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College Terminology

Colleges use many terms that are hard to understand when you first begin your student's college experience. Many of the commonly used words are explained on this page.

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AA or AS Degree
A transfer associate degree is a two-year degree that allows students who are planning to transfer to a bachelor's degree program (usually at a four-year college or university) to complete their general education requirements at a community college. An associate degree typically takes 2 years to complete and requires 60 credit hours.

AAS Degree
An Associate of Applied Science degree is awarded to people that plan on going straight into the workforce after they graduate. Typically, these degrees apply to occupations requiring significant amounts of applied scientific and mathematical knowledge or occupations in which the individual will work in direct support of a professional.

Academic Advising
Process whereby students are provided with information regarding degree requirements, recommended coursework, programs of study, academic support services and policies and procedures defining academic progress. for more information, click here.

Academic Year
For NCC, an academic year consists of two 16-week semesters, fall and spring, and one 8-week semester, summer. For more information, click here.

Academic Standing
Students with a cumulative 2.00 grade point average or above are in good academic standing. Students with a cumulative grade point average below 2.00 are placed on academic and financial aid probation.

Northwest Iowa Community College is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools and the Iowa Department of Education, The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association, 30 North LaSalle Street, Suite 2400, Chicago, Illinois 60602-2504. NCC has met the clearly stated requirements and criteria established by the accrediting agencies. For more information, click here.

Admissions Office
The college office where information and admissions applications are available. The Admissions Office is often the first point of contact for prospective students. for more information, click here

Faculty member or staff person who provides students with information concerning courses, programs of study and other aspects of academic life. For more information, click here.

Graduates of Northwest Iowa Community College. For more information, click here.

Articulation Agreements
Articulation agreements state specific policies that are related to transferring credits and coursework between schools and are supposed to make it easier for students transferring from one college to another. For more information, click here.

Associate's Degree
A two-year degree of a technical program or general studies.

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Board of Trustees
The NCC Board is comprised of 7 trustees, elected as representatives from the seven districts of Area IV. The Board of Trustees is authorized and derives its organization from Iowa law. The Board's primary responsibility is to see that the College is run properly. For more information, click here.

Certificate Programs
Certificates are awarded to students who successfully complete a course of study designed to meet a specific need and which has been designated a Certificate Program. These programs consist of no less than 15 credit hours and no more than 30.

Cherokee Hall
The first housing unit built on the campus in the year 1992. It is named Cherokee Hall after one of the counties that the College serves. For more information, click here

CLEP Testing
The College-Level Examination Program® or CLEP provides students of any age with the opportunity to demonstrate college-level achievement through a program of exams in undergraduate college courses. The successful completion often results in college-level credit. NCC does not offer the CLEP exam, but will accept the CLEP credit if the student meets the minimum score. Contact the Registrar's office if you have questions.
Hands-on work experience in a specified field of study. Clinicals are required as a part of some of the courses offered at Northwest Iowa Community College.

College Catalog
The contract between the student and Northwest Iowa Community College for program, policy and graduation requirements. View the College Catalog

Community College
A community college is a public institution of higher education. Community colleges are characterized by a two-year curriculum that leads to either the associate degree or transfer to a four-year college. The transfer program parallels the first two years of a four-year college. The degree program generally prepares students for direct entrance into an occupation. Because of their low tuition, local setting, and relatively easy entrance requirements, community colleges have been a major force in the post-World War II expansion of educational opportunities in the United States. They are also referred to as junior colleges.

A course or course of study required to be taken simultaneously with another course.

Course Load
Total number of semester credit hours for which a student registered during any semester.

Course Withdrawal

Process by which a student removes a course(s) from his/her schedule. A student must meet with their advisor to withdraw from a class.

Credit Hours
Units acquired for completed coursework which are applied toward a certificate, diploma or degree. Generally, credit hours for a course are directly equivalent to the number of classroom contact hours per week.

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The head of a faculty division at the college.

Diploma Program
A one-year basic educational program that is designed to prepare students for entry into their career field.

Process by which a student whose academic performance indicates little chance of obtaining the minimum grades required for graduation and is no longer allowed to enroll at the college.

Distance Learning
Any form of learning in which the instructor and student are geographically separate, e.g. Iowa Communication Network (ICN) or web-based instruction.

Dual Credit
Students earn dual credits for classes that meet both high school and college requirements. Dual credit courses are taught in high school, at local colleges and through distance learning.


Courses that students can choose to complete their diploma or degree.

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FAFSA is the acronym for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This application is the first step in the financial aid process. 

FERPA is the acronym for Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. This is a federal law that protects the privacy of student records.

