Student-Related Terms Every Community College Trustee Should Know

Board Buzzwords - Student Focused

Student-Related Terms Every Community College Trustee Should Know

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)                 


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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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.


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.

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. Nevertheless, current  research questions the effectiveness as compared to traditional remediation.


Dashboards organize and present information in a way that is very easy to use and read. Individual college. Dashboards typically register indicators of student success to show how well students are doing at a college. Dashboards often provide at-a-glance views of key performance indicators (KPIs) relevant to a particular objective or s process. "Dashboard" is another name for "progress report" or "report." Complete College America maintains a data dashboard that explores common college completion metrics for states.

digital citizenship


Conducting positive, safe, legal, ethical behaviors online, often following ISTE Standards for Students.

digital equity

Systemically marginalized communities may not have access to digital online resources or technologies.

digital literacy


Refers to 21st-century skills related to the effective and appropriate use of technology;

The ability to use both cognitive and technical skills using the internet to find, evaluate, create and communicate information;

Understanding how to use web browsers, search engines, email, text, wiki, blogs, PowerPoint, Photoshops, etc. to showcase learning.

digital transformation

Using technology in an innovative way and staff and students’ ability to adapt to it will be transformative. Some see this as a “silver lining” to the sudden pivot to virtual learning at the onset of the pandemic.

Is about how to be sophisticated in digitally teaching and learning to make it easier for students to get the knowledge they need to be successful.


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.)

dual credit

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

first generation students

are children of parents who have not attended college. Technically the term used to mean students whose parents and/or legal guardian have not completed a bachelor’s degree.  First generation students often face obstacles such as college readiness, racial disparity, college assimilation, financial challenges, etc.  The Center for First-Generation Student Success advocates for these students.

first-time student

According to the IPEDS Glossary, a first-time student is "A student who has no prior postsecondary experience attending any institution for the first time at the undergraduate level." This means that the student is first-time in terms of postsecondary education (or the student is not known to have attended another postsecondary institution). There are two exceptions: (1) students who attended any institution for the first time the summer prior to entering your institution in the fall term are to be counted as "first-time", as are (2) students who entered with advanced standing (college credits earned before graduation from high school).  There is an online guide for first-time students.

food insecurity

lack of consistent access to enough food for an active healthy life. Research shows that just under 40% of college students are experiencing hunger and lack stable housing.  In 2017, ACCT published Hungry and Homeless in College: Results from a National Study of Basic Needs Insecurity in Higher Education.

Gen Z

Born between 1995 and 2012, Gen Z numbers close to 74 million with various levels of education. They are an age group that were digital pioneers and grew up knowing the internet; they do not remember a time when they were not connected with wi-fi or were without personal digital devices.


tenacity, willingness to stick it out, work through and continue to achieve and solve problems; currently identified as a personality trait that students and workers need to achieve their goals and solve problems.

homework gap

terms which refers to the estimated percentage of U.S. students who do not have access to computers at home or home access to broadband internet. This gap is part of what is called the digital divide.

inclusive access

inclusive access provides e-texts and online course materials as part of a student’s registration process. All students have access to materials prior to the first day of class. It is a cost-saving strategy  by some textbook businesses to save students money and is growing quickly around the country as a digital model for college textbooks

Learner Revolution

represents a paradigm shift from degree programs to new skills and competencies in making judgements about a learner’s qualifications; where traditional and nontraditional students have more control over how, when and where they learn. Retention, graduation and student success are now a shared responsibility between learners and institutions.. Colleges must listen to what prospective students want as workers become more interested in acquiring skills rather than degrees.  Learners may gain their competencies from a variety of sources and work experiences.   The “Learner Revolution” represents an exhilarating, yet daunting deconstruction of the degree as we know it: a world where a learner will not be tethered to one institution for their degree, where in fact, earning a whole degree will be only one option on a success-focused learner’s menu. Changes coming may be a move away from the degree and the credit-hour standard for eligibility for federal aid programs. Reimagining admissions requirements is part of this shift.


is inclusive education for students with disabilities, as a component of school reform, such as efforts to integrate diverse students in general education classes. These include students who are gifted and talented, who have limited English speaking abilities, and who are from various racial and ethnic groups.


refers to a professional relationship of advising or training someone, often a younger person. Mentoring is proven to have a positive impact on students’ career readiness and general student progress and success. Companies like AT&T have set up programs to keep students engaged in education. Some colleges set up mentors with students to provide career guidance. There are different types of mentoring, traditional one-on-one with a mentor and mentee, distance mentoring, or group mentoring.

middle college

Dual enrollment programs which allow qualified high school students to work toward a diploma and a certificate or associate degree, usually with a corporate sponsor.

mindful technology


Mindfulness and technology together are a movement in research and design that encourages the user to become aware of the present moment, rather than losing oneself in a technological device. Nearly everyone loves technology, but also wants to escape from its grips from time to time. This field encompasses multidisciplinary participation between design, psychology, computer science, and religion. 

multiple intelligences

was developed by Howard Gardner of Harvard whose theories in cognitive research supports that students learn, process, and interpret information differently and it argues that one’s capacity to learn, remember, perform, and understand in different ways. Currently, there are seven learning styles.

multiple measures

is the use of multiple indicators and sources of evidence of student learning. Many colleges ae using various indicators of learning and achievement such as student interviews, standardized tests, field work, projects, teacher recommendations, etc. rather than simply standardized tests alone as indicators of student progress or ability to take college-level coursework. 

OPM (online program managers)

OPMs are being hired by some colleges to aid in the transition to online courses due to the quick pivot to remote learning needed during the pandemic.


refer to guided pathways or to the guided pathways approach that promotes access to completion.

reverse transfer

awarding or earning an associate’s degree from the college to which a student transferred after completion or awarding of a baccalaureate degree.  The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center has produced a comprehensive study entitled Reverse Transfer: A National View of Student Mobility from Four-year to Two-Year Institutions July 2012.  The 13 state colleges in Wisconsin are implementing an automated system (Reverse Transfer automated data exchange platform through the National Student Clearinghouse) through partnership with the state university.  Colleges’ completion rates get a boost when students do reverse transfer.

service learning

is 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.


In addition to a feathery ice crystal or flake of snow, snowflake refers to an overly sensitive or easily offended person who feels entitled to special treatment because of their unique characteristics. According to the OED, life for them should come with trigger warnings and safe spaces. A snowflake often refers to millennial students who are considered by some to be the stressed-out generation ruined by helicopter parents, smartphones, and an outrageous sense of entitlement. National studies have depicted a growing rate of depression (63%) and suicidal thoughts (47%) among young adults (18-25).

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.



Strong reaction against the major technology companies (“Big Tech”) as a result of concerns about their power, users’ privacy, the possibility of political manipulation, etc. Since the spread of COVID-19, concern about the perils of smartphone surveillance have changed into using smartphone location data to document levels of social distancing by regions.

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. The Century Foundation suggests 9 Ways Colleges Should Support Underrepresented Students.

underserved students

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). Used interchangeably with underrepresented.)

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.