Board Buzzwords A-D

Main  A-D  E-L  M-R  S-Z

60-year curriculum

refers to a vision of continuing education for life-long learning. This vision sees colleges and universities as a lifelong partner with learners at all stages of their lives and careers, providing knowledge and skills throughout their entire lives.

ability to benefit (ATB)

In the context of postsecondary education, the ability to benefit applies to students without high school credentials and is a federal consideration for students to receive financial aid. There is new guidance on the ability to benefit from the Higher Education Act of 1965.


formally decline to vote either for or against a proposal or motion. In parliamentary procedure, even though a trustee is present, he or she does not vote on a motion. A trustee is obliged to abstain if he or she has a direct personal interest in the matter which amounts to a conflict of interest. An abstention will have the same effect as a “no” vote if the vote requires a majority or two thirds of the members present.

academic advising

processes to assist students in course selection and developing academic milestones and goals, typically for degree completion. Some institutions have adopted electronic tools to assist such as automated degree audits, degree and career pathways, and automated advising and planning platforms.  (See degree audits below.)                 

academic maps

quarter-by-quarter or semester-by-semester sequence of courses required to complete a degree within a predetermined time frame, for example, two years at a community college and four years at a university.

academic prioritization

Selection and assessment of viability of academic programs by an institution. Criteria vary depending on institutional processes, cost, employment projections, potential growth or improvement, demand, instructional quality, etc.


typically refers to the ways in which educational institutions and policies ensure that students have equal and equitable opportunities to take full advantage of their education. Access continues to be a goal for disenfranchised communities. Factors such as race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, past academic performance, incarceration,  English-language ability, etc. as well as cost should not be artificial barriers for diverse students in both rural and urban communities.  Making sure higher education is affordable to everyone is the goal of many organizations; international organizations such as Global Access to Postsecondary Education maintain their own definitions.


refers to assessment measures for institutions of higher learning regarding student learning outcomes, indicators of student success such as completion, graduation, pass rates for licensure or certification, and transfer rates, to name a few. The term also refers to meeting college mission strategic goals and priorities, providing evidence of progress, improvement and achievement.  See Voluntary Framework for Accountability below for more details.


 is a process of validation in which colleges, universities and other institutions of higher learning are evaluated. The standards for accreditation are set by a peer review board whose members include trained staff and faculty from various accredited colleges and universities. Colleges that engage in systematic and continuous processes of gathering and evaluating student and college performance exemplify best practices around student and institutional assessments. In 2019, accrediting agencies published information about student learning outcomes.

act as a unit

is the first of a list of board roles and responsibilities promoted by ACCT. Boards set policy, and it is inherent in the position that no single member can speak or act for the board independently without the agreement of the board as a whole. Every board of trustees should govern as a singular unit and speak with a single voice. Every trustee brings their own perspectives to the board room and applies their own experiences and insights to the important discussions and decisions that are made. Yet the commitment to serve on a board of trustees is tied to the inextricable acknowledgement that “no individual trustee has power or authority to act on his or her own.”

adaptive leadership

 is a practical leadership framework that helps individuals and organizations adapt and thrive in challenging environments. It is leadership that determines what is essential to the future and developing/testing “next” practices.

ad hoc committee

committee formed for a specific task or objective and which is dissolved after the completion of the objective. Most committees, other than standing committees, are ad hoc.


constitutes the activities undertaken by a board or trustee to influence the actions of local, state, and national lawmakers, ranging from letter writing to full-scale lobbying. Through its many activities (the National Legislative Summit, in particular, and publications (white papers and reports), ACCT encourages boards to advocate for their colleges and for their students locally and nationally. A useful tool is an ACCT pamphlet The Trustee’s Role in Effective Advocacy (2019).

alternative credentials

See alternative credit and credentials below.

alternative credit

In the academic context, alternative credit is getting college credit for learning completed outside of the conventional classroom setting and makes a degree more attainable.   National organizations like ACE are developing consortia and projects like the Alternative Credit Project to broaden the ability of students to receive credit for learning and skills completed in other than the traditional or online classroom.  Different institutions have various ways of accepting alternative credit. Alternative credit boosts nontraditional learners.


In parliamentary procedure, a motion to amend is used to modify another motion. An amendment itself can be amended. This is a basic rule of Robert’s Rules of Order.


Analysis of meaningful patterns in large amounts of data, usually accompanied by graphs and charts to more easily visualize the story or patterns. See also Learning analytics.  Many researchers are calling for “responsible” use of student data.

applied baccalaureate

a four-year bachelor’s degree program in an applied field of study earned at a four-year or two-year institution.  Applied learning refers to an educational approach whereby students learn by engaging in direct application of skills, theories and models. Applied learning can occur outside of the traditional academic classroom experience and/or be embedded as part of a course. An AB Degree is a degree program focused on applied learning typically found at four-year institutions of higher learning; the community college baccalaureate is typically an AB degree. (See community college baccalaureate below.)


training in a field to allow individuals to gain job experience while also working towards a postsecondary degree or industry-recognized credential. Traditionally, apprenticeships have been thought of as a model through which to train workers in technical fields or skilled trades such as construction. However, today the discussion about apprenticeships includes expanding programs to include training for growing white-collar and service-oriented occupations.  Apprenticeships An Emerging Community College Strategy for Workforce Development (2019), including registered apprenticeship programs, pre-apprenticeships and youth apprenticeships, features profiles of apprenticeship programs at two colleges to illustrate how community colleges are expanding apprenticeship opportunities for students to gain jobs in growing and in-demand industries in their regions. The profiles also detail how the colleges are working to diversify apprenticeship programs to non-traditional industries and reach out to a diverse range of students, especially women and students of color.

AQ/Achievement Quotient and Adversity Quotient

AQ is a term used in psychology that refers to either achievement quotient or in business and entrepreneurship as adversity quotient or simply put, resilience. In psychology,  AQ is about a person’s adaptability and flexibility in times of ever constant change. It is the ability to work out what is relevant, overcome challenges and make a conscious effort to change. AQ involves flexibility, curiosity, courage, resilience and problem-solving skills and may be more crucial to career success than IQ.  In the business realm, some believe that AQ is the key determinant of success and is more important than IQ (intelligence quotient) or EQ (emotional intelligence).

articulation, articulation agreement

Also called transfer agreements, articulation agreements delineate pathways of coursework to a degree among programs and institutions and are meant to simplify transition and assure that successful completion of delineated coursework leads to degree completion. Articulation promotes ease of transfer with little or no loss of earned credits.


In context of higher education, making judgments, appraisal of performance and student placement and learning.  Assessing student learning without standardized tests is one strategy that many colleges and universities are implementing. (See multiple measures.)

blended learning any combination of traditional classroom, face-to-face, hands-on learning also utilizing digital and online technologies and E-Learning. (See E-Learning below.) In several studies, blended learning is on the rise in colleges.

blockchain technology

refers to  new technology applied to individual academic records and assessments.  Blockchain technology is a decentralized network technology in which the same data is recorded and maintained on multiple nodes (computers connected to the network) that are geographically isolated from one another. Often peer- to- peer (P2P) exchange platforms are set up in conjunction in such a way that tampering with the data is difficult.   At Central New Mexico community College, block chain technology provides students with a secure digital record of their accomplishments. The Lumina Foundation encourages blockchain to help students prove their credentials.

board self-evaluation or board self-assessment

Evaluation of the board provides an opportunity for the board to assess its performance and contributions, establish goals, priorities, and a learning agenda around emerging issues and needs, and to strengthen the board/CEO relationship. A mutually agreeable evaluation process creates a proactive forum where the leadership needs of the institution, and the new and emerging leadership role for the board, can be considered. All regional accrediting agencies are now requiring board self-assessments.


paying for a semester or quarter’s coursework, not individual courses or charges by credit. Typically, community colleges do not bundle their tuition charges as many baccalaureate institutions do.


Bring your own app. (See related BYOD below.)


Bring your own device.

cafeteria approach

allowing students to have choices in courses they take as opposed to a pathway approach with more prescribed coursework leading directly to a credential or degree. The term was popularized in Thomas Bailey and Shanna Smith Jagger’s Redesigning America’s Community Colleges, A Clearer Path to Student Success (2015).

call the question

is a maneuver used in parliamentary procedure to get board members to vote, particularly as a way to shut down long-winded speakers.  It should be a rare  occurrence. Key points about calling the question include that a member must have the floor to make a motion, it must be seconded, and this motion cannot be discussed or debated.

campus carry

legislation that allows licensed concealed handguns on college campuses. Many college campuses are quite conflicted about students and college staff having concealed weapons on campus.  (See “concealed  carry” below and ACCT’s Trustee Talk, Issue #10 and Addendum To Keep and Bear Arms – Implications for Governing Boards and Trustee Talk, Issue #15

Guns on Campus–A Loaded Issue, Part I.)

capital projects

are projects that help maintain or improve a campus’ infrastructure. It can be new construction, expansion, renovation or replacement.

career pathways

 According to the U.S. Departments of  Education, Health and Human Services, career pathways are a series of connected education and training strategies and support services that enable individuals to secure industry-relevant certification and obtain employment within an occupational area and to advance to higher levels of future education and employment in that area.  MDRC Research on Career Pathways identifies core elements such as alignment of connected education strategies and multiple entry and exit points and others.


