Board Buzzwords S-Z

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service learning

Learning that provides students opportunities to engage in practical service activities in the community including volunteering. Often service learning components are part of a course curriculum and offer students practical, hands-on training related to the coursework. 


Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant: is a program designed to supplement Pell Grant funding for students with significant financial need. Financial aid administrators must prioritize PELL students when awarding SEOG. How financial need is calculated can be found in ACCT’s Financial Aid 101.

shared governance

is a delicate balance between faculty and staff participation in planning and decision-making processes, on the one hand, and administrative accountability on the other. Shared governance varies across the country, but typically refers to decision making shared with the college administration and with faculty and staff. The term may have originated in the nursing field as structural model for nurses to manage their practice with a higher level of professional autonomy.  

skills gap

the difference between what employers need and what college graduates can actually do or perform on the job. For many years, employers have been concerned about the skill level of graduates from high school, college, and universities, i.e. graduating with few skills to be able to work effectively in the 21st century workplace. Some companies are even offering skills-focused boot camps to find employees with skills needed on the job. Many educational institutions indicate that their mission is to educate, not only prepare students for skills-based jobs. Nevertheless, foundations, states, and professional websites such as LinkedIn are uniting to create job search platforms for middle-skills workers to attempt to alleviate the gap by providing common language and information for needed skills.

social mobility

movement of individuals, families or groups through a system of social hierarchy. Many believe that community colleges hold the key to social mobility for low-income students and that the more education one receives, the greater the opportunity for students to prepare for higher paying jobs and earn higher incomes over their lifetimes.

soft skills

refers to “people skills”: communication, speaking, writing, getting along with others, etc. 

speech code

written college policies regulating expression at colleges and universities that is constitutionally protected under the First Amendment. Such policies can also include policies on controversial speakers, public demonstrations and harassment.

stackable credentials

a series of academic credentials that build upon each other toward a degree or profession.  Example: Accounting Clerk, Accounting Paraprofessional, Accountant. CCRC explored if stackable credentials have labor market value.

Stafford loan

Also known as the Federal Direct loan, the Stafford loan is the largest and most popular student loan program. The Federal Stafford Loans are low-cost loans borrowed by students to pay for their college education. There are two versions of the Federal Stafford Loan, subsidized and unsubsidized. The federal government pays the interest on subsidized loans during the in-school and grace periods, as well as other deferment periods, such as during an economic hardship deferment. The federal government does not pay the interest on unsubsidized loans. 

standing committee

a permanent committee that meets regularly; usually budget and finance committees are generally standing committees.

state associations

There are 24 states in which a statewide community college association represents trustees, CEOs, and/or both. ACCT collaborates with these affiliate organizations to facilitate communication, membership support and advocacy between the state and national levels. The National Council of State Association Chief Executives (NCSACE) consists of the CEOs of all of the state community college associations. NCSACE members typically meet during ACCT's Annual Leadership Congress and the Community College National Legislative Summit. For more information about ACCT's relationships with state community college associations, contact


Acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics. Many argue that the arts and humanities fostering strong reading, writing and critical thinking skills are key elements for a complete STEM education


Acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics

student engagement

student willingness to participate in college activities, attend class, and get involved (engaged) in their learning.  As an accountability measure, many institutions use the Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE) to assess services and programs for students.

student success courses

are courses offered usually to new freshmen, transfer, developmental or first- generation students to learn about navigating through college. These courses are of various lengths and aim to assist students with helpful practical information about all aspects of the college experience to help them navigate through the admission, course selection and advisement processes. Skills taught are usually time management, study skills, and often a tour of important offices and buildings like the library on campus. Research has shown many of these courses help students develop their long-term goals for completing their course of study. 

study abroad

learning opportunities for students who wish to study outside of the United States. Many high schools and colleges offer a variety of travel learning opportunities for students with variation in the length of time, credit or noncredit, sponsorship, etc. 

summer melt

refers to the lag time between the end and beginning of the typical academic calendar year when students may not take classes during the summer. Because many students in the summer are away from their studies, a great of learning may be lost as well as interest in completing. To avoid summer melt, many colleges are offering robust summer programs to keep students on target.

