College Terminologies – Glossary of College Terms

A.A.

This stands for an "associate of arts" degree, which can be earned at most two-year colleges.

A.A.S.

This refers to an "associate of applied science" degree, which can be earned at some two-year colleges.

Abroad

Any geographic location not in the aggregate United States, which includes the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the other areas.

Academic adviser

A member of a school's faculty who provides advice and guidance to students on academic matters, such as course selections.

Academic program

An instructional program leading toward an associate's, bachelor's, master's, doctor's, or first-professional degree or resulting in credits that can be applied to one of these degrees.

Academic Rank

A status designated by the institution according to the institution's policies. The IPEDS HR survey includes the ranks of Professor, Associate Professor, Assistant Professor, Instructor, and Lecturer.

Academic support

A functional expense category that includes expenses of activities and services that support the institution's primary missions of instruction, research, and public service. It includes the retention, preservation, and display of educational materials (for example, libraries, museums, and galleries); organized activities that provide support services to the academic functions of the institution (such as a demonstration school associated with a college of education or veterinary and dental clinics if their primary purpose is to support the instructional program); media such as audiovisual services; academic administration (including academic deans but not department chairpersons); and formally organized and separately budgeted academic personnel development and course and curriculum development expenses. Also included are information technology expenses related to academic support activities; if an institution does not separately budget and expense information technology resources, the costs associated with the three primary programs will be applied to this function and the remainder to institutional support. Institutions include actual or allocated costs for operation and maintenance of plant, interest, and depreciation.

Academic support (GASB aligned form reporters)

A functional expense category that includes expenses of activities and services that support the institution's primary missions of instruction, research, and public service. It includes the retention, preservation, and display of educational materials (for example, libraries, museums, and galleries); organized activities that provide support services to the academic functions of the institution (such as a demonstration school associated with a college of education or veterinary and dental clinics if their primary purpose is to support the instructional program); media such as audiovisual services; academic administration (including academic deans but not department chairpersons); and formally organized and separately budgeted academic personnel development and course and curriculum development expenses. Also included are information technology expenses related to academic support activities; if an institution does not separately budget and expense information technology resources, the costs associated with the three primary programs will be applied to this function and the remainder to institutional support. GASB institutions include actual or allocated costs for operation and maintenance of plant and depreciation.

Academic year

Annual period during which a student attends and receives formal instruction at a college or university, typically from August or September to May or June. The academic year may be divided into semesters, trimesters, quarters, or other calendars.

Other Definition

The period of time generally extending from September to June; usually equated to 2 semesters or trimesters, 3 quarters, or the period covered by a 4-1-4 calendar system.

Accelerated programs

Completion of a college program of study in fewer than the usual number of years, most often by attending summer sessions and carrying extra courses during the regular academic term.

Acceptance

The decision by an admissions officer or committee to offer the opportunity for enrollment as a student at a particular institution.

Acceptance Rates

The percentage of applicants who are offered admission to a college degree-granting program

Acceptance Ratio

The percentage of applicants who are offered admission to a college degree-granting program

Accreditation

Certification that a college meets the standards of a state, regional or national association.

Accredited

Official recognition that a college or university meets the standards of a regional or national association. Although international students are not required to attend an accredited college or university in the United States, employers, other schools, and governments worldwide often only recognize degrees from accredited schools.

Accrediting agencies

Organizations (or bodies) that establish operating standards for educational or professional institutions and programs, determine the extent to which the standards are met, and publicly announce their findings.

Accrediting bodies

Organizations (or bodies) that establish operating standards for educational or professional institutions and programs, determine the extent to which the standards are met, and publicly announce their findings.

Accumulated depreciation

The total depreciation charged as expenses as of the reporting date (in the current year and in prior years) on the capital assets of the institution. FASB Statement No. 117 and GASB Statement No. 34 require that accumulated depreciation to date be recognized.

ACT

ACT, previously known as the American College Testing program, measures educational development and readiness to pursue college-level coursework in English, mathematics, natural science, and social studies. Student performance does not reflect innate ability and is influenced by a student's educational preparedness.