non-degree awards that typically require less time to complete than degrees. Certificates are increasingly more important in postsecondary education and have rapidly proliferated particularly in vocational training and to their higher completion rates relative to associate degree programs.

coaching, student coaching

In lieu of traditional academic advising strategies, providing coaches has proven to be an effective retention strategy for at-risk students.   Coaches provide a more holistic approach to student needs and work with students on a range of issues, from financing their education, personal wellness and career readiness. Some colleges have added coaches in addition to their academic advising services.

climate survey or campus climate survey

an assessment tool and strategy to assess college constituents—faculty, staff, and students’ perceptions of experiences with diversity and inclusion and/or sexual violence. Campus climate surveys have recently been used as a best practice by the U.S. Department of Justice to determine the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault on college campuses.

Code of Ethics

Board members must meet certain stands of conduct established by the board to carry out their responsibilities. This code or series of responsibilities is usually updated regularly and clarifies specific ethical behaviors such as avoiding conflicts of interest or nepotism. A board’s code of ethics serves as an overarching statement to establish standards of integrity and accountability. Governing boards function best when the ethical standards for trustee behavior are clear.

(The) College Promise

universal free college tuition for low income students, part of president Obama’s stated goal to make college both affordable and debt-free for students, particularly for those who normally would not be able to attend college and gain knowledge and skills required for 21st jobs. Some philanthropic foundations are supporting College Promise Success Initiatives to enable more colleges to supplement their Promise programs with more student success supports.  Many Promise programs vary in design and scope.

college readiness

is the ability for students to demonstrate the knowledge and skills required to successfully complete basic freshman-level college courses.  Educators are expanding college readiness to meet the needs of students of color, low-income students and English learners.

College Scorecard

is a national effort to help students navigate selection of their postsecondary education by providing a variety of information about individual colleges and universities including costs, earnings data, etc. The Scorecard’s intent was to make it easy for students to search for a college that is a good fit for them and to find out more about a college’s affordability. All debt data is now included.

collegiate high school

 A dual credit program in which high school students take college-level courses, sometimes called collegiate academies. Students are able to get their high school diploma and earn college credits.

community college baccalaureate

A four-year bachelor’s degree program conferred at a community college. Typically, the degrees earned are Bachelor of Science (BS), Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) and/or Bachelor of Technology (BAT) and are focused on applied learning tied to a profession or industry.

Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE)

A survey administered during the spring to mostly returning students. CCSSE asks about institutional practices and student behaviors that are highly correlated with student learning and retention, i.e. how engaged students are with their learning and with their institutions.

competency-based education (CBE)

aims to be a way for students to get credit for what they know, build on their knowledge and skills by learning more at their own pace and earn high-quality degrees, certificates and other credentials that help them in their lives and careers. CBE  programs may offer an alternative for learners who have developed skills and knowledge though life and work experiences and training.  Using credentials, CBE may indicate skills that new employees have when they are hired.  Sometimes called “direct assessment.” Regional accrediting agencies across the U.S. have developed a common framework defining competency-based direct assessment.  Actually defining competency still remains elusive, but CBE programs are expanding.


is typically defined as students earning a credential, degree or license; for some programs and colleges, completion can refer to successful transfer to a four-year institution.  It is  defined a variety of ways by different colleges.  Improving community college completion rates should be a top priority for policymakers at all levels of government, employers, community colleges, and the philanthropic community. Earning a postsecondary credential or degree provides a gateway to higher average earnings and opens up career pathways for graduates, while higher completion rates help strengthen the American workforce. Improving community college completion rates also refers to completion initiatives which address removing barriers for students.

Completion by Design (CBD)

Bill & Melinda Gates-funded Completion by Design (CBD) initiative, which began in 2011. CBD was based on the following principles: (1) Accelerate entry into coherent programs of study; (2) Minimize the time required to get college ready; (3) Ensure that students know the requirements to succeed; (4) Customize and contextualize instruction; (5) Integrate student supports with instruction; (6) Continually monitor student progress and proactively provide feedback; (7) Reward behaviors that contribute to completion; (8) Leverage technology to improve learning and program delivery.

concealed carry

the practice of carrying a concealed weapon (such as a handgun, knife, etc.) in public places. (See “campus  carry” above and ACCT’s Trustee Talk, Issue #10 “To keep and bear arms”-Implications for Governing Boards and Addendum To Keep and Bear Arms – Implications for Governing Boards and Trustee Talk, Issue #15 Guns on Campus – A Loaded Issue, Part I.)

