SFA Glossary


  • Academic Year (College) – A period of time (typically nine (9) months) schools use to measure a quantity of study.  For example, a school’s academic year may consist of a fall and spring semester during which a full-time undergraduate student must complete 24 semester hours.  For state aid purposes an academic year represents a fall, winter and spring period of enrollment.  Summer is not included except where noted under program description.  The definition of an Academic Year holds true for all state aid programs administered by MOSFA except for the Graduate Programs.  Please see specific program information.
  • ACT Scores (National) – A test required or accepted at all public and many private universities in Mississippi. The ACT Assessment includes four sections – English, Math, Reading, and Science Reasoning. Scores are used in college admissions, awarding scholarships, and class placement including honors programs.  The eligibility criteria for certain state funded programs at the undergraduate level require a minimum ACT score as a part of the eligibility requirements.  Scores resulting from the National testing of the ACT are the only accepted scores for state aid program eligibility.
  • ACT and the General Education Development Test (GED) – Students pursuing an academic program of study leading to a certificate or an associate of applied science degree and who satisfactorily complete the GED must score a minimum of 15 on the National ACT test to qualify for the MTAG.
  • Appeal Process for state aid recipients – A student may appeal to the State Financial Aid Office, in writing, a determination of ineligibility for cause.  The only “for cause” which may be appealed is due to less than full-time enrollment for a period in which the student is receiving a state award.  The minimum information which must be stated in a student’s appeal would be:  The specifics regarding the situation for which the appeal is requested and the documentation to support the exception.  Items that are not appealable are: Residency, GPA, ACT, specific Core Curriculum related to the HELP Scholarship and deadline date.
  • Application Process – In order to qualify each year, the student must complete the on-line web application and submit to the state financial aid office all supporting documentation (if requested) by the designated deadline.
  • Availability of Funds – The MTAG is subject to pro-ration in the event there are more eligible applicants than we have funding.  The awards for the HELP, MESG or the discipline specific programs are not pro-rated; however, the number of annual awards is based on the availability of funds and is awarded on a first-come first-serve basis of all eligible applicants who meet the priority deadline date with eligible renewals awarded first.  The level of funding is at the discretion of the Mississippi Legislature which determines appropriations during the legislative session (January to March) preceding the academic year.
  • Award Letter – An award letter from a school or MOSFA states the type and amount of financial aid each is willing to provide if you accept admission and enroll to take classes at that school.  See Eligible Institutions for a complete listing of eligible in-state institutions.


  • Break in Enrollment – A break in enrollment would include any semester or trimester during which the student was awarded state aid and did not attend a Mississippi institution of higher learning.  An exception to the break in enrollment is when the student graduates mid-year (December) from a community college and will not enroll in a four (4) year institution until the following fall semester. This scenario will not affect the continuous full-time enrollment for that student.  Confirmation of all program eligibility requirements, including residency, are necessary in either case.


  • Complete File – At a minimum, the student must complete the on-line application and file the required documents, necessary to determine eligibility with the Board, no later than the close of business on the deadline as established by the Board.
  • Continuing Eligibility – Each state aid recipient must maintain a program specific college grade point average to continue to receive funds under the renewal process. The recipient must also maintain continuous full-time enrollment status at one Mississippi institution of higher learning.  Please see renewal eligibility requirements for GPA and continuous full-time enrollment for further information.
  • Continuous Full-time Enrollment – A student must earn the equivalent of full-time enrollment for two consecutive semesters, three consecutive trimesters, or their equivalent in each successive academic year to continue (renew) eligibility for all the programs except certain nursing programs and certain teaching programs.  Full-time enrollment is defined as the completion of fifteen (15) semester credit hours or nine (9) trimester credit hours of undergraduate course work. Audits are not counted as enrolled or completed hours.  Students who are not enrolled for fall semester, but subsequently enroll full-time for spring, are not eligible to receive the funds as they do not meet the continuous enrollment requirement.  A student in the Cooperative Education Program and attending school on alternate semesters is considered to have maintained continuous enrollment.  Student must have a completed file by the Board established deadline date.
  • Cost of Attendance (COA) – (Also known as the Cost of Education) The total amount it will cost a student to go to school – usually expressed as a yearly figure.  It’s determined using rules established by federal law.  The student’s cost of attendance will be based on the tuition and fees of the eligible institution plus an allowance for room, meals, books, materials, transportation and any other ordinary reasonable expenses as defined by current federal regulation.  For students attending less than half-time, the COA includes only tuition and required fees and an allowance for books, supplies, and transportation.  MTAG Rules and Regulations and HELP state that in no case shall any student receive any combination of student financial aid, including the MTAG and HELP that would be more than the cost of attendance.  If need based aid is not part of the financial aid package but the institution has a policy that sets a cap for non need based awards, the institution, at its discretion, may reduce any institutional scholarships to stay within the cost of attendance.


