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

The federal student aid application. This must be completed by all students who wish to be considered for most types of financial aid at HCC. Apply online at

Federal Methodology (FM)

The formula used to determine a student's eligibility for federal Title IV funds. The formula takes into account income, some assets, expenses, family size and other factors. FM is written by Congress rather than a peer community assessment and is not updated regularly.

Federal Return of Title IV Funds (R2T4)

Students receiving financial aid have the responsibility to follow the college’s withdrawal procedures as outlined in the Howard Community College catalogue (page 41). The Higher Education Act requires the college to calculate a Return of Title IV Funds on all federal financial aid students who withdraw (officially or unofficially) from all classes on or before the 60% attendance point in the semester. A schedule is used to determine the percentage of the semester the student attended based on the withdrawal date/last date of attendance.

Federal Work-Study Program (FWS)

FWS is a Title IV program offering part-time work for HCC students who demonstrate financial need. Students can work up to 20 hours per week during the regular semester, depending upon the student’s financial need, availability of federal funds and the student’s class schedule. Seven percent of the school’s annual Federal Work-Study allocation will be used to fund community service jobs. For more information, please inquire in Financial Aid Services or refer to the HCC website.

Financial Aid Advisor/Administrator (FAA)

At HCC, this is a representative of Financial Aid Services that reviews a student's application and financial aid eligibility. The FAA also helps with all aspects of the financial aid processes and can provide one on one counseling.

Financial Aid Package

The total financial aid a student receives. Federal and non-federal aid such as grants, loans, work-study, and scholarships are combined in a "package" to help meet the student's need.

Financial Need

The difference between what it costs to attend college (COA) and the amount determined that a student and her/his family can afford to pay toward those expenses (EFC).

ForebearanceAn authorized period of time during which the lender agrees to temporarily postpone a borrower's principal repayment obligation. Interest continues to accrue and usually must be paid during the forbearance period. Forbearance may be granted at the lender's discretion when a borrower is willing to repay their loan but is unable to do so.


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At schools measuring progress in credit hours and semesters like HCC, “full-time” for financial aid purposes is at least twelve eligible financial aid semester hours per term for an eligible undergraduate program.  Full-time enrollment is not a requirement to receive certain types of financial aid such as a Pell Grant.

General Educational Development (GED) Certificate

This is a certificate students receive if they’ve passed a specific, approved high school equivalency test. Students who have a GED may still qualify for federal student aid. A school that admits students without a high school diploma must make available a GED program in the vicinity of the school and must inform students about the program.


A type of financial aid award based on need or merit that is typically not required to be repaid by the student.

Grace Period

The period between the time a borrower leaves school or drops below half-time and the time they are obligated to begin repaying their loans. This period of time is usually six months after separation from the institution.

Guaranty Agency

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The guaranty agency is an organization that administers the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program in your state. This agency can give you information on FFEL Loans. For the name, address and telephone number of the agency serving your state, you can contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243).


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At schools measuring progress in credit hours and semesters like at HCC, “half-time” for financial aid purposes is at least six semester hours per term for an undergraduate program.  You must be attending school at least half-time to be eligible for a loan. Half-time enrollment is not a requirement to receive all types of aid such as the Federal Pell Grant.

Institutional Work-study (IWS)

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HCC student Work-Study is an institutionally funded part-time work program. Any student who desires part-time employment at the college may apply. Students work up to 20 hours per week during the regular semester, depending upon the availability of the college’s funds, and the student’s class schedule. For more information, please inquire in Financial Aid Services or refer to the HCC webpage at


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A fee charged for the use of borrowed money. Interest is calculated as a percentage of the principle loan amount. The rate may be constant throughout the life of the loan (fixed rate) or it may change at specified times (variable rate).


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Legal Dependents

For financial aid purposes, legal dependents are defined as children (including those who will be born before the end of the award year) of the student (or parent if dependent) who receive more than half their support from the student (or parent if dependent), and can also include other persons (except a spouse) who live with AND receive more than half of their support from the student (or parent if dependent) as of the FAFSA signing date AND will continue to receive support for the award year.  See FAFSA for detailed information.

Master Promissory Note (MPN)


A master promissory note is a binding legal document that the borrower signs when they borrow from the student loan program. The MPN lists the conditions of borrowing and the terms of repayment. It will include information on how interest is calculated and what deferment and cancellation provisions are available to the borrower. It is important for the borrower to read and save this document because they may need to refer to it later when repayment begins or at other times to obtain information about provisions of the loan, such as deferments or forbearances.