ACT (American College Test)

A two-hour-and-55-minute examination that measures a student’s knowledge and achievement in four subject areas - English, mathematics, reading and science reasoning - to determine the student’s readiness for college-level instruction. There is also an optional writing test that assesses students’ skills in writing an essay. The ACT is scored on a scale of 1 to 36 for each of the four areas. The four subject area scores are averaged to create a Composite Score.

Other Definition

An alternative to the SAT, this test is widely accepted by a broad range of institutions and is administered throughout the school year. The ACT assesses English, mathematics, reading, and science reasoning, and these scores can be used in lieu of SAT Subject Tests. Check with the schools you're interested in to see if ACT scores are part of their college admission requirements.

Other Definition

A standardized college entrance exam administered by the American College Testing Program. Four separate, multiple-choice tests measure knowledge of English, math, reading, and science, and one optional writing test measures essay planning and writing skills. Most students take the ACT during their junior or senior year of high school, and most colleges and universities accept scores from either the ACT or SAT. Some schools may recommend, but not require, international students to take the ACT or SAT.

Additions to permanent endowments

Gifts or grants received by a GASB institution that are restricted to a permanent endowment (institutions often have endowment funds that are classified as permanent endowments). Funds must be held in perpetuity with only the income generally available for use.

Additions to physical plant assets

Land, buildings, improvements other than buildings, equipment, and library books that are added during the fiscal year through purchases, by gifts-in-kind from donors, and from other additions; excludes construction in progress.

Adjunct instructional staff

Non-tenure track instructional staff serving in a temporary or auxiliary capacity to teach specific courses on a course-by-course basis. Includes both instructional staff who are hired to teach an academic degree-credit course and those hired to teach a remedial, developmental, or ESL course; whether the latter three categories earn college credit is immaterial. Excludes regular part-time instructional staff (who, unlike adjuncts are not paid on a course-by-course basis), graduate assistants, full-time professional staff of the institution who may teach individual courses (such as a dean or academic advisor), and appointees who teach non-credit courses exclusively.

Adjusted cohort

The result of removing any allowable exclusions from a cohort (or subcohort). For the Graduation Rates component, this is the cohort from which graduation and transfer-out rates are calculated; for the Fall Enrollment component, it is the cohort for calculating retention rate.

Adjustments to beginning net assets

Unusual and infrequent adjustments to assets that are not recorded as current year revenues, expenses, gains, or losses. This includes adjustments for retroactive applications of changes in accounting principles and prior period adjustments.

Administrative unit

The system or central office in a multi-campus environment.

Admission Tests

Also known as college entrance exams, these are tests designed to measure students’ skills and help colleges evaluate how ready students are for college-level work. The ACT and the College Board’s SAT are two standardized admission tests used in the United States. The word "standardized" means that the test measures the same thing in the same way for everyone who takes it.

Admissions

Applicants that have been granted an official offer to enroll in a post-secondary institution.

Admissions test scores

Scores on standardized admissions tests or special admissions tests.

Adult basic education

Courses designed primarily for students 16 years of age and older to improve basic skills in reading, writing, and arithmetic. These courses are not intended to be part of a program leading to a high school credential, nor are they part of any academic, occupational, or vocational program at the post-secondary level.

Advanced Placement (AP)

AP courses are college-level classes taught in the high school following guidelines and covering material that will instruct students in AP subject areas and should prepare them to take Advanced Placement tests offered by The College Board

Advanced placement (AP) courses

College-level courses taught in high school. Students may take an examination at the completion of the course; acceptable scores allow students to earn college credit toward a degree, certificate, or other formal award.

Other Definition

AP classes are high-level courses that are administered through the College Board. They provide curriculum equitable to college courses and are only open to eligible students. A college may award college credit or advanced placement to you, depending on your score. Criteria for credit awards vary

Advanced Placement program (AP)

A program offered by the College Board, a U.S.-based nonprofit educational organization, that allows students to take college-level courses while in high school. Students can then take standardized AP exams; those with qualifying scores can earn credit at certain colleges and universities.

Affidavit of Support

An official document proving adequate funding from an individual or organization to cover an international student's educational and living expenses while enrolled at a U.S. college or university.