summer swirl

refers to the steady increase in college students taking classes to speed up their progress to graduation, according to NCES which tracks this. Students often turn to community colleges in the summer to gain credits and save money. Summer swirl student are graduating in less than five years. (Research shows that  a third of students transfer before graduating, and many head toward community colleges.) 

sunshine laws

regulations requiring public openness, advance notice, convenient times and places for meetings, records, votes, etc., i.e. open access to the public.

synchronous learning

refers to learning techniques where instructions and learning occurs at the same time, but not in the same place. For example, educational video conferences, interactive webinars, chat-based online discussions, and lectures that are broadcasted at the same time.


Tribal colleges and universities: programs that provide access to higher education and opportunities for Native students earning a degree on or near the reservation communities they call home.

Title IV

term that refers to federal financial aid funds. Federal regulations state that any federal funds disbursed to a student's account in excess of allowable charges must be delivered to the student (or parent in case of an undergraduate PLUS loan).

Title IX

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) enforces, among other statutes, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Title IX protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive Federal financial assistance. Title IX states that: No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance. See ACCT’s Trustee Talk #13: Sexual Misconduct Prevention on College Campuses for resources and samples of college policies related to Title IX.


the matriculation of a student from a college in the two-year sector to a college in a four-year sector, regardless of time spent or hours accumulated in the two-year college. Transfer rates are the proportion of student who transfer to a baccalaureate institution with or without completion of a degree at the two-year institution. 

transfer-out rate

The proportion of students who transfer to a four-year college or university without completion of a degree or credential at the two-year institution.


typically refers to academic journey from one level to the next or phasing from the three major transition points: (1) primary to middle school, (2) middle school to secondary, (3) secondary to postsecondary, i.e. community colleges/universities. Thus, the educational performances are sectioned to meet the academic, social, emotional, cognitive, physical, or developmental changes that affects progress.

trigger warning

Use of warnings to students about course content: In academic settings, they are written or spoken warnings given by professors to alert students that course material might be traumatic for people with particular life experiences.  Much debate about freedom of speech, etc. In the classroom. 

underserved students

(used interchangeably with “underrepresented.”) refers to students who do not receive equitable resources as other students, including low-income, underrepresented racial/ethnic minorities and first generation students who have historically been outside mainstream higher education. Minority: race/ethnicity is African American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Hispanic/Latino, or Native Hawaiian/other Pacific Islander; Low income: combined parental income is less than or equal to $36,000; and First generation in college: highest parental education level is high school diploma or less (ACT article). 

underrepresented students

refers to students often not well represented on college campuses: low-income, first-generation, LGBT+ and minority students. These underrepresented groups face unique challenges in  both applying to and attending college including harassment and discrimination. 

unit record system

refers to the system used to provide information for prospective student and families about employment outcomes, particularly about jobs and earnings of students in specific majors at specific institutions. 

vocational training

career and technical training. 

web conferencing

is an online service by which you can hold live meetings, conferencing, presentations and trainings via the internet.

work-based learning

refers to high-quality, work-based learning opportunities that integrate applicable academic concepts and state standards and evaluate a student’s mastery of key employability skills. In most cases, students can reap greater benefits from quality work-based learning programs than they can from traditional teen employment opportunities. Some middle schools have implemented career exploration programs to connect young students to employability skills and learn about potential careers.  Different states define work-based learning in various ways. This complexity and variation in definitions can be found in Work-Based Learning Definitions Themes From States and National Organizations. Work-based learning opportunities are being expanded at the federal level.


refers to programs, both federal and campus-based, that provide partial funding to students with financial need to get part-time jobs, most preferably related to their field of study.  Federal Work-Study (FWS) funds  are  provided for full- or part-time students with financial need at colleges that have had their federal application approved. The new FWS Experimental Site is particularly relevant to community colleges interested in expanding work-based learning.

Voluntary Framework of Accountability (VFA)

the first comprehensive accountability system specifically designed for community colleges; administered through the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).