A lot of terms that are used in paying for college are specific to higher education and may be unfamiliar to new students and their loved ones. Here’s a list of the most common terms along with a definition:

Award Letter

An award letter breaks down a student’s budget (COA) and potential grants, scholarships and loans to assist in paying for school.  This letter is emailed to you once you have completed the FAFSA and other necessary forms.  You must sign and return a copy of this letter to the financial aid office accepting or declining your aid.

Child Care Grant

The Minnesota Office of Higher Education offers Child Care Grant Assistance to eligible students.  More information and the application for this grant can be found at the financial aid office.


Your budget (also known as Cost of Attendance) includes the average tuition and fees for your program along with potential living costs.


Default is the failure to repay a student loan according to the agreed upon terms of a promissory note.  When a student goes into default on a federal student loan they become ineligible to receive any additional federal aid until the default is resolved.

Expected Family Contribution (EFC)

The EFC is a number that is used to determine a student’s eligibility for federal student aid.  This number is a result of the FAFSA and is reported on the Student Aid Report (SAR).


The FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.  All students must complete the FAFSA to determine your eligibility for financial aid.

Financial Aid

The term “financial aid” includes grants, scholarships and loans.

Master Promissory Note (MPN)

A promissory note is the legal agreement a student signs with a lender accepting student loan funds.  The MPN states the terms and conditions of the loan, including repayment schedule, interest rate, deferment policy, and cancellations.  All students who are borrowing federal student loans for the first time must complete an MPN and Entrance Counseling.