Higher Education Terms

Show below are a list of terms and the definitions of each that would effectively assist one in their examination of higher education in the United States. The list is not exhaustive but should fill in the blanks for you when you peruse our site. Enjoy!


  • Acceptance Rate– the percentage of applicants that a college admits.
  • Active Learning– A form of learning, more closely examined in recent years, that promotes active participation of students in the daily classroom experience. This participation could be achieved through active discussion, frequent group work, and promotion of student-teacher interaction. Many studies have proved the validity of active learning in the effective retention of information and the increased interest level of students.
  • Adjunct Professor– a professor employed by a college or university for a specific purpose or length of time and often part-time.
  • AP Courses– Advanced Placement courses; courses that are taken in high school and are recognized by the College Board as College Level Courses


  • Community College– a nonresidential junior college that offers higher education courses to people living in a particular area.


  • Dropped Class– A term used to describe a class a college student opts out of midway through a term to avoid receiving a failing or poor grade in the course. The student then has the option to retake the course at his or her discretion or eliminate the course completely.
  • Dual enrollment– when a student is enrolled in two separate–but sometimes related–institutions. The term usually refers to high school students who take community college courses to receive college credit early on in their academic career.


  • FAFSA– Free Application for Federal Student Aid, an application used in order to apply for Federal Loans
  • For-profit College– an institution of higher education that is operated by private, profit-seeking, businesses.


  • GI Bill– Formally known as the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act of 1944, this bill provided World War II veterans a range of benefits upon returning from duty. Since the original signing of the bill, the term has evolved to apply to all returning war veterans and often their allotment of funds to attend a higher education institution in the United States.
  • Graduation Rate– a statistic often used to “rate” a college, the percentage of students that graduate within six years from a higher education institution


  • H.R. 340– commonly known as the “Protecting Financial Aid for Students and Taxpayers Act,” this bill- if passed- will prohibit higher education institutions from using federal financial aid to pay for advertising
  • Higher Education Act– Act passed in 1965 dedicated to the support of institutions of higher education in the United States and the students that attend them. The law was intended to increase the educational resources of our institutions and provide financial support to the students that attend them.
  • Higher Education Act of 1965– law passed which allows colleges to provide financial assistance for students


  • MOOCs– Massive Open Online Courses; large online courses that replace the traditional classroom environment


  • No Child Left Behind– An idea coined as a result of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, providing for standard-based education reform. This act originally enacted standards and success measurement tools to delegate resources appropriately in elementary and secondary education. The idea resembles the new post-secondary education reform proposed by President Obama in recent years.


  • Office Hours– Designated hours throughout an academic week in which the instructor of a course will be available to students for additional instruction, questions, and active discussion. This time is generally utilized to assist students in solving homework or to assist students in preparing for exams.
  • Online Colleges– colleges where the student body doesn’t attend the college physically in a classroom.


  • Pay it Forward, Pay it Back– a program where  the students wouldn’t have to pay or take out traditional loans for college but then when they get a job they would pay a percentage of their salary, interest free, over a certain number of years.
  • Pell Grants– Grants provided by the United States government that provide financial support to students to attend college. This grant is limited to students attending institutions that demonstrate financial need.
  • Private Universities– Higher educational institutes that are not operated by governments, although many receive tax breaks, public student loans, and grants.
  • Public College– a higher educational institution that is predominantly funded by the state.


  • Retention Rate– a statistic often used to “rate a college, the percentage of students who return as sophomores to a particular university after their freshman year
  • Return On Investment– a way of determining if a degree from a college is worth the amount of money it costs to obtain


  • STEM fields– areas of study in that consist of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.


  • Tenure– A senior instructor’s contractual right to hold his or her position without termination unless for existence of just cause. An internal policy adopted by many universities and colleges across the nation to offer skilled professors job security and academic freedom.


  • Wi-Fi– Technology that allows an electronic device to exchange data or connect to the internet wirelessly utilizing radio waves. The increased usage of this technology by students has made it absolutely vital in post-secondary educational institutions. As a result, the expense to install and maintain a wireless network across campus has been an increasing expense of universities across the country.

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