MSU Billings Catalog

Glossