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Glossary of Academic Terms: Academic Terms

Academic Terms

A.A. (ASSOCIATE IN ARTS): An undergraduate degree of at least 60 credits awarded upon successful completion of a program of study in liberal arts and sciences that prepares students to transfer to a baccalaureate institution.

A.S. (ASSOCIATE IN SCIENCE): An undergraduate degree of at least 60 credits awarded upon successful completion of a program of study in an applied subject area, such as computers, electronics, or health care that prepares students to enter the workforce or transfer to a baccalaureate institution.

ACADEMIC ADVISOR: College staff member responsible for providing academic advising services to strengthen, nurture, empower, and educate students in making informed decisions that will guide their educational experience. The Advisor's role includes helping students plan their academic schedule and course load, serving as a resource for career exploration, education planning, and transfer advising.

ACADEMIC CALENDAR: A calendar of important dates associated with the college, such as semester start and end dates, holidays and deadlines.

ACADEMIC COURSE LOAD: The number of credit hours in which a student is enrolled during the semester. The normal load for full-time students is 12 to 18 semester hours of credit. 

ACADEMIC FORGIVENESS (FRESH START): A policy which allows students a one-time opportunity to have unsatisfactory grades removed from their official academic record. Only students returning to STCC in a degree or certificate program after a separation from the College of two or more years with a cumulative GPA below 2.0 are eligible to apply for Fresh Start. 

ACADEMIC HONESTY: Academic honesty is expected of all students. Any dishonesty in the performance of course work, such as plagiarism, fabrication or cheating in other forms, will be reported and students will be disciplined.

ACADEMIC STANDING: A student is considered in academic good standing if his or her cumulative grade point average is 2.00 or higher in order to be eligible for graduation from STCC ( some degree programs require minimum GPAs higher than 2.0). Each matriculated student’s academic standing is evaluated at the conclusion of every Fall and Spring semester.

ACADEMIC SUSPENSIONS:  Students who receive academic warnings will be suspended if, after a subsequent semester, they fail to meet the minimum cumulative QPA requirements defined above AND they fail to achieve a minimum term GPA of 2.0 in the subsequent term. They will not be allowed to continue in his/her degree or certificate program at the College, and any courses for which the student is registered for upcoming semesters will be dropped. An academically-suspended student has a right to submit a written appeal to the Student Success Center

ACADEMIC TERM (SEMESTER): Fall, spring and summer terms when classes are in session. The fall and spring semesters are approximately 14 weeks long. STCC offers several summer sessions that are generally 5 or 10 weeks long. 

ACADEMIC WARNINGStudents who do not achieve good academic standing status at the conclusion of a semester will be placed on academic warning and must work with an advisor to plan action steps to improve his/her academic performance.

ACADEMIC YEAR: Academic years run from September to August, and include the Fall, Spring and Summer semesters. 

ACCREDITATION: Certification by an independent educational board that confirms that the college or university meets or exceeds a set of official standards.

ADD/DROP: A short period of time after a semester begins that allows students to change their course enrollment and/or course schedules.

ADMINISTRATION: College staff members responsible for management and supervision.

ALUMNI: Graduates, in the plural.

AP (ADVANCED PLACEMENT): At STCC, AP scores of 3, 4, and 5 are acceptable as the equivalent of college-level course work. Official College Board scores must be submitted to the Admissions Office for review in order for credit to be considered.

ARTICULATION AGREEMENT: A formal agreement between Springfield Technical Community College and a four-year college or university that eases students’ transfer to that institution.

AUDIT:  Audited classes do not receive credit and are issued a final grade of AU, having no impact on the student’s GPA

BACCALAUREATE: A bachelor’s degree of at least 120 credits awarded by a college or university upon successful completion of a program of study.

BLACKBOARD: The application used to participate in class remotely including fully online, hybrid and we-assisted courses. 

BOARD OF TRUSTEES: An appointed group of people that oversees and is responsible for the policies and fiscal affairs of an organization.

BOOKSTORE VOUCHERStudents who are expected to have money available from financial aid funds that are not needed to cover a student's bill may be used to make purchases at the STCC Bookstore.

CAREER PLANNING: Preparation for employment that matches a student’s interests and professional goals.

CAS (CENTER FOR ACCESS SERVICES): CAS provides STCC students with a broad range of non-academic supports such as emergency funds, food and other resources.

CERTIFICATE PROGRAM  A specialized program of study designed to equip a student with the skills and educational background needed for employment in a specific field, such as business administration or criminal justice.

CCGS (COOPERATING COLLEGES OF GREATER SPRINGFIELD): An educational consortium composed of the eight public and private colleges in the Greater Springfield area: American International College, Bay Path University, Elms College, Holyoke Community College, Springfield College, Springfield Technical Community College, Western New England University, and Westfield State University.