Financial Aid
Financial aid is used by students and their families to help pay for education expenses at eligible colleges, universities, and career schools. Aid can be categorized as “Gift Aid” (e.g. grants, scholarships, sponsorships) or “Self-help aid” (e.g. work-study, student loans). 

Financial Aid: Satisfactory Academic Progress
Federal regulations require Northwest Iowa Community College to establish Satisfactory Academic Progress standards for student financial aid recipients. These standards ensure that only those recipients demonstrating satisfactory progress toward the completion of their educational programs continue to receive financial aid. All student records will be reviewed at the end of each payment period (semester/term). A student’s entire NCC record will be reviewed for satisfactory academic progress, including terms for which the student did not receive financial aid.

For more information, click here

Financial Aid: Grants
A type of financial aid, often based on financial need, which does not need to be repaid (unless, for example, you withdraw from school and owe a refund). The primary application for grants is the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Check with the financial aid office about applicable priority deadlines.

Financial Aid Loans: Parent Plus Loan
The PLUS loan is a non-need-based loan for parents of dependent students. The amount available is the cost of attendance (as determined by the school) less other aid. PLUS Loans are borrowed directly from the U.S. Department of Education and require a credit check. Repayment begins within 60 days of the loan being fully disbursed. All loans must be repaid. Consideration for this loan requires the submission of a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).

Financial Aid Loans: Subsidized Student Loan
A loan based on financial need for which the federal government pays the interest that accrues while the borrower is in an in-school, grace, or deferment status. If the interest is not paid during the grace period, the interest will be added to the loan’s principal balance.

Consideration for this loan requires the submission of a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Subsidized Student Loans are borrowed directly from the U.S. Department of Education. Students must meet certain eligibility requirements including being enrolled at least half-time. Repayment begins six months after the student graduates, withdraws, or drops to less-than-half time status. All loans must be repaid.

Financial Aid Loans: Unsubsidized Student Loan
Unsubsidized loans are non-need-based loans borrowed directly from the U.S. Department of Education. The borrower is fully responsible for paying the interest that accrues on this loan regardless of the loan status. Interest on unsubsidized loans accrues from the date of disbursement and continues throughout the life of the loan regardless of the student's enrollment status.

Consideration for this loan requires the submission of a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student aid). Students must meet certain eligibility requirements including being enrolled at least half-time. Repayment begins six months after the student graduates, withdraws, or drops to less-than-half time status. All loans must be repaid.

Financial Aid: Scholarships
Money awarded to students based on academic or other achievements to help pay for education expenses. Scholarships can come from government or private sources and generally do not have to be repaid. To see NCC's Scholoarships, click here.

Financial Aid: Work-Study
Work-Study is a federal student aid program that provides part-time employment while you are enrolled in school to help pay your education expenses. It is a need-based program determined by the FAFSA. Students typically work 6 - 8 hours per week to earn up to the amount of their award. Consideration for Work-Study requires the submission of a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). No repayment is required. The number of Work-Study positions is limited and employment is not guaranteed.

Financial Aid: Warning Status
The first semester (or term) a student fails to maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress, he or she will be placed on a Warning Status.

For more information, click here.

Financial Aid: Suspension Status
If a student fails to meet the Satisfactory Academic Progress Standards after the warning period, suspension status will be imposed. EXCEPTION: A student who fails to earn any credit hours in a term will be placed on immediate suspension.

For more information, click here.

Full-time Student
Registration Full-Time Student Classification
• Fall Semester 12 or more credits
• Spring Semester 12 or more credits
• Summer Term 6 or more credits

Financial Aid Full-Time Student Classification
Enrollment status for Fall, Spring and Summer are as follows:
• Full-Time 12 or more credits
• Three-Quarter Time 9-11 credits
• Half-Time 6-8 credits

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Acronym for Grade Point Average. Some students who get off to a rocky start eventually pull up their grades; however, this can be very difficult to do. Advanced placement credits and study abroad courses generally do not count in the computation of a student's GPA. Some employers use GPA cutoffs in considering applicants. Other employers stress the student's overall background: experience, number of hours worked during the school year to finance college, leadership activities, etc. Encourage your son or daughter to make academics a high priority beginning with his or her freshman year. Nevertheless, it is important to remember that it may take him or her a time to adjust to the rigorous academic demands of college.

Courses having primarily a cultural nature such as art, philosophy, history, music, English and foreign languages.

The Iowa Communication Network is the country’s premier fiber-optic network, committed to continued enhancement of distance learning and providing Iowans with convenient, equal access to education and government. The Network makes it possible for Iowans, physically separated by location, to interact in an efficient, creative, and cost-effective manner. Through partnerships with education, medicine, the judicial system, government agencies, and the National Guard, the Network brings live, full-motion video to 744 classrooms around Iowa, located in schools, National Guard armories, libraries, hospitals, and federal and state government offices. ICN services include video over IP, voice and high-speed data.