  • Dependent Student – A student who is required to provide parental information on the financial aid application because the student does not meet the criteria for independent student in the Higher Education Act of 1965 as amended.
  • Disbursement to the Student – The state aid funds are considered disbursed to the student at the point the institution makes the funds unconditionally available to the student for use in payment of fees, expenses or other eligible expenses associated with the cost of attendance.
  • Dual Credit – These courses count for both high school and college credit.  This can save time and money in pursuing a college degree.  Students who have not yet graduated from high school but are taking college coursework are not eligible for state aid programs unless fully admitted as a regular student and qualifies for federal student aid.


  • Earned Credit Hours – The hours used in the calculation of the grade point average.  State aid recipients must complete credit hours the equivalent of full-time status each semester or trimester unless otherwise noted by their program.  (See definition of Full-time Status and the definition of Satisfactory Academic Progress in this Glossary.)
  • Entering Freshman – First time never attended college. High School graduates who have earned less than twelve (12) college credits who meet the requirements for state aid.
  • Expected Family Contribution – The expected family contribution (EFC) is a measure of the family’s financial strength and indicates how much the student and the family resources (for dependent students) should be able to help pay for the student’s education.  The EFC is calculated from the information provided by the family on the FAFSA.  The EFC is calculated according to a formula established by law.   In the case of an independent student, the EFC is the same as the student contribution.


  • Family (Immediate) – The term “family” for a dependent recipient means the recipient, the applicant’s parents, and other children under the age of twenty-one (21) of the recipient’s parents.  The term “family” for an emancipated (independent) recipient means the recipient, the recipient’s spouse, and any children under the age of twenty-one (21) of the recipient and spouse.
  • Financial Aid Package – The total financial aid awarded to a student from a combination of two or more forms of financial aid (grants, scholarships, employment, and/or loans).  The student’s financial need, availability of funds, school aid policies, and the number of students who need financial assistance all influence the financial aid package.
  • Financial Need – The demonstrated need (must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid for demonstrated need to be determined) of the applicant for financial assistance to meet the actual costs of attending the eligible institution of choice as determined from financial information on the applicant and, if required,  on the applicant’s parents under the federal need analysis formula.  For Mississippi’s need based program, HELP, financial need is defined as the cost of attendance minus the federal EFC and other financial aid.
  • Fiscal Year – A state fiscal year begins on July 1 and ends on June 30.
  • Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) – The federally-approved application completed by the student that collects household and financial information necessary to calculate the Expected Family Contribution (EFC), for federal and some state financial aid programs.  The completion of additional forms may also be required before eligibility is determined.
  • Full Federal Pell Grant Eligibility and MTAG  – If a student is eligible to receive the maximum (full) Federal Pell Grant (EFC 0 to 0) as indicated in the Federal Regulations, he/she will not be eligible to receive an MTAG award.
  • Full Time for State Aid Purposes – An enrolled student who is carrying a full-time academic workload (other than audits/ correspondence courses) as determined by the institution and which is applicable to all students enrolled in a particular program.  The institution’s full-time definition for a program must be used for all students enrolled in that program; however, for the purpose of receiving state aid, the students must meet the following minimum requirements: fifteen (15) semester hours or nine (9) trimester hours per academic term.  State aid recipients must complete the appropriate number of semester or quarter hours equivalent to full-time status each semester or trimester unless granted an Exception With Cause or unless their program permits less than full-time enroll.  Attendance at an intersession or mini-term may not be combined with an adjacent regular term to achieve full-time status.