Merit Based Scholarship

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These are scholarships that are awarded using a student’s academic strength as part of the eligibility criteria/requirements.

National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS)

TheNational Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) is the U.S. Department of Education's (ED's) central database for student aid. NSLDS receives data from schools, guaranty agencies, the Direct Loan program, and other Department of ED programs. NSLDS Student Access provides a centralized, integrated view of Title IV loans and grants so that recipients of Title IV Aid can access and inquire about their Title IV loans and/or grant data. By using your PIN, you can get information on federal loan and Pell Grant amounts, outstanding balances, the status of your loans and disbursements made. You can access NSLDS at

Need Based Scholarship

These are scholarships that are awarded using a student’s financial need as part of the eligibility criteria/requirements.

Never Attended (NA)

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This grade is assigned to students who register for a course and never report or participate within the first twenty percent of scheduled class sessions.

Origination fee

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An origination fee is a fee that the borrower pays to the lender for originating a loan. Origination fees are most often associated with Federal Direct Student Loans. For all Direct loans, the loan amount credited to the student account will be the principle amount borrowed minus an origination fee. The origination fee for 2011-12 loans is 0.5%.  For 2011-12, this fee includes any interest rebate. If you do not make 12 consecutive payments once you go into repayment on your loan, the government will add 0.5% back into the principle loan amount. Without the rebate an origination fee can be as high as 1%.

For all Direct PLUS loans the loan amount credited to the student account will be the principle amount borrowed minus an origination fee  of 2.5%. This also includes an interest rebate which means that the borrower is required to make 12 consecutive payments to retain the 1.5% interest rebate. If the borrower fails to make the 12 consecutive payments, the 1.5% interest rebate will be added back into the principle loan amount. Without the rebate an origination fee can be as high as 4%.


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This refers to the total amount of money being borrowed. Interest is charged on this amount.

Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP)

To be eligible to receive federal student financial aid, you must meet and maintain HCC’s standards of satisfactory academic progress towards an eligible degree or certificate. These standards are outlined in the college catalogue and on the financial aid website.


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Selective Service Registration

The Selective Service System is a means by which the US government maintains information on those people who are potentially subject to military conscription. If you are a male born on or after Jan. 1, 1960, are at least 18 years old, and are not currently on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces, you must register, or arrange to register, with the Selective Service System to receive federal student aid. Females and citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands or the Republic of Palau are exempt from registering.

Student Aid Report (SAR)

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After you complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you will receive the results of your FAFSA. The results of the FAFSA is called a Student Aid Report or SAR.  You will receive your SAR via e-mail if you provided a valid email address. If you did not provide a valid email address, you will receive your results via U.S. Postal mail.  The SAR summarizes all the information you provided on your FAFSA. The SAR will also contain your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which is the number that is used to determine your eligibility for federal student aid. If you receive a SAR with no EFC, the information provided on the FAFSA was rejected by the Central Processing Center and will need to be corrected. Whether you applied online or by paper, a copy of your SAR will be sent electronically to the schools you listed on your FAFSA.

Title IV Aid

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The programs authorized under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 that provide federal grants, loans, and work-study funds from the federal government to eligible students enrolled in an eligible school

Tuition Waivers

Refers to any programs designed by various sources that waive tuition and/or fees under certain criteria for students. Each waiver program has its own set of criteria and requirements for students to participate.


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The U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) selects certain financial aid applicants for a review process called verification. HCC also reserves the right to select applicants for verification. Students whose files are selected for verification must submit all required documents in order to complete their files. Financial aid will not be awarded or disbursed until all required documentation has been received and reviewed by a HCC Financial Aid Counselor. Students should submit documents as soon as possible, but no later than their last date of attendance for that term. Verification requires FAA to validate the information that a student submitted on their FAFSA.

Withdraw Grade (W)

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This grade is given at the time of withdrawal no later than the end of the tenth week of classes.


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Financial Aid Services
Howard Community College — RCF-222
Phone: 443-518-1260
Fax: 443-518-4576
TTY/STS use MD Relay

Contact Financial Aid Services
Office: 443-518-1260
Fax: 443-518-4576

TTY/STS use MD Relay

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