Financial Aid Dictionary

There are many resources available to help you secure financial aid on your Koala Journey. Find explanations for our most-used terms below to better understand your needs, your opportunities, and the tools you can use to pay for college.

  • Academic Year: The academic year spans Fall and Spring semesters. It begins in August and ends in May.
  • Aid Eligibility: Aid eligibility refers to a student’s academic standing. Certain scholarships and grants have GPA requirements and credit hour requirements to maintain aid eligibility. Visit Federal Student Aid for more information.
  • Citizen/Eligible Noncitizen: To receive U.S. federal aid, a student must be a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen. 
    U.S. citizens include students who were born in the United States, American Samoa, or Swains Island, and students born to parents who are citizens of the United States abroad. 
    Eligible noncitizens include U.S. permanent residents with Alien Registration Receipt Cards and students with an Arrival-Departure Record (I-94) from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) showing specific designations.
  • Cost of Attendance: Cost of attendance (COA) is the price associated with the total expenses of being a college student. Some of the items are listed on the student bill, including College tuition and fees, housing (for on-campus residents), and food (for students with meal plans). The other items included in the COA are calculated estimates for books, course materials, supplies, transportation, and personal expenses. 
  • Degree-Seeking Status: Students must be accepted into a degree-seeking program at Columbia College and enrolled in at least half-time credits to have a “Degree-Seeking Status” and qualify for federal financial aid. 
  • Expected Family Contribution (EFC): Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is an index used to determine your federal aid eligibility based on a formula calculation within the FAFSA set up by the Department of Education. Your EFC is based on both your income and assets as well as your parents’ unless you are considered independent. This number should not be viewed as a dollar amount you will be required to contribute to educational expenses; your out-of-pocket expenses may be more or less than your EFC. The Student Aid Index (SAI) will replace the EFC no later than July 1, 2024. For more information, visit the Federal Student Aid website.
  • Financial Need: Per The Office of Federal Student Aid, “Financial need is the difference between the cost of attendance (COA) at a school and your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). While COA varies from school to school, your EFC does not change based on the school you attend.”

Financial Aid FAQs

Why can’t I see my loans or scholarships on my student account?

If your award requires a document, it will not show on your student account until the document is complete.

What is Pell? 

The U.S. Department of Education determines one’s eligibility to receive a Pell Grant by using the information provided on a student’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). For every institution of higher learning in the nation, the maximum Pell award for the 2023-2024 academic year is $7,395.

What is SEOG? 

Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (SEOG) is an allocation of federal funds made available to a college for disbursement to a student identified as having significant financial need. The college determines whether an individual has significant financial need based on a student’s inability to pay for the individual’s tuition, fees, and room and board if the student has on-campus housing. SEOG is applied to assist the student in paying for their educational costs.

What is the South Carolina Tuition Grant? 

The South Carolina Tuition Grant is a grant designed to provide additional financial support to South Carolina’s neediest students. The financial aid office administers this grant, and the students must have a FAFSA on file. The maximum funds awarded for the current academic year is $4,800. It is awarded to full-time students and is applied towards tuition and fees as well as room and board if the students are staying on campus.

What is a State Aid Affidavit?

All South Carolina state aid recipients are required by state law to complete a state aid affidavit annually in order to receive state funds. Funds covered by this affidavit are: SC Tuition Grant, LIFE Scholarship, Palmetto Fellows, HOPE Scholarship, LIFE Enhancement Scholarship, and Palmetto Fellows Enhancement.

What are institutional scholarships, and how are they awarded?

Institutional Scholarships are scholarships awarded by the institution to assist students in paying tuition, fees, and room and board for those who live on campus. Columbia College scholarships are awarded after federal and state grants and/or outside scholarships have been applied.

Why did I receive less scholarship money than I was promised in a letter I received this past summer?

The college’s commitment to student scholarship is to award as much financial aid possible after all state and federal grant monies have been applied to cover tuition, fees, and room and board if the student resides on campus. Scholarship monies awarded by the college are subject to availability and may be adjusted at the discretion of the college.

If I was promised a certain amount of scholarship dollars, how could the college take away my money?

The excess funding from federal loans is only refundable to the borrower. A scholarship awarded by Columbia College is not refundable, and the student’s account will be adjusted to $0 if his or her application generates a credit. Scholarships that are awarded from other agencies (i.e., businesses, churches, organizations, etc.) reserve the right to advise how scholarships are designated. Some scholarships specify how funds are to be disbursed and what should be done with any excess after tuition and fees have been paid in full. For example, some scholarships specify that the funding is only to be used towards books or tuition and fees. In addition, some scholarships require that any excess funds after tuition and fees have been fully covered be returned.

