Life University
Covenant College
Thomas University
Shorter University
Point Univ
Paine College
Young Harris
Wesleyan College
Point University
Toccoa Falls College
Spelman College
Thomas University
Truett-McConnell University
Shorter University
Reinhardt University
Piedmont College
Paine College
Morehouse College
Oglethorpe University
Mercer University
LaGrange College
Emmanuel College
Clark Atlanta University
Berry College
Andrew College
Agnes Scott College
Young Harris

Terms and Definitions in Higher Education and Facts about the Independent Sector

Term   Definition
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 Year:   The period of time generally extending from September to June; Schools may construct the academic year differently. This is usually equated to two semesters or trimesters, three quarters, or the period covered by a 4-1-4 calendar system. 

Accreditation is intended to assure constituents and the public of the quality and integrity of higher education institutions and programs, and to help those institutions and programs improve. These outcomes are achieved through rigorous internal and external review processes during which the institution is evaluated against a common set of standards.  

Fun Fact: ALL 25 GICA members are accredited by SACSCOC - a highly-regarded, rigorous accrediting body.

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. 
Adult Learner:  

A non-traditional student which may be characterized by delayed enrollment (does not enter college in the same calendar year that he or she finishes high school) and may be characterized as being considered financially independent by virtue of age or having a spouse or dependents. See "non-traditional student" below.

Fun Fact: More than 12,300 undergraduate students attending a GICA member institution are over the age of 25, making up 24% of students who attend Georgia's independent, not-for-profit colleges.

Associate's Degree:  

An award that normally requires at least two but less than four years of full-time equivalent college-level work.

Fun Fact: GICA membership includes 1 two-year college - Andrew College. In all, GICA member institutions awarded 2,179 Associate's Degrees in 2012-2013.

Bachelor's Degree:  

An award (baccalaureate or equivalent degree, as determined by the Secretary, U.S Department of Education) that normally requires at least 4 but NOT more than 5 years full-time equivalent college-level work.

Fun Fact: GICA includes 24 four-year colleges. Together they awarded over 7,800 Bachelor's Degrees in 2012-2013 - roughly 20% of Bachelor's Degrees awarded in the State.

Calendar System:   The method by which an institution structures most of its courses for the academic year.  
Campus-based Programs:  

The following federal aid programs are considered campus based programs: Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant Program (SEOG), Federal College Work-Study Programs (CWSP), and the Federal Perkins Loan Program. Funds for these programs are awarded by the college's financial aid director and are based upon the school's allocation of funds.

Consolidation:   Combining loans; transferring all loans to one lender.
Cost of attendance:  

Total amount it will cost a student to attend a particular school. The expenses considered as part of the cost of attendance under the Pell Grant Program include: tuition and fees, room and board, books supplies, transportation, childcare, handicapped allowance, and miscellaneous costs. The expenses considered as part of the cost of attendance under the campus-based programs and Stafford Student Loan Program includes: tuition and fees, books, supplies, transportation, room and board, personal expenses, dependent care allowance, and handicapped allowance. 

Fun Fact: The average cost of attendance at GICA member institutions is $18,729, which is $4,000 less than private colleges in the region, and $7,500 less than private colleges in the nation.

Credit Hour:  

A unit of measure representing the equivalent of an hour (50 minutes) of instruction per week over the entire term. It is applied toward the total number of credit hours needed for completing the requirements of a degree, diploma, certificate, or other formal award.

Debt Burden:   The portion of a college graduate's earnings that will be needed to repay student loans. Debt burden is usually the highest during the first years of employment, decreasing as earnings increase.

Failure of the borrower to meet the payments due on a loan. Defaults are recorded on a person's permanent credit record and may prevent the individual from obtaining loans in the future.

Fun Fact: The loan defaut rate of students who attend GICA member institutions is 6%, which is less than the state, regional, and national average. 


An award conferred by a college, university, or other postsecondary education institution as official recognition for the successful completion of a program of studies.   


Degree/Certificate-Seeking Student:   Students enrolled in courses for credit and recognized by the institution as seeking a degree, certificate, or other formal award. High school students also enrolled in postsecondary courses for credit are not considered degree/certificate-seeking. 
Distance Learning:  

An option for earning course credit at off-campus locations via cable television, internet, satellite classes, videotapes, correspondence courses, or other means. 

