Definitions of Terms

What do these words mean?


Institutions of higher education are accredited by one of six regional accrediting bodies. All of these regional accrediting associations have commissions that develop standards for and accredit postsecondary degree-granting institutions. Colleges and universities in Tennessee are accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

Associate of Applied Science Degree (A.A.S.)

The A.A.S. degree is awarded by a community college to students who successfully complete the prescribed courses in any of the occupational-technical programs. This degree is often referred to as a "terminal" degree because for many areas, it is the highest type of degree awarded. Though A.A.S. degrees are not traditional transfer degrees, many will transfer in part or in whole in conjunction with a local articulation agreement.

Associate of Arts Degree (A.A.)

The A.A. degree is awarded by a community college to students who successfully complete the prescribed program in an academic area and includes a minimum of 6 hours of a foreign language. The A.A. degree is traditionally designed to transfer towards a bachelor's degree.

Associate of Science Degree (A.S.)

The A.S. degree is awarded by a community college to students who successfully complete the prescribed program in an academic area and includes 8 hours of natural science. The A.S. degree is traditionally designed to transfer towards a bachelor's degree.

Bachelor's Degree (also referred to as a baccalaureate degree)

Bachelor degrees are granted by 4-year institutions. All bachelor degrees have a minimum number of required credit hours (usually between 120 – 138) and include also a minimum number of junior and senior level or advanced coursework (usually a minimum of 40). Various bachelor's degrees include: Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), Bachelor of Science (B.S.), Bachelor of Business Administration (B.B.A.), Bachelor of Music (B.M.) and Bachelor of Applied Arts and Science (B.A.A.S.). B.A. degrees require a minimum of 12 semester hours of a foreign language while B.S. degrees require more science. The B.A.A.S. degree is not offered at all institutions and is always awarded by a public (state-supported) institution. It is sometimes referred to as an "inverted degree" because much of the major-specific coursework is taken during the first two years at a community college via the A.A.S. degree, leaving the general coursework for the last two years at the senior institution.

College Level Examination Program (CLEP)

CLEP is a national exam in a subject area that can be taken to earn college credit. Each institution determines the corresponding course for which credit is earned at that institution. Some institutions have a limit on the number of CLEP credits that can be applied towards a degree, therefore it's always best that students to check with the institution to which they intend to transfer to determine the number of allowable CLEP credits for their degree and major.

College Catalog

The catalog is a college publication that describes all the academic information about the institution relative to its degrees and services. The catalog is issued either once a year or once every two years, depending on the school, and follows the academic calendar from fall semester through the summer semester. The "life" of the catalog varies and is established by the institution, though most are effective for a maximum of 5 or 6 years. This means that students have a prescribe number of years to complete the degree requirements according to the catalog in effect at the time they entered the institution. Typically, once a student transfers from a community college to a 4-year school, they may either follow the catalog in effect at the time the student entered the community college or the catalog in effect at the time the student entered the 4-year school.

College Credit

College credit is issued once a student successfully completes a course. All credits are reported on the student's official transcript. Semester credit hours (SCH) accumulate to reference the student's progress towards a degree. Most institutions limit the number of credit hours transferable from a community college to 66 SCH. Because developmental courses are not college-level credits, they do not transfer nor do they count toward the accumulation of SCH.

Core Curriculum

Public institutions of higher education have developed a Core Curriculum between 42 to 48 hours. (The VSCC Core is 43 hours.) The prescribed curriculum of the Core consists of several component areas including: communications, humanities, mathematics, natural science, political and social sciences, visual and performing arts and cultural history. If you complete the Core at one school, it will transfer as a block to any other Tennessee public institution of higher education. If the receiving school has a Core larger than 43 hours, you may be required to take additional courses to meet the receiving institution's Core. If you are undecided about your major and intend to transfer to a Tennessee public institution, it is recommended that you follow the VSCC Core. If you intend to transfer to a private institution, it is recommended that you follow that institution's General Education Requirements.

Course Number & Rubric

The course number is the 3 or 4 digit number that references a particular course. Course numbers follow a departmental prefix, or rubric. (Ex: At VSCC, ENGL is the rubric for English, ASTR is the rubric for Astronomy.)

Distance Learning

Courses provided via distance learning allow students to obtain college credit by participating in a variety of non-classroom oriented courses. Course content and transferability are the same as courses offered on campus. In some cases, an entire degree may be earned via distance learning.

Elective Credits

Electives are courses that are not specifically prescribed by a degree or major, but are necessary to allow students to accumulate the required number of credit hours necessary for a degree. Electives can be limited to certain areas or levels, or left "open" to include any college-credit course.

Equivalency Guide

An equivalency guide is a course-by-course listing of how courses at one institution transfer to another. Credits transfer a few different ways. Some courses have a direct equivalent and will transfer as a specific course. (Ex: ENGL 1010 transfers to MTSU as ENG 1010.) Other courses transfer but do not have an exact equivalent. (Ex: EDU 101 transfers to TSU as EDCL 201.) Courses that don't have an exact equivalent sometimes transfer as elective credit, lower-division credit (LD Credit). It's always recommended that students contact the institution to which they intend to transfer if there is a specific question about the transferability of a course.

General Education Requirements

Every accredited institution of higher education must designate General Education courses. A minimum of 15 hours of General Education coursework is required for all associate and bachelor degrees and is in addition to the degree's major coursework.

Good Standing

Good Standing means that a student is not on any type of probation or suspension status at an institution. This information is reported on a student's official transcript. A student will need to be in good standing (eligible to return to their previous institution) to be accepted by another institution.

Grade Point Average (GPA) – Transfer GPA

GPA is the total grade points earned divided by the total semester hours completed with a performance grade. When transferring, the receiving institution may calculate your transfer GPA differently than it's calculated at VSCC. VSCC uses only the highest grade when courses are repeated. Some schools, use ALL grade attempts to calculate the GPA for admission purposes. A transfer student's GPA will usually start "fresh" after they are accepted and begin taking classes at the 4-year school. Students should always check with the receiving institution to find out how their transfer GPA is calculated.

Major and Minor

A major is an area of emphasis in your degree. Degrees require that a minimum number of SCH (usually 24+) are completed in the major. Some areas allow students to select two majors, called a "double-major". A minor is a secondary area of emphasis and requires a minimum number of SCH (usually 18+) in a specific area. In some degrees, minors are optional and in others, a minor is required. A major is always required for degree. At the Community College level in Tennessee, student do not take a minor.

Tennessee Board of Regents Common Course Numbering System

A voluntary, cooperative effort among Tennessee public institutions of higher education to provide a uniform set of course numbers for lower level (freshman and sophomore) courses. Though many 4-year institutions participate in the TBRCCNS, they may use numbers unique to their own institution. They will, however, provide an equivalency guide between their course numbers and the TBRCCNS.

Transcript Evaluation

A transcript evaluation is a process by which a receiving institution evaluates the courses a student has taken at another institution and counts them, where applicable, towards the student's degree plan. At most institutions, a grade of "C" or higher must be earned in a course for the course to be transferable. VSCC evaluates transcripts during the first semester a student is enrolled.

Transfer Guide & 2+2 Guide

Transfer guides list lower division (VSCC) courses that are transferable to a 4-year school for a specific major or degree. Some guides list the entire first two years of coursework, while other guides list a limited number of courses. 2+2 guides are similar to a degree plan. They list required courses for both lower division (VSCC) and upper division (senior institution) requirements. When 2+2 guides are carefully followed, students can often complete their bachelor's degree in four years.