confidentiality (for boards)

is the protection of personal information. Effective boards have a code of ethics in their board manual that requires trustees to maintain the confidentiality of personnel decisions, most often discussed in closed sessions. Talking about those discussions outside the sessions is unethical and may open the possibility of legal action against individual trustees (Smith, 2000, p. 135.) When board members want to discuss certain issues privately, the board may go into executive session and ask guests to leave during this part of the discussion.(See executive session)

consent agenda

allows boards to approve routine procedures and items that have unanimous consent without discussion or individual motions. (See Robert’s Rules of Order)


short form for co-operative education, refers to work placement experiences that are paid, typically full-time, career-oriented and integrated into an academic curriculum and transcripted in contrast to “internships” which usually refer to a one-term assignment, either part- or full-time, paid or unpaid. (See internships)

corequisite remediation

Underprepared students receive extra support while enrolled in credit-bearing college-level classes, alleviating the need and the time spent taking remedial or developmental, often non-credit coursework. Recent studies and reports have demonstrated corequisite remediation as a “best practice” rather than having students take prerequisite coursework.  The State of Texas, for example, adopted this reform in June 2017 in collaboration with Complete College America.

critical thinking

is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action. Many argue that the humanities foster both creative and critical thinking.

credential/credentials framework

refers to the skills, knowledge and competencies underpinning educational programs. Because the competencies students might develop through each degree, certificate, license or badge are difficult to discern, and even more difficult to organize into a coherent, successful development path, the Lumina Foundation has developed a credentials framework which uses competencies to identify what the learner knows and is able to do.  Many large tech companies like Google and Amazon are expanding their postsecondary credential offerings.  Online resources like the Credential Finder help learners identify potential certificates for skills they wish to develop. Developing uniformity and transparency in the marketplace of credentials has been the goal of organizations like Credential Engine which has produced a Credential Transparency Description Language (CTDL) Handbook. (See digital badge and stackable credentials)

default options

In the context of federal financial aid, the term refers to the multiple options to get out of default which refers to a person’s inability to pay their bills on time or default on paying back their financial aid.

degree audit

Process to identify all of the requirements for a degree, including (but not limited to) credit hours, required coursework, core and major requirements, residency requirements and other elements. The audit to track progress toward degree completion identifies if a requirement has or has not been fulfilled or if it is in progress.

Dev Ed (developmental education)

is a comprehensive research-based framework that empowers underprepared learns to achieve intellectual, social and emotional growth. Developmental education includes, but is not limited to, instruction, coursework, tutoring, personal counseling, career counselling and academic advisement. The coursework is typically not transferable credit. A synonym is “remedial education.” Based on much research demonstrating that most students in remedial/developmental classes rarely moved on to college-level coursework to completion (sometimes using up most of their financial aid on these sub-college courses), many colleges are now reforming their assessment and placement processes as well as developmental courses.

digital badge

an indicator of accomplishment or skill that can be verified online. Databases of information can be used to highlight credentials, training and signal learning achievements by students and others are currently being developed and tested by online websites and institutions of higher education.  Digital badges were developed to help employers identify real-world skills that learners have achieved.

digital divide

Refers to the gap between those who have access to a variety of information and communications technologies and those who do not. (See homework gap)

direct assessment

In contrast to measuring learning or student achievement using the credit hour or seat time in a classroom, direct assessment is measuring specific student knowledge and skills.  A direct form of competency-based education, direct assessment does not necessarily center coursework or instructors. Students are assessed directly, and some colleges are attempting to adapt the method to some of their offerings. See competency-based education above.

disaggregated data

data collected in terms of student characteristics (age, race, gender, income, etc.) and not more general institutional data; breaking down information into smaller subpopulations.

disruptive innovation

technological advancement or change intended to improve upon or offer different approaches which disrupts long standing models of teaching and learning and education in general and particularly those innovations that create a new market that overshadows existing markets. Leaders, even Congress, are finding difficulty in keeping up with all the changes and disruption to conventional or traditional ways of teaching and learning.  Much of the disruption is emerging from outside higher ed and students are increasingly predicted to be getting a job to get a college degree rather than going to college to get a job.


the inclusion of different types of people (such as people of different races, cultures, genders, etc.) in a group or organization or community. As an important feature of an institution’s staff and student body, colleges and organizations often have diversity committees and diversity statements about acknowledging, accepting and practicing mutual respect to eradicate all forms of discrimination. Among other issues, a great deal of controversy has been around race-conscious admissions. Additionally, because of historic bias toward certain human characteristics, implicit bias research has gained greater momentum. (See implicit bias)

distance learning

Delivering instruction where students are not physically present (mail, email, online, video, etc.)

dual credit

simultaneously earning credits for high school and college. See dual enrollment below.

dual enrollment

Refers to students who are enrolled in both high school and college simultaneously, no matter where or how instruction is accessed.  Students earn credits for both their diploma and college coursework which reduces both the time and costs of a college degree.  As these programs demonstrate student success, they are maintaining a strong growth rate nationwide. Some colleges are sustained by these programs.