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Glossary

The online version of the IPEDS Glossary provides definitions for almost 500 postsecondary-related terms used in the collection and dissemination of IPEDS data.

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Term Definition Related terms
Abroad Any geographic location not in the aggregate United States, which includes the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the other areas.
Academic program An instructional program leading toward an associate's, bachelor's, master's, doctor's, or first-professional degree or resulting in credits that can be applied to one of these degrees.
Academic Rank A status designated by the institution according to the institution's policies. The IPEDS HR survey includes the ranks of Professor, Associate Professor, Assistant Professor, Instructor, and Lecturer.
Academic support A functional expense category that includes expenses of activities and services that support the institution's primary missions of instruction, research, and public service. It includes the retention, preservation, and display of educational materials (for example, libraries, museums, and galleries); organized activities that provide support services to the academic functions of the institution (such as a demonstration school associated with a college of education or veterinary and dental clinics if their primary purpose is to support the instructional program); media such as audiovisual services; academic administration (including academic deans but not department chairpersons); and formally organized and separately budgeted academic personnel development and course and curriculum development expenses. Also included are information technology expenses related to academic support activities; if an institution does not separately budget and expense information technology resources, the costs associated with the three primary programs will be applied to this function and the remainder to institutional support. Institutions include actual or allocated costs for operation and maintenance of plant, interest, and depreciation.
Academic support (GASB aligned form reporters) A functional expense category that includes expenses of activities and services that support the institution's primary missions of instruction, research, and public service. It includes the retention, preservation, and display of educational materials (for example, libraries, museums, and galleries); organized activities that provide support services to the academic functions of the institution (such as a demonstration school associated with a college of education or veterinary and dental clinics if their primary purpose is to support the instructional program); media such as audiovisual services; academic administration (including academic deans but not department chairpersons); and formally organized and separately budgeted academic personnel development and course and curriculum development expenses. Also included are information technology expenses related to academic support activities; if an institution does not separately budget and expense information technology resources, the costs associated with the three primary programs will be applied to this function and the remainder to institutional support. GASB institutions include actual or allocated costs for operation and maintenance of plant and depreciation.
Academic year The period of time generally extending from September to June; usually equated to 2 semesters or trimesters, 3 quarters, or the period covered by a 4-1-4 calendar system.
Accelerated programs Completion of a college program of study in fewer than the usual number of years, most often by attending summer sessions and carrying extra courses during the regular academic term.
Accrediting agencies Organizations (or bodies) that establish operating standards for educational or professional institutions and programs , determine the extent to which the standards are met, and publicly announce their findings.
Accrediting bodies See accrediting agencies Accrediting agencies
Accumulated depreciation The total depreciation charged as expenses as of the reporting date (in the current year and in prior years) on the capital assets of the institution. FASB Statement No. 117 and GASB Statement No. 34 require that accumulated depreciation to date be recognized.
ACT ACT, previously known as the American College Testing program, measures educational development and readiness to pursue college-level coursework in English, mathematics, natural science, and social studies. Student performance does not reflect innate ability and is influenced by a student's educational preparedness.
Additions to permanent endowments Gifts or grants received by a GASB institution that are restricted to a permanent endowment (institutions often have endowment funds that are classified as permanent endowments). Funds must be held in perpetuity with only the income generally available for use.
Additions to physical plant assets Land, buildings, improvements other than buildings, equipment, and library books that are added during the fiscal year through purchases, by gifts-in-kind from donors, and from other additions; excludes construction in progress.
Adjunct instructional staff Non-tenure track instructional staff serving in a temporary or auxiliary capacity to teach specific courses on a course-by-course basis. Includes both instructional staff who are hired to teach an academic degree-credit course and those hired to teach a remedial, developmental, or ESL course; whether the latter three categories earn college credit is immaterial. Excludes regular part-time instructional staff (who, unlike adjuncts are not paid on a course-by-course basis), graduate assistants, full-time professional staff of the institution who may teach individual courses (such as a dean or academic advisor), and appointees who teach non-credit courses exclusively.
Adjusted cohort The result of removing any allowable exclusions from a cohort (or subcohort). For the Graduation Rates component, this is the cohort from which graduation and transfer-out rates are calculated; for the Fall Enrollment component, it is the cohort for calculating retention rate.
Adjustments to beginning net assets Unusual and infrequent adjustments to assets that are not recorded as current year revenues, expenses, gains, or losses. This includes adjustments for retroactive applications of changes in accounting principles and prior period adjustments.
Administrative unit The system or central office in a multi-campus environment.
Admissions (students admitted) Applicants that have been granted an official offer to enroll in a postsecondary institution.
Admissions test scores Scores on standardized admissions tests or special admissions tests.
Adult basic education Courses designed primarily for students 16 years of age and older to improve basic skills in reading, writing, and arithmetic. These courses are not intended to be part of a program leading to a high school credential, nor are they part of any academic, occupational, or vocational program at the postsecondary level.
Advanced placement (AP) courses College-level courses taught in high school. Students may take an examination at the completion of the course; acceptable scores allow students to earn college credit toward a degree, certificate, or other formal award.