Fun Fact: 17 GICA member institutions offer distance learning courses.

Doctoral Degree:  

The highest award a student can earn for graduate study. The doctoral degree classification includes such degrees as Doctor of Education, Doctor of Juridical Science, Doctor of Public Health, and the Doctor of Philosophy degree in any field such as agronomy, food technology, education, engineering, public administration, ophthalmology, or radiology. 

Fun Fact: GICA member institutions conferred 792 Doctoral Degrees in 2012-2013.

Dual Credit:   A program through which high school students are enrolled in Advanced Placement (AP) courses, taught at their high school, that fulfill high school graduation requirements and may earn the student college credits.
Expected Family Contribution:   Figure determined by the need analysis services using a federally approved formula. The figure is the total amount the student and family are expected to contribute to the student's education. Income, assets, savings and the net value of all real estate are included in computing expected family contribution.
Federal Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA):  

Form used to apply for a Pell grant and other federal scholarship programs.

Fun Fact: 94% of students at GICA member institutions who apply for financial aid receive financial assistance.

Federal Methodology:   Need analysis method developed by Congress and used to determine eligibility for federal student aid programs.
Financial Aid Form:   Federal application form used to determine a family's financial contribution and financial need. The Scholarship Service of the College Board processes this form and sends the results to colleges and universities. This form may be used to apply for a Pell Grant, a state award, a Stafford Student Loan, and other types of financial aid.
Financial Aid Package:  

Total amount of financial assistance a student receives as listed in the school's financial aid award letter. Grants, loans, and work programs are included in a student's financial aid package. Financial aid from the college or university, as well as any other outside scholarship or loan programs, are also included in the financial aid package.


Financial Need:   Difference between two numbers: (1) the expected family contribution to a student; and (2) the total cost of attendance at a school.
First-time Student:   A student who has no prior postsecondary experience (except as noted below) attending any institution for the first time at the undergraduate level. This includes students enrolled in academic or occupational programs. It also includes students enrolled in the fall term who attended college for the first time in the prior summer term, and students who entered with advanced standing (college credits earned before graduation from high school). 
First Professional Student:  

A student enrolled in any of the following degree programs: Chiropractic (D.C); Osteopathic Medicine (D.O); Dentistry (D.D.S. or D.M.D); Pharmacy (Pharmacy (Pharm.D.); Law (L.L.B., J.D.); Podiatry (D.P.M., D.P, or Pod.D); Medicine (M.D.); Theology(M.Div., M.H.L., B.D., or Ordination); Optometry (O.D); Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.).

First Professional Degree:   

An award that requires completion of a program that meets all of the following criteria: (1) completion of the academic requirements to begin practice in the profession; (2) at least two years of college work prior to entering the program; and (3) a total of at least six academic years of college work to complete the degree program, including prior required college work plus the length of the professional program itself. First-professional degrees may be awarded in the following fields: Chiropractic; Osteopathic Medicine; Dentistry; Pharmacy; Podiatry; Medicine; Theology; Optometry; and Veterinary Medicine.

Full-time Student (Undergraduate):   A student enrolled for 12 or more semester credits , or 12 or more quarter credits, or 24 or more contact hours a week each term.

Full-time Student (Graduate):

  Graduate—A student enrolled for nine or more semester credits, or nine or more quarter credits, or a student involved in thesis or dissertation preparation that is considered full time by the institution.  

Acronym for "Georgia Independent College Association" which represents 25 of the not-for-profit, SACS accredited, independent colleges and universities in the state of Georgia. More information can be found here.

Fun Fact: GICA was founded in 1956 as the Georgia Foundation for Independent Colleges. In 2011, the organization became the Georgia Independent College Association.

Graduate Student:   A student who holds a Bachelor's or First-professional degree, or equivalent, and is taking courses at the post-baccalaureate level. These students may or may not be enrolled in graduate programs. 
Grant Aid:  

Private, state and federal funding for students which is intended to cover educational expenses. These are funds that do not need to be repaid by the student.

Fun Fact: 84% of students at GICA member institutions receive federal, state, local, or institutional grant aid; In 2009-2010, students at GICA member institutions received, on average, $11,047 in grant aid assistance.