I have always received a refund. Why am I not getting one now? 

In years past, some students were refunded the remaining scholarship dollars after tuition, fees, and room and board were covered. In keeping compliant with federal standards and industry best practices, the college will only award scholarship monies to assist a student with tuition, fees, room and board if all are not fully covered once federal and state grants have been applied.

When can I expect a refund?

Refunds are generated when the amount of refundable aid on a student’s account is more than his or her charges. If this happens, refunds are generated within 14 days of the credit being on a student’s account.

How do I receive my refund? 

The business office will notify you to inform you if you are getting a refund. Refund dates are posted in the Koala Connection portal for your convenience.

What are student loans?

Student loans are monies that the federal government will lend to a student while he or she is enrolled in school. Loans are monies that must be repaid once the student has stopped attending at least 6 credit hours, graduated, and/or exhausted their grace period, which may vary based on the individual. The amount of student loans a student can receive is directly determined by their academic and dependency status.

What is a Priority Deadline?

The date by which your FAFSA must be received to be considered for first-come, first-serve funds like Federal Work Study and the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG). Columbia College’s priority deadline is March 15th of every year.

What is Verification?

Verification is a process initiated by the U.S. Department of Education that requires the Office of Financial Aid to validate all of the information on a student’s FAFSA. This will require additional forms to be completed and a copy of the student and parent’s Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax transcript to be supplied if the parent and/or student has not used the IRS Data Retrieval tool located inside the FAFSA. Students are selected randomly by the Department of Education, and up to 85 percent of a school’s population can be selected for this process.

How do I know if I am eligible for Federal Work Study?

If you are eligible to receive federal work-study, you will be sent an email to apply in Handshake.

I received an email that I have Federal Work Study. How does Federal Work Study (FWS) Work?
  • Students must apply in Handshake.
  • Once the applications are received, supervisors will contact students for an interview. If the desire is to hire the student, the employer will sign the students' authorizations agreeing that they have been selected to work in their area.
  • Students and employers receive an “Authorized to Work” email from the FWS Office (students may not begin working prior to receipt of this email).
  • Students are paid monthly.
  • Students and employers are responsible for keeping track of the FWS Award balance (students will not be paid more than what they are awarded).
How much do I get paid for FWS?

If you work on campus, you will be paid $12.00 per hour. If you work in a community service position, you will be paid $15.00 per hour.

What is the e-verification process?

E-Verify is an Internet-based system that compares information entered by an employer from an employee's Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, to records available to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration to confirm employment eligibility. All students must be e-verified in order to begin work.

What is Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP)?

Federal and state regulations require financial aid recipients to maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) toward a recognized degree. SAP applies to all undergraduate and graduate students who may or may not receive most types of federal, state, and institutional financial aid administered by the college. At the conclusion of each term or payment period, Columbia College (CC) reviews all currently enrolled CC students to verify they are meeting the SAP requirements.

How do I maintain SAP? 

To maintain SAP, you must meet the requirements below: 

Cumulative Attempted Hours
(with transfer credit)
*Minimum Cumulative Grade Point Average
at Columbia College (GPA)
51 and above2.00

Graduate students must maintain a 3.02 GPA.

All students must have a completion rate of .6665 or 67%.

Who do I contact with questions about my SAP?

You should contact your academic advisor for questions about your SAP status. If you have questions on how SAP affects your financial aid, you should contact the Office of Financial aid at

What happens with my Federal Aid if I withdraw from the College?

When a student who has received federal financial aid funds (Title IV funds) leaves a school before the end of the semester or enrollment period, federal law requires Columbia College to calculate the percentage and amount of “unearned” financial aid funds that must be returned to the federal government. For more information on Columbia College’s withdrawal policy, please visit the withdrawals section of the Financial Aid Policies webpage.

How do I resolve disputes with my federal student loans?

The Federal Student Aid (FSA) Ombudsman of the Department of Education helps resolve disputes and solve other problems with federal student loans. The FSA Ombudsman encourages borrowers to make every effort to resolve their student loan problems. When a solution cannot be reached, the FSA Ombudsman has a process and the resources to assist borrowers.

Contact Information:

FSA Ombudsman 
830 First Street N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20202-514

Telephone: 202.377.3800
Toll-free: 877.557.2575
Fax: 202.275.0549

Who do I contact when I have questions about my Financial Aid?

The Office of Financial Aid at or (803) 786-3612.

Who do I contact when I have questions about my balance, 1098-T form, refund, or need to make a payment?

The Office of Tuition Accounts at