Affiliated organizations

Legally separate organizations that are affiliated or associated with a primary GASB institution. These organizations are created for the primary purpose of assisting a primary institution to accomplish its mission but are not subject to the institution's organizational or procedural oversight. Fund-raising foundations, athletic associations, alumni associations, and research foundations are some examples of affiliated organizations. Depending on the organizational structure and other factors, some affiliated organizations may be considered component units and thus their financial activity must be reported separately by the primary institution.

AICPA

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

AICPA College and University Audit Guide Model

A financial reporting model defined by AICPA. The audit guide contains the primary standards for financial reports of public colleges and universities prior to the effective date of GASB Statements 34 and 35. Standards of this Guide were permitted as one alternative by GASB Statement No. 15 for public institutions .

Aid received

For the purposes of the IPEDS Student Financial Aid (SFA) component, aid received refers to financial aid that was awarded to, and accepted by, a student. This amount may differ from the aid amount that is disbursed to a student. For example, a student may accept aid that was awarded by the institution but then leave the institution prior to the aid being disbursed. In this case, because the student accepted the aid, the aid would be reported to IPEDS, even though it was NOT actually disbursed to the student.

All other sports combined

Any sport not specified separately in the collection of Graduation Rates (GRS) data. This includes sports such as golf, tennis, lacross or field hockey where teams participate in intercollegiate athletics competition. It does not include cheerleading or dance teams even though the institution might award aid to students participating in these activities under the auspices of the athletic department.

Allowances

That part of a scholarship or fellowship that is used to pay institutional charges such as tuition and fees or room and board charges.

Alternative admission

The alternative assessment method personalizes the college admission process and offers you a chance to be evaluated individually and more holistically. There's less emphasis placed on standardized test scores and more on the interview, portfolio, recommendations, and essay.

Alumni

This is a group of people who have graduated from a college or university.

American Indian or Alaska Native

A person having origins in any of the original peoples of North and South America (including Central America) who maintains cultural identification through tribal affiliation or community attachment.

Other Definition

A person having origins in any of the original peoples of North America and who maintains cultural identification through tribal affiliation or community recognition.

Annual contract or employment agreement

An annually-renewable contract or employment agreement that is in effect for a stated annual period within one year of execution, and may be equal to a period of 365 days, or a standard academic year, or the equivalent. Does not include contracts for partial year periods such as a single semester, quarter, term, block, or course.

Annuity and life income funds

Funds carrying a stipulation that the institution make payments to one or more specific beneficiaries.

Applicant

Any student who has completed the college application process at a particular Institution

Other Definition

An individual who has fulfilled the institution's requirements to be considered for admission (including payment or waiving of the application fee, if any) and who has been notified of one of the following actions: admission, nonadmission, placement on waiting list, or application withdrawn by applicant or institution.

Application

A college application is part of the competitive college admissions system. Admissions departments usually require students to complete an application for admission that generally consists of academic records, personal essays, letters of recommendation, and a list of extracurricular activities. Most schools require the SAT or ACT. Deadlines for admission applications are established and published by each college or university

Application Deadline

The date, set by college admissions offices, after which applications for admission will not be accepted

Application fee

That amount of money that an institution charges for processing a student's application for admittance to the institution. This amount is not creditable toward tuition or required fees, nor is it refundable if the student is not admitted to the institution.

Archivists, Curators, and Museum Technicians

An occupational category based on the broad occupation in the 2010 Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) Manual called "Archivists, Curators, and Museum Technicians." For detailed information, refer to the following website: http://www.bls.gov/soc/2010/soc254010.htm.

Art College

An institution specializing in the visual, performing, and/or creative arts.

Art Conservatory

An institution specializing in the visual, performing, and/or creative arts.

Art Institute

An institution specializing in the visual, performing, and/or creative arts.

Art School

An institution specializing in the visual, performing, and/or creative arts.

Articulation Agreement

An agreement between two-year and four-year colleges that makes it easier to transfer credits between them. It spells out which courses count for degree credit and the grades you need to earn to get credit.

Asian

A person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian Subcontinent, including, for example, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Asian/Pacific Islander

A person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, the Indian Subcontinent, and Pacific Islands. This includes people from China, Japan, Korea, the Philippine Islands, American Samoa, India, and Vietnam.

Assets

Physical items (tangible) or rights (intangible) that have value and that are owned by the institution. Assets are useful to the institution because they are a source of future services or because they can be used to secure future benefits.

Assistantship

A financial aid award granted to a graduate student to help pay for tuition that is offered in return for certain services, such as serving as a teaching assistant or research assistant.

Associate of Applied Science

This refers to an "associate of applied science" degree, which can be earned at some two-year colleges.

Associate of Arts

This stands for an "associate of arts" degree, which can be earned at most two-year colleges.

Associate's

An undergraduate degree awarded by a college or university upon successful completion of a program of study, usually requiring two years of full-time study. An associate's is typically awarded by community colleges; it may be a career or technical degree, or it may be a transfer degree, allowing students to transfer those credits to a four-year bachelor's degree-granting school.

Associate's Colleges (Carnegie)

An institutional classification developed by the Andrew W. Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Associate's Colleges offer associate's degree and certificate programs but, with few exceptions, award no baccalaureate degrees . This group includes institutions where, during the period studied, bachelor's degrees represented less than 10 percent of all undergraduate awards.

Associate's degree

An award that normally requires at least 2 but less than 4 years of full-time equivalent college work.

Other Definition

A degree granted to you by a college or university after the satisfactory completion of a full-time, two-year program or its part-time equivalent. The Associate of Arts (A.A.) and the Associate of Science (A.S.) degrees are usually equivalent to the first two years of a four-year college curriculum. The Associate in Applied Science (A.A.S.) is awarded upon completion of a technical or vocational program.

At-will contract or employment agreement

A contract or agreement that can be terminated by the employer or employee at any time, for any or no reason.

Audit

To attend a class without receiving credit for the class, apartments, parents with children at home, and full-time workers in sum, students for whom campus residency is not an option. Work or family obligations often mean that commuter students are unable to spend additional time outside of the classroom on campus. More than 85 percent of college and university students do not live in university-owned housing.

Other Definition

To take a class to gain knowledge about a subject, but without receiving credit toward a degree.

Audit opinion

An audit, performed by external (or outside) auditors, that usually consists of a one-page "opinion" letter on the general-purpose financial statements. The "opinion" paragraph of the letter usually states that "In our opinion, the financial statements present fairly, in all material respects, the financial position as of (date) and the results of operations for the year then ended, in conformity with accounting standards generally accepted in the United States." If the auditor cannot state completely the substance of the previous "opinion" sentence, then the auditor will add a phrase such as "...except for..." and state the basis for the exception. When the auditor includes exceptions to the opinion, the opinion is considered to be a "qualified opinion;" when no such exceptions are included, the opinion is considered to be an "unqualified opinion."

Audit/auditing (a class)

Term used when a student elects to take a course, but does not wish to receive credit for the course toward a degree or other formal award.

Auxiliary enterprises expenses

Expenses for essentially self-supporting operations of the institution that exist to furnish a service to students, faculty, or staff, and that charge a fee that is directly related to, although not necessarily equal to, the cost of the service. Examples are residence halls, food services, student health services, intercollegiate athletics (only if essentially self-supporting), college unions, college stores, faculty and staff parking, and faculty housing. Institutions include actual or allocated costs for operation and maintenance of plant, interest and depreciation.

Auxiliary enterprises revenues

Revenues generated by or collected from the auxiliary enterprise operations of the institution that exist to furnish a service to students, faculty, or staff, and that charge a fee that is directly related to, although not necessarily equal to, the cost of the service. Auxiliary enterprises are managed as essentially self-supporting activities. Examples are residence halls, food services, student health services, intercollegiate athletics, college unions, college stores, and movie theaters.

Avocational programs

Instructional programs in personal interest and leisure categories whose expressed intent is not to produce post-secondary credits, nor to lead to a formal award or an academic degree, nor result in occupationally specific skills.

Award Letter

Official notification of the type and amount of financial aid a college is offering you.

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