Graduation Rate:   The rate required for disclosure and/or reporting purposes under Student Right-to-Know Act. This rate is calculated as the total number of completers within 150% of normal time divided by the revised adjusted cohort.   
Guarantee Agency:   State agency that administers the Stafford Student Loan Program, the Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students (PLUS), and the Supplemental Loans for Students (SLS) Program. There are guarantee agencies for all students.
Historical Black College and University (HBCU):  

The Higher Education Act of 1965 defines "HBCU" as colleges and universities in the United States that were established prior to 1964, whose principal mission was, and is, to educate black Americans.

Fun Fact: 4 of GICA member institutions are HBCUs - Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, Paine College, and Spelman College. 


HOPE (Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally) was established in 1993 to encourage deserving and qualified Georgia students to attend in-state colleges, universities, and technical colleges. The scholarship provides money to assist Georgia students with the costs of thier education. More information can be found here.

Fun Fact: In fiscal year 2010, students at GICA member institutions received over $34 million in HOPE scholarships.

Hybrid Program:  

Hybrid programs combine distance learning (online) and tradtional classroom instruction to offer flexibility for working adults and students who do not live in close proximity to their chosen institution.

Independent Institution:


An educational institution controlled by a private individual(s) or by a nongovernmental agency, usually supported primarily by non-public funds, and operated by non-publicly elected or appointed officials. These institutions may be either for-profit or not-for-profit. Also often referred to as "private".

Fun Fact: All 24 GICA member institutions are independent.

Independent Student:  

To be classified as an independent student, a person must meet at least one of the following criteria:
Student is at least 24 years old.
Student is enrolled in graduate or professional school.
Student has legal dependents other than a spouse.
Student is a ward or orphan of the court.
Student is a veteran of the Armed Forces.
Student is married.

Interest Subsidy:   Payment of interest on certain loans made by the federal government while the student is enrolled in school.
Institutional Affiliation:  

A classification that indicates whether a private not-for-profit institution is associated with a religious group or denomination.    

Institutional Grants (Funded):  

These are institutional resources provided to students, such as scholarships and fellowships, which do not require repayment.

Fun Fact: In 2009-2010, more than 6,700 first-time, first-year students at GICA member institutions received institutional grant aid at GICA Member institutions. First-time, first-year students who received institutional aid received an average of $10,535.

Master's Degree:  

An award that requires the successful completion of a program of study of at least the full time equivalent of one but not more than two academic years of work beyond the Bachelor's degree. 

Fun Fact: 14 GICA member institutions offer Master's Degrees. In 2010-2011, GICA institutions awarded 2,890 Master's degrees.

Merit-Based Aid:   Financial aid that depends on a student's academic, artistic or athletic merit or some other criteria to determine his or her eligibility for the award.
Need Analysis:   Process that determines a student's eligibility to receive financial aid. The parents' and student's income and assets are analyzed to determine the amount of money the family is expected to contribute to meeting the student's educational expenses. Need analysis computation formulas are approved by Congress and are adjusted annually. Two of the most commonly used undergraduate need analysis forms are the Financial Aid Form (FAF) of the College Scholarship Service and the Family Financial Statement (FFS) of the American College Testing Program.
Need-Based Aid:   Financial aid that depends on a student's financial need.
Need/Merit-Based Aid:   Financial aid that looks at a student's financial need and depends on a student's academic, artistic or athletic merit or some other criteria to determine his or her eligibility for this award.
Non-Need/Non-Merit-based Aid:   Financial aid that has special qualifying conditions other than need or merit.
Non-traditional Student:  

While not precise, a non-traditional student is considered to be one who delays enrollment, attends part-time for at least part of the academic year, works full-tim, in considered financially independent, is married or has dependents, or does not have a high school diploma.


A private institution in which the individual(s) or agency in control receives no compensation, other than wages, rent, or other expenses for the assumption of risk. These include both independent not-for-profit schools and those affiliated with a religious organization. 

Fun Fact: All 25 GICA member institutions are not-for-profit.

Origination Fee:  

Amount charged by a bank to process a student loan. The amount of the fee is deducted from the dollar amount of the loan.

Part-time Student (Undergraduate):  

A student enrolled for either less than 12 semester or quarter credits, or less than 24 contact hours a week each term.  

Part-time Student (Graduate):   A student enrolled for less than 9 semester or quarter credits.
Principal:   Amount of the loan requested and approved upon which interest will be charged.
Private (Institution):  

An educational institution controlled by a private individual(s) or by a nongovernmental agency, usually supported primarily by non-public funds, and operated by non-publicly elected or appointed officials. These institutions may be either for-profit or not-for-profit. Also often referred to as "independent".

Fun Fact: All 25 GICA member institutions are "private".

Private Loans:   Loans guaranteed by a private agency that are often used to supplement federal financial aid to cover the cost of education. These are credit-based funds that students and parents may apply for and carry a variable loan interest rate.
Promissory Note:   Binding document a student signs before receiving a loan check. The promissory note includes information about the terms of the loan.
Proprietary (Institution):  

A private institution in which the individual(s) or agency in control receives compensation other than wages, rent, or other expenses for the assumption of risk. Also, often referred to as "for-profit".

Fun Fact: None of the 25 GICA member institutions are proprietary - meaning that none are for-profit.

Public (Institution):   An educational institution whose programs and activities are operated by publicly elected or appointed school officials and which is supported primarily by public funds. 
Quarter (Calendar System):   A calendar system in which the academic year consists of three sessions called quarters of about 12 weeks each. The range may be from 10 to 15 weeks as defined by the institution. There may be an additional quarter in the summer.   
Remedial Services:   Instructional activities designed for students deficient in the general competencies necessary for a regular postsecondary curriculum and educational setting. 
Repayment Schedule:   List of monthly loan payments outlining principle and interest charges.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools is a regional accrediting body that ensures the constituents and the public of the quality and integrity of higher education institutions. Schools participate in a rigorous and extensive review process.

Fun Fact: In order to be a GICA Member, the institution must be SACSCOC accredited.

SAT:   Previously known as the Scholastic Aptitude Test, this is an examination administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) and used to predict the facility with which an individual will progress in learning college-level academic subjects. 

Grants, trainee stipends, tuition and required fee waivers, prizes or other monetary awards given to undergraduate students. 

Semester (Calendar System):   A calendar system that consists of two sessions called semesters during the academic year with about 15 weeks for each semester of instruction. There may be an additional summer session.   
Single-sex Institution:  

Single-sex institutions are universities or colleges which advocates a single-sex education and enrolls only males or females.

Fun Fact: Four GICA member institutions are single-sex (Agnes Scott College, Morehouse College, Spelman College, and Wesleyan College). Brenau University is still home to the residential Brenau Women's College but has satellite campuses and distance learning programs which are co-educational.dis 

Student Services:   A functional expense category that includes expenses for admissions, registrar activities, and activities whose primary purpose is to contribute to students emotional and physical well-being and to their intellectual, cultural, spiritual, and social development outside the context of the formal instructional program. Examples include student activities, cultural events, student newspapers, intramural athletics, student organizations, supplemental instruction outside the normal administration, and religious life. Intercollegiate athletics and student health services may also be included except when operated as self-supporting auxiliary enterprises. Also may include information technology expenses related to student service activities if the institution separately budgets and expenses information technology resources (otherwise these expenses are included in institutional support). Institutions include actual or allocated costs for operation and maintenance of plant, interest, and depreciation. 

The Tuition Equalization Grant (TEG) is a non-need based grant available to Georgia residents to provide incentive to attend eligible private colleges in the state of Georgia. More information can be found here.

Fun Fact: In 2010, students attending GICA member institutions received over $17 million in Tuition Equalization Grants.

Undergraduate:   A student enrolled in a 4- or 5-year Bachelor's degree program, an Associate's degree program, or a vocational or technical program below the baccalaureate. 
Variable interest:   Rate of interest that fluctuates according to the ups and downs of some interest rate index. The initial rate on a variable interest loan is lower than on a loan with a fixed interest rate because the lender is protected from potentially damaging changes in the overall interest rate.
Zell Miller Scholarship:  

Created in 2011, the Zell Miller Scholarship is available to Georgia residents who have demonstrated the highest in academic achievement. The scholarship provides money to assist students with the costs of education when they attend an eligible college or university in Georgia.  More information can be found here.



Sources for the data above include IPEDS, College Insight, and information from the member institutions. For more information on the above data, please contact Dr. Carrie Mata , Director of Research, at 404-233-5433 ext. 23. More information can also be found in our Did You Know? Fact-of-the-Week section.