Board Buzzwords - A-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 also degree audits.)    

academic maps

quarter-by-quarter or semester-by-semester sequences 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.


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. See “program accreditation” and “regional accreditation.”


Association of Community College Trustees is a nonprofit educational organization of governing boards, representing more than 6,500 elected and appointed trustees who govern over 1,200 community, technical, and junior colleges in the United States and beyond. These community professionals, business officials, public policy leaders, and leading citizens offer their time and talent to serve on the governing boards of this century's most innovative higher education institutions-community, junior, and technical colleges-and make decisions that affect more than 1,200 colleges and over 11 million students annually.

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.”

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.

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.


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 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.

analytics: data analytics

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.  Predictive analytics are currently being used to advise students, but may come at a cost.

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 also community college baccalaureate.)


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.

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).