Affiliated organizations Legally separate organizations that are affiliated or associated with a primary GASB institution. These organizations are created for the primary purpose of assisting a primary institution to accomplish its mission but are not subject to the institution's organizational or procedural oversight. Fund-raising foundations, athletic associations, alumni associations, and research foundations are some examples of affiliated organizations. Depending on the organizational structure and other factors, some affiliated organizations may be considered component units and thus their financial activity must be reported separately by the primary institution.
AICPA The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
AICPA College and University Audit Guide Model A financial reporting model defined by AICPA. The audit guide contains the primary standards for financial reports of public colleges and universities prior to the effective date of GASB Statements 34 and 35. Standards of this Guide were permitted as one alternative by GASB Statement No. 15 for public institutions .
Aid received For the purposes of the IPEDS Student Financial Aid (SFA) component, aid received refers to financial aid that was awarded to, and accepted by, a student. This amount may differ from the aid amount that is disbursed to a student. For example, a student may accept aid that was awarded by the institution but then leave the institution prior to the aid being disbursed. In this case, because the student accepted the aid, the aid would be reported to IPEDS, even though it was NOT actually disbursed to the student.
All other sports combined Any sport not specified separately in the collection of Graduation Rates (GRS) data. This includes sports such as golf, tennis, lacross or field hockey where teams participate in intercollegiate athletics competition. It does not include cheerleading or dance teams even though the institution might award aid to students participating in these activities under the auspices of the athletic department.
Allowances That part of a scholarship or fellowship that is used to pay institutional charges such as tuition and fees or room and board charges.
American Indian or Alaska Native A person having origins in any of the original peoples of North and South America (including Central America) who maintains cultural identification through tribal affiliation or community attachment.
American Indian or Alaska Native (old definition) A person having origins in any of the original peoples of North America and who maintains cultural identification through tribal affiliation or community recognition.
Annual contract or employment agreement An annually-renewable contract or employment agreement that is in effect for a stated annual period within one year of execution, and may be equal to a period of 365 days, or a standard academic year, or the equivalent. Does not include contracts for partial year periods such as a single semester, quarter, term, block, or course.
Annuity and life income funds Funds carrying a stipulation that the institution make payments to one or more specific beneficiaries.
Applicant An individual who has fulfilled the institution's requirements to be considered for admission (including payment or waiving of the application fee, if any) and who has been notified of one of the following actions: admission, nonadmission, placement on waiting list, or application withdrawn by applicant or institution.
Application fee That amount of money that an institution charges for processing a student's application for admittance to the institution. This amount is not creditable toward tuition or required fees, nor is it refundable if the student is not admitted to the institution.
Archivists, Curators, and Museum Technicians An occupational category based on the broad occupation in the 2010 Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) Manual called "Archivists, Curators, and Museum Technicians."  For detailed information, refer to the following website: http://www.bls.gov/soc/2010/soc254010.htm.
Asian A person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian Subcontinent, including, for example, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Asian/Pacific Islander (old definition) A person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, the Indian Subcontinent, and Pacific Islands. This includes people from China, Japan, Korea, the Philippine Islands, American Samoa, India, and Vietnam.
Assets Physical items (tangible) or rights (intangible) that have value and that are owned by the institution. Assets are useful to the institution because they are a source of future services or because they can be used to secure future benefits. Current assets
Noncurrent assets
Fixed assets
Associate's Colleges (Carnegie) An institutional classification developed by the Andrew W. Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Associate's Colleges offer associate's degree and certificate programs but, with few exceptions, award no baccalaureate degrees . This group includes institutions where, during the period studied, bachelor's degrees represented less than 10 percent of all undergraduate awards. Carnegie Classification
Associate's degree An award that normally requires at least 2 but less than 4 years of full-time equivalent college work.
At-will contract or employment agreement A contract or agreement that can be terminated by the employer or employee at any time, for any or no reason.
Audit opinion An audit, performed by external (or outside) auditors, that usually consists of a one-page "opinion" letter on the general-purpose financial statements. The "opinion" paragraph of the letter usually states that "In our opinion, the financial statements present fairly, in all material respects, the financial position as of (date) and the results of operations for the year then ended, in conformity with accounting standards generally accepted in the United States." If the auditor cannot state completely the substance of the previous "opinion" sentence, then the auditor will add a phrase such as "...except for..." and state the basis for the exception. When the auditor includes exceptions to the opinion, the opinion is considered to be a "qualified opinion;" when no such exceptions are included, the opinion is considered to be an "unqualified opinion."
Audit/auditing (a class) Term used when a student elects to take a course, but does not wish to receive credit for the course toward a degree or other formal award.
Auxiliary enterprises expenses Expenses for essentially self-supporting operations of the institution that exist to furnish a service to students, faculty, or staff, and that charge a fee that is directly related to, although not necessarily equal to, the cost of the service. Examples are residence halls, food services, student health services, intercollegiate athletics (only if essentially self-supporting), college unions, college stores, faculty and staff parking, and faculty housing. Institutions include actual or allocated costs for operation and maintenance of plant, interest and depreciation.
Auxiliary enterprises revenues Revenues generated by or collected from the auxiliary enterprise operations of the institution that exist to furnish a service to students, faculty, or staff, and that charge a fee that is directly related to, although not necessarily equal to, the cost of the service. Auxiliary enterprises are managed as essentially self-supporting activities. Examples are residence halls, food services, student health services, intercollegiate athletics, college unions, college stores, and movie theaters.
Avocational programs Instructional programs in personal interest and leisure categories whose expressed intent is not to produce postsecondary credits , nor to lead to a formal award or an academic degree, nor result in occupationally specific skills.

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National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov
U.S. Department of Education