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Glossary of Terms

College: A division within the university comprised of departments or schools offering courses and majors leading to a degree in specific areas. 

Concentration: A concentration is comprised of an approved list of requirements that are attached to a major and provide depth and breadth in a specific area of the major being studied.

Degree: Degree is a student’s ultimate goal when attending the university.  The degree can be specified (BSAE, MSAE, DPT, EDD), non-specified (BS, MS, PHD).

Department: A division within a college offering courses and majors leading to a degree in specific areas. What follows is a set of guidelines which can serve as a framework for approaching a continuous quality improvement approach to academic programs. The two main components of the program review will be a self-study and a review by an external expert.

Major: A major is comprised of an approved list of requirements that must be completed in order for a student to reach the goal of a degree.  All students working toward our definition of degree have a major.

Minor: A minor is an approved group of courses, usually 24 credits, developed to provide students with an opportunity to explore areas outside of the major.  At Drexel minors are only available to undergraduate students who have a major.

Program: In order to graduate from the university a student must complete a program which is made up of a specific group of courses denoted as a major(s), which lead to a corresponding degree(s).  Major and Program are often interchanged and can both be used to refer to the group of requirements that must be completed to earn a degree


Accreditation: A process of peer review that the educational community has adopted for self-regulation since early in the 20th century. It is a voluntary process intended to strengthen and sustain the quality and integrity of higher education, making it worthy of public confidence. Institutions choose to apply for accredited status, and once accredited, they agree to abide by the standards of their accrediting organization and to regulate themselves by taking responsibility for their own improvement.

Accreditation Commission: The Middle States Commission on Higher Education is one of seven regional accreditors throughout the United States. MSCHE is responsible for colleges and universities in Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and selected institutions abroad. Because MSCHE is an accrediting body that is recognized by the United States Department of Education, students at MSCHE-accredited institutions are eligible under Title IV to receive federal student financial assistance.

Acronyms Commonly Used in Higher Education

AACRAO- American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers
ACE- American Council on Education
ALO- Accreditation Liaison Officer
AA- Associate of Arts degree
AAS- Associate of Applied Science degree
AFA- Associate of Fine Arts degree
AS- Associate of Science degree
BA- Bachelor of Arts degree
BFA- Bachelor of Fine Arts degree
BS- Bachelor of Science degree
BSN- Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree
CAEL- Council for Adult and Experiential Learning
CEU- Continuing Education Unit
CHEA- Council for Higher Education Accreditation
CLEP- College Level Examination Program
C-RAC- Council of Regional Accreditation Commissions
Ed.D.- Doctor of Education degree
FAFSA- Free Application for Federal Student Aid
FASB- Financial Accounting Standards Board
FTE- Full-time Equivalent student
GED- General Education Development high school equivalency certificate
GMAT- Graduate Management Admission Test
GPA- Grade Point Average
GRE- Graduate Record Exam
HEOA- Higher Education Opportunity Act
INQAAHE- International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education
IPEDS- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System
IP- Institutional Profile
LSAT- Law School Admission Test
MA- Master of Arts degree
MBA- Master of Business Administration degree
MD- Medical Doctor degree
MFA- Master of Fine Arts degree
MS- Master of Science degree
MSCHE- Middle States Commission on Higher Education
MSN- Master of Science in Nursing degree
MSW- Master of  Social Work degree
NACIQI- National Advisory Center for Institutional Quality and Integrity
NACUBO- National Association of College and University Business Officers
NAFSA- National Association of Foreign Student Affairs
NCHEMS- National Center for Higher Education Management Systems
PDS- Public Disclosure Statement
Ph.D.- Doctor of Philosophy degree
PRR- Periodic Review Report
SAS- Statement of Accreditation Status
SAT- Scholastic Aptitude Test
TOEFL- Test of English as a Foreign Language
USDOE/USED- United States Department of Education
USNEI- United States Network for Education Information

Adjunct Faculty: Part-time instructors at colleges and universities. Many adjuncts work full-time in particular career fields and then bring their practical, real-world experiences to the classroom.

Advisory Board/Advisory Committee: In higher education, an advisory board or advisory committee typically consists of knowledgeable and experienced representatives from business, industry, academia, and the general community, and has the primary task to advise a college, university, or department on current job trends, training needs, and relevance of particular programs to the local or regional job market. Recommendations by these groups are used to develop, modify, analyze, and/or support academic programs.

Articulation: Also known as Transfer Articulation, this process involves cooperation between two or more higher education institutions to match courses and facilitate the transfer of students’ credits from one college or university to another.

Assessment of Institutional Effectiveness: A process whereby a college or university has developed and implemented steps to evaluate its overall effectiveness in achieving its mission and goals, and its compliance with Middle States accreditation standards.

Assessment of Student Learning: A process which demonstrates that, at graduation or other appropriate points, an institution’s students have knowledge, skills, and competencies that are consistent with institutional and appropriate higher education goals.

Asynchronous Learning: A type of distance learning in which there is no requirement for the instructor and students to interact in “real” time.

Bologna Process: A European model being created to improve comparability of degrees and to ease the transfer of credits between institutions in various countries.

Carnegie Classification: Derived from empirical data on colleges and universities, the Carnegie Classification System has been used for more than three decades as the leading framework for describing institutional diversity in U.S. higher education. It has been widely used in the study of higher education, both as a way to represent and control institutional differences, and in the design of research studies, to ensure adequate representation of sampled institutions, students, and faculty. For further details, visit Carnegie Foundation website

Contact Hour/Clock Hour: A unit of measure that represents an hour of scheduled instruction given to students.
Source: IPEDS.

Continuing Education Unit (CEU): A measurement of participation in non-credit professional development activities.

Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA): A national advocate and institutional voice for self-regulation of academic quality through accreditation, CHEA is an association of 3,000 degree-granting colleges and universities and recognizes 60 institutional and programmatic accrediting organizations.

Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions (C-RAC): A council of the seven regional accrediting organizations in the United States, including MSCHE, the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education of the New England Association of Colleges and Schools, the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the Western Association of College and Schools: Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, and the Western Association of Colleges and Schools: The Senior Commission.

Experiential Learning: Knowledge gained through practical work experience for which an institution, through a formalized process, may analyze and award related academic credit to a student. See the definition of Cooperative Education, to see how that differs from Experiential Learning.

Faculty: The instructional staff of a college or university. At some institutions certain academic support personnel, including librarians and counselors, are also classified as faculty.

Family Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA): The primary federal law that regulates student records and what limited information may be released without a student’s permission. For further details visit the U.S. Department of Education website.

Financial Aid: Assistance that is provided to a student to help him/her pay tuition and fees, purchase books, or cover other college-related costs, such as transportation to classes, and room and board. Financial aid may take the form of grants, scholarships, or loans from federal, state, local, and private sources.

Higher Education Opportunity Act: Enacted by Congress on August 14, 2008, the HEOA sets guidelines for colleges and universities, accreditation agencies, and others involved in U.S. higher education. The law also established rules on student loans, grants to institutions, and other issues. For details, visit the U.S. Department of Education website.

Licensure: The process by which a state or federal government agency grants permission for people who have earned certain credentials and met pre-determined qualifications, to work in a designated field and use designated titles. Under certain conditions, institutions of higher learning can also be licensed to perform designated functions.

Mission and Goals : The words that identify an institution’s specific purpose(s) and aims. An institution’s mission statement describes its philosophy and serves as a guide for all that it does. The mission and its supporting Goals provide points of reference for decisions on student admission, course and program offerings, community outreach, financial matters, and more.

Specialized Accreditors: In addition to the seven regional accreditors in the U.S., there are specialized accrediting organizations that focus on distinct fields (examples include Nursing, Engineering, Business, etc.).

Syllabus: A syllabus describes how a course will be taught, including the planned sequence of content, materials, activities, and assignments. A syllabus typically will also include a description of grading and attendance policies for the course.

Synchronous Learning: Often used in descriptions of distance education, this term can also be used to describe a traditional classroom setting. In a Synchronous Learning environment, the instructor and students interact in “real” time, whether in a classroom or via distance education through the Internet or videoconferencing.