  • General Education Development Test (GED) – For initial eligibility purposes, if the MTAG applicant has satisfactorily completed the General Education Development Test (GED) and is pursuing an academic program of study, he/she must have scored a minimum of 15 on the ACT or the equivalent SAT score.
  • Grade Point Average (GPA) – Students applying for state aid after earning at least 12 semester hours of college coursework must meet the minimum cumulative or semester GPA requirement for the specific program and must maintain progress toward and maintain the minimum cumulative or semester GPA required for continuation on the program.  See Program Description.



  • Incomplete Grades – In the case of a student who is awarded state aid during any semester or trimester and the student receives one or more incomplete grades for the term, the institution should not disburse the award for the next period of enrollment until the incomplete grades are successfully removed and the student is otherwise eligible.
  • Independent Student – You are deemed Independent if you (the student) are able to answer ‘Yes” to any of the following questions:
    • Were you born before January 1, 1986?
    • As of today, are you married?  (Answer “Yes” if you are separated but not divorced.)
    • At the beginning of the 2009-2010 will you be working on a graduate/professional degree?
    • Are you currently serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces for purposes other than training?
    • Are you a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces?
    • Do you have children who receive more than half of their support from you?
    • Do you have dependents (other than your children or spouse) who live with you and who receive more than half of their support from you, now and through June 30 of 2010?
    • When you were 13 or older, were both your parents deceased, were you a person in foster care or were you a dependent or ward of the court?
    • As of today, has it been decided by a court in the state that you are an emancipated minor?
    • At any time on or after July 1, 2008 did your high school or school district homeless liaison determine that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless?
    • At any time on or after July 1, 2008 did the director of an emergency shelter program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing or Urban Development determine that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless?
    • At any time on or after July 1, 2008, did the director of a runaway or homeless youth basic center or transitional living program determine that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or were self-supporting and at risk of being homeless?




  • Leave of Absence (LOA) – A leave of absence is a period of time approved by the school during which the student is not in attendance but is considered to be enrolled. Each school is required to have a formal leave of absence policy. The student must follow the policy when requested a leave of absence. The school must approve the student’s request in accordance with the policy. The student’s request must be in writing.


  • Merit Based Aid – Is financial aid distributed on the basis of high academic achievement or outstanding talent, regardless of the student’s or family’s financial need.


  • Need-Based Aid – Financial aid that is awarded because a financial need has been demonstrated.  A standardized process using the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is used to apply for virtually all forms of financial aid that gives consideration to family income and need.  The Higher Education Legislative Plan for Needy Students (HELP) requires the recipient to demonstrate financial need.


  • Postsecondary – This term means “after high school”.  A Postsecondary education can be received through study at a college, university, community college, technical college or trade school, on or off campus.
  • Prorating – When there are more students eligible for MTAG awards than there is money to cover a full award for all, the money shall be distributed proportionately.


  • Regaining Eligibility after Suspension – A student must attend, without benefit of funds, one full-time semester or trimester during the regular academic year, before he/she may regain eligibility. Exception to the rule is “for cause” has been granted.


  • SAT I: Reasoning Test – A three-hour test typically taken as a junior or senior. The multiple-choice questions are divided into math and verbal sections. It is scored up to 800 for each section. Scores are used for admission purposes and in awarding scholarships.
  • SAT II:  Reasoning Test – A one-hour test given in specific subjects such as mathematics, science, English, or foreign languages.  More selective schools require two or three for freshman placement.
  • Satisfactory Academic Progress – State aid recipients must make steady academic progress towards a certificate or degree, as outlined in the school’s Satisfactory Academic Progress Standards and certified by the institution’s registrar.  Students must maintain the appropriate enrollment status and GPA, as it relates to their state aid program, to continue receiving funds.
  • Suspension of payments to the student – Payment shall be suspended should a recipient:
    • Fail to maintain the minimum grade point average (GPA) required by the program per the period of enrollment; OR,
    • Fail to maintain continuous enrollment; OR,
    • Fail to complete the minimum credit hour equivalent to full-time or part-time enrollment; OR
    • Fail to maintain Mississippi residency as either a dependent or independent student, OR
    • Fail to complete the online application and provide any required documentation necessary to determine eligibility by the deadline date.


  • Transcript – An academic record that lists the courses taken, grades received, and credits or credit hours received.


  • Undergraduate – A college student who has not yet earned a baccalaureate degree or its equivalent.


  • Work Study – Employment which lets students earn money to help pay the costs of higher education. Eligibility is determined by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.




Virtual Advisor