An incomplete grade is assigned if students have not completed some portion of assigned work during the regular semester due to extenuating circumstances.

International Student
A student who is not a citizen of the United States and who has entered the United States on a temporary basis for the purpose of enrolling in an educational institution.

Learning Center
The Learning Center, located in Building A on the NCC campus, provides a variety of services for students and residents of Area IV. Within the business hours of the Learning Center, students and prospective students at NCC are able to get free tutoring by available staff members. Developmental courses are also available for prospective students who may want to improve their skills before entering the college atmosphere. A few of the conveniences available to students through the Learning Center are a computer lab, study rooms, and testing accommodations. for more information, click here. 

Lyon Hall
The second housing unit built on the campus in the year 2007. It is named Lyon Hall after one of the counties that the College serves. For more information, click here.

Course or programs for which no academic credit is given. For more information, click here

Student who has not established status as a resident of Iowa as defined by these guidelines.

Non-Traditional Student
An adult or non-traditional student is not defined only by age (usually over 24). They are also students with life circumstances different from the typical traditional student. These circumstances include, but are not limited to students who are:

  • married, divorced or single
  • parents
  • caring for elderly parents
  • veterans
  • returning to college after a period of time in the work force or working in their home
  • entering college for the first time, not right after high school graduation
  • full-time, part-time or seasonal employees
  • distance learners

O'Brien Hall
The third housing unit built on the campus in the year 2009. It is named O'Brien Hall after one of the counties that the College serves. For more information, click here.

An event planned to familiarize new students and their parents with NCC's facilities, policies, procedures and the financial aid process. Students develop schedules and register for courses.

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Part-time Student
Any student enrolled at the College who is carrying a course load of less than 12 credit hours per fall and spring semester and less than 6 credit hours per summer term.

Pell Grant
A federal grant for undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need. Consideration for Pell Grant requires the submission of a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). No repayment is required.

Effective on July 1, 2012, students can receive the Federal Pell Grant for no more than 12 semesters or the equivalent (roughly six years). 

The unauthorized use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one's own original work. Being found guilty of plagiarizing could result in failure of the course.

Course(s) or condition(s) required before enrollment in a more advanced course.

Probation (Academic)
A warning to students who fail to maintain a semester and/or an overall grade point average of 2.00 or better. Failure to improve the academic record within a specified time may result in academic suspension.

See also Financial Aid: Warning Status.  

Plan of academic study, for example, Automotive Service Technology or Diesel Technology. For more information, click here.

Registrar's Office
The college office that plans and oversees registration activities, academic record maintenance, transcript preparation and degree audit system.

Process of initial class enrollment for a given term that takes place after the initial admissions process.

Course or condition that must be fulfilled as part of a particular program.

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See Financial Aid: Scholarships

Courses that must be taken in a definite order.

The SGA (Student Government Association) plans activities and events for students to participate in throughout the school year. SGA also provides an opportunity for students to be active in legislative issues and attend the Student Legislative Forum in Des Moines each year. For more information, click here.

Student Services
The department at Northwest Iowa Community College that includes admissions, registration, financial aid, advising, special needs accommodations, career exploration and housing.

Suspension (Academic)
Prohibits, during the period of suspension, the student on whom it is imposed from being initiated into an honorary or service organization; from entering College property except in response to a request from the College; and from registering either for credit or for noncredit, for scholastic work at or throughout the College.

See also Financial Aid: Suspension.

An outline or a summary of the main points of text, lecture or course of study.

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Technical Programs
Technical or vocational education prepares students for jobs that are based in manual or practical activities, related to a specific trade, occupation or vocation, hence the term, in which the learner participates. It is sometimes referred to as technical education, as the learner directly develops expertise in a particular group of techniques or technology.

Traditional Student
Students attending Northwest Iowa Community College who are single, without children and a recent high school graduate.

Any copy or reproduction, electronic or paper format, especially one that is official, as a copy of a student's record in school or college, listing courses, credits, grades, etc.

TRiO is a federally funded student support services program designed to provide opportunities and services that will increase students' chances for academic success in college. Students will receive the support and encouragement needed to successfully complete their studies at NCC or transfer to the four-year college of their choice. All services provided by the TRiO program are FREE to students who meet eligibility guidelines. For more information on the TRiO program, Click Here.

A fee for instruction, especially at a formal institution of learning. For more information, click here

Person providing special study skills and assistance in a particular subject or academic program.

A term that applies to college freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors who are pursuing baccalaureate (bachelors), associate, diploma and certificate completions.

See Financial Aid: Warning.

Work- Study
See Financial Aid Work-Study.

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