CERTIFICATE PROGRAM: An academic program of study in a specific field intended for occupational training, job upgrading or job retraining, generally requiring 30 credits or less. A certificate is awarded upon successful completion of the program.

CHALLENGE EXAMINATIONS: Exams developed by STCC faculty designed for the student who may already know the material covered in an introductory-level course and wishes to opt out by passing a challenge exam. 

CLEP (COLLEGE LEVEL EXAMINATION PROGRAM): CLEP exams provide an opportunity for STCC students (and the general public) to obtain college credit by examination. 

CODE OF CONDUCT: The behavioral expectation that all STCC students will act with integrity (exhibiting honesty, honor, and a respect for the truth in all of their dealings), contribute positively to the educational community including behavior that is conscious of the rights and safety of others, promote a productive and diverse academic environment and accept responsibility to themselves, others, and the community.

COLLEGE NOW: A dual enrollment program that allows high school or home-schooled juniors and seniors can take one free on-campus class per semester to earn college credits

COMMENCEMENT: Graduation ceremony.

COMMONWEALTH COMMITMENT: a statewide program that provides financial incentives to students who begin their higher education at STCC and then transfer to a Massachusetts public college or university.

CO-REQUISITE:  A course that is required to be taken during the same semester as another course.

CREDIT COURSE:  An academic course numbered 100 or above in the college catalog that may be applied toward completion of a degree or certificate. (See also Developmental Course).

CREDIT HOUR:  A standard measure of the amount of instructional time required to successfully complete a course. For example, ENG 101, English Comp I, is a 3 credit-hour course, which means that it meets for 3 hours each week for one semester.

CROSS REGISTRATION: STCC students attempting at least six semester hours in a degree program in the day division may enroll at another CCSG college for any regular term course (up to 2 courses totaling no more than eight (8) credits) in the day division that is not offered at STCC, as long as the desired course is not over subscribed.

CURRICULUM:  A set of courses focused in a particular field, e.g., accounting, criminal justice, and early childhood education.

DEAN:  A member of the administrative staff responsible for supervision and management of a division of the college.

DEGREE/CERTIFICATE REQUIREMENTS:  A list of courses, subject areas and credit hours needed to obtain a specific degree or certificate.

DEGREE PROGRAM:  An Associate in Arts or Associate in Science program of study requiring 60 credits or more for completion.

DEVELOPMENTAL COURSE:  A basic skill development course numbered below 100 in the College catalog that carries college credit but does not count toward the requirements for graduation.

DIRECTED STUDY:  An independent study of variable credit conducted during the academic semester by arrangement between the student and the faculty member, usually in an advanced area of study not currently covered by an existing course offered at the College

DISTANCE EDUCATION:  An option for earning course credit on-line or at off-campus locations. See also ONLINE LEARNING.

DROP A COURSE:  To cancel registration in a course. Dropping a course must happen during the schedule adjustment period specified on the academic calendar and be processed through the registrar.

EDUCATION PLAN:  A student’s map or guide to courses they need to take to earn their degree or certificate, when they will take the courses, and in what format.

EDUCATIONAL PLANNING:  The process in which a student works with a faculty or staff member to create an educational pathway to enable the student to persistence and successfully accomplish her/his academic and career goals.

ELECTIVE: A course in a program of study that may be selected from a variety of courses in the designated discipline and is numbered above 100.

ESOL (ENGLISH FOR SPEAKERS of OTHER LANGUAGES): STCC's ELL Office serves students for whom English is a second language. 

ETOOLS: A convenient drop-down shortcut on the STCC homepage that links to your STCC account and systems as well as other key tools you may need to access.

FACULTY: An employee of the College who delivers academic instruction.

FAFSA (FREE APPLICAITON FOR FEDERAL STUDENT AID): A required standardized application that includes detailed financial data and is used to determine eligibility for all financial aid programs. Student Financial Services staff are available to assist students throughout the FAFSA application process.

FEES: Charges by the College for specific services to students.

FINANCIAL AID: Funding from various sources provided to students to assist in defraying expenses of college.

FINANCIAL PLANNING: A set of resources and tools designed to help students make sound financial decisions that are in line with their personalized plan.

FIRST-GENERATION COLLEGE STUDENT: A student whose parent or guardian did not attain a 4-year bachelor’s degree.

FIRST YEAR EXPERIENCE: (FYE 101) A one credit course addressing the many transitional needs of the new student at Springfield Technical Community College. By engaging with subject matter that prepares them to achieve in a collegial setting, they will be equipped with tools to assist in their educational success. 

FLEX TERM:  A “flex term” is a term that offers flexibility to students. These are seven week semesters that begin at the start of a traditional semester (for example, Fall 1) or that start in the middle of the traditional semester (for example, Fall 2).

ACADEMIC FORGIVNESS (FRESH START):  Intended to address the needs of students who have had serious academic difficulties, the Fresh Start policy allows students a one-time opportunity to have unsatisfactory grades removed from their official academic record. Only students returning to STCC in a degree or certificate program after a separation from the College of two or more years with a cumulative GPA below 2.0 are eligible to apply for Fresh Start. 

FULL-TIME (STUDENT):  Student registered for 12 or more credits. The normal load for full-time students is 12 to 18 semester hours of credit.

GATEWAY TO COLLEGECompetitive scholarship program to obtain a high school diploma and earn college credit for students who have experienced challenges in high school.

GED (GENERAL EDUCATIONAL DEVELOPMENT)High school equivalency diploma. Exams are offered at STCC. See also HiSET.

GEN ED FOUNDATION:  A 34-credit block of courses that, once completed at STCC, will satisfy the general education requirements at any public college or university in Massachusetts.

GPA (GRADE POINT AVERAGE) / CUMULATIVE GPA:  Used to compute student academic standing.

GUEST STUDENT / NON DEGREE SEEKING STUDENT:  A student who is taking college credit courses at STCC without applying for admission into a Certificate or Associate degree program (eg. you want to improve skills with a course, you are enrolled as a degree-seeking student at another institution and want to take a course at STCC to transfer back to your institution).


HSI (HISPANIC SERVING INSTITUTION): STCC is designated a Hispanic Serving Institution since at least 25% of full-time equivalent students are Hispanic. As s result, STCC receives federal funding to benefit all students.

HOLD ON STUDENT ACCOUNT: Holds are actions taken to restrict a student’s registration ability or prevent the student from receiving a transcript or diploma. Holds are usually placed for academic, financial, or conduct reasons.

HYBRID COURSE: Hybrid courses require both in-person meetings and online components. This does not reduce the rigor of the course and students are still required to complete all weekly assignments and attend all on-campus class sessions.

INCOMPLETE GRADE: The grade of Incomplete (I) indicates that a major requirement of the course has not been completed.  

INSTRUCTIONAL DELIVERY: The approach used to teach course content (face-to-face, online, or hybrid).

INTERNSHIP: A program designed to give students real work-place experience in their intended careers before graduation.

JOINT ADMISSIONS: STCC has partnered with members of the Cooperating Colleges of Greater Springfield (CCGS) to offer joint admissions to American International College (AIC), Bay Path University, Elms College, Springfield College, and Western New England University.

MAJOR: The degree or certificate program a student is officially enrolled in. Also called a program of study.

MASSTRANSFER: STCC participates in the MassTransfer Program with all Massachusetts public colleges and universities. This program guarantees participating students admission to the institution of their choice, provided they graduate from an approved major at STCC with a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or higher

MATRICULATION:  Formal application to and acceptance in a degree or certificate program.  

MID-SEMESTER GRADES:  At mid-semester of the 14-week Spring and Fall terms, students will be graded by each of their professors. These grades will not become part of a student’s permanent record but are used to indicate his/her performance through the first half of the semester. 

MIDTERM:  The point midway through an academic term.

NETTUTOR: Online tutoring available 24/7 that can be accessed through the STCCNet Portal.

NON-CREDIT COURSE: A course that is non-credit bearing and cannot be used to satisfy an academic requirement for any degree or certificate program. STCC offers noncredit, workforce training courses to meet the needs of local employers and employees. 

NON DEGREE SEEKING STUDENT: A student enrolled in courses for credit who is not recognized by the institution as seeking a degree or formal award.

ONLINE COURSE:  A course where most or all of the content is delivered online.

ONLINE DEGREE PROGRAM:  A program that allows students to fulfill all their degree requirements by completing courses online.

ONLINE LEARNING:  The option of earning course credit online. Many STCC degree and certificate programs feature a significant number of courses that can be completed partially or entirely online.

ONLINE LEARNING ORIENTATION:  STCC offers an instructor-led Online Learning Orientation at the beginning of each semester. Attending one of the orientation sessions is optional, but highly recommended for students new to taking online courses or using the Blackboard Learning System. Sessions are approximately 1.5 hours in length.

OPEN ADMISSION: STCC maintains an open access policy. As long as an applicant has earned a high school diploma from an accredited high school or a high school equivalent (GED or HiSET) he/she will be admitted to the College. However, certain academically competitive programs may have additional admitting requirements as well as specific application deadlines.

ORIENTATION:  The formal process of welcoming new students to the college and providing them with information on the resources, services, and departments they may access to assist them to be academically successful. 

PART-TIME STUDENT:  Student enrolled for 11 credits or fewer in the Fall or Spring Semester.

PASS/FAIL: Instead of earning a letter grade (A – F), you will earn a grade of ‘Pass’ or ‘Fail.’

PASSWORD MANAGER: Once enrolled, allows you to reset your STCC account password anytime or unlock your locked out account.

PLACEMENT TEST:  A test which determines a student’s level of learning in a subject, typically English or Mathematics, before they begin a college program.

PLANNED COURSES: The formal process of determining the order semester courses have to be taken in to earn a degree or certificate.

PREREQUISITE: Skill or course required for entry into a course or program of study.

PLC (PRIOR LEARNING CREDIT):  A program through which students can earn credit for college-level learning acquired through non-collegiate experiences. STCC offers PLC for high school Advanced Placement (AP) classes, CLEP Exams, military service, professional certifications, and more. 

PROBATION:  Formal notice that a student is not in good academic standing. 

RAMCARD: Student ID which also serves as the means of student financial aid refunds.

READMISSION: The process by which students reenroll in a degree or certificate program after an absence from the College of at least one semester.

REGISTRAR: The College office that plans and oversees registration, academic record maintenance, transcript requests, graduation, degree audit reporting, and curricular records.

SAP (SATISFACTORY ACADEMIC PROGRESS): Minimum grade point average and course completion rate that must be earned by a student to be considered in good academic standing to continue to maintain financial aid eligibility.

SELECTIVE PROGRAM ADMISSION: Some programs have specific requirements that must be met before a student may submit an application for admission. These programs are competitive and acceptance is not guaranteed.

SELF-DIRECTED LEARNING: An approach to learning that requires students to take the lead in determining how they will learn subject matter and work independently to acquire that knowledge.

SALC (SPRINGFIELD ADULT LEARNING CENTER): Provides free classes for adults to further their education by earning a High School Equivalency Certificate (HSE) which includes preparing for a GED or a HiSET exam; developing computer skills; learning English as a second language; or enrolling as a student at STCC college after completing an HSE.

STCC ACCOUNT: Your STCC Account gives you access to log onto STCCNet, STCC Gmail, Blackboard, WebAdvisor, Password Manager, STCC computers, and STCC printers. The same username and password are used to log in to all STCC Account systems. New students receive an email with an STCC Account username and password. 

STCCNET: The online portal where you can access many resources from one central location. STCC offices and services will post documents, resources, and information meant only for current students, faculty, and staff. 

STEM: The acronym for science, technology, engineering and math; scientific and technical fields of study.

STEM CENTER: Provides academic support for all students taking STEM classes with tutoring, a computer lab with STEM software and a student study lounge.

STAFF: An employee of the College who does not teach or facilitate academic instruction.

STUDENT FINANCIAL SERVICES: Student Financial Services is the department at STCC which handles students’ financial questions including assisting students with their FAFSA applications.

STUDENT SUCCESS CENTER: The Student Success Center (SSC) helps students overcome obstacles and be successful in accomplishing their personal, educational, and professional goals. Success coaches provide one-on-one tutoring in most subjects and help with academic skills and personal development. 

STUDENT SUCCESS COACH: The Student Success Coach is a professional staff member who will help you navigate the responsibilities of being a student, while balancing the demands and nuances of  your personal life.

TBD (TO BE DETERMINED):  An instructor and/or a room has yet to be assigned for a course.

TRANSCRIPT: Permanent record of a student’s academic grades. Available through the Registrar’s office.

TRANSFER AGREEMENTS: Agreements between STCC and other public and private colleges and universities to offer seamless transfer pathways for specific academic programs, in addition to joint admission opportunities with the Greater Springfield-area campuses. 

TRANSFER CENTERThe STCC Academic Advising and Transfer Center offers application assistance, one-on-one transfer counseling, visiting college and university representatives, and transfer information sessions.

TRANSFER PROGRAMSTCC transfer programs are specifically designed for students who plan to transfer to a 4-year college or university after earning an associate degree at STCC.

TRIO SUDENT SUPPORT SERVICESA program to assist students in adjusting to the college environment and helps them prepare for the transition either from college into a career or from STCC into a four-year college/university.

TUITION: Charges by the College to a student for registration in credit courses.

UNSATISFACTORY PROGRESS: Unable to perform satisfactorily according to your instructor’s expectations for the course.

WEBADVISOROnline portal where students may log in to pay tuition and fees, access their financial aid information, register for classes and more.

WEB COURSE: A course that is completely online and provides the same academic content that is delivered in a traditional classroom course.

WITHDRAWAL FROM A COURSE: The formal process of notifying the College of the decision to discontinue attending a course.

WITHDRAWAL FROM COLLEGE: The formal process of notifying the College of the decision to discontinue attending all classes.

WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT: Non-credit, on-line courses and programs leading to training and certification in a wide variety of employment fields.

WRITING CENTER: Provides peer and professional assistance with writing projects for all STCC classes. They can help with all types of writing and stages of the writing process plus offer guidance in APA and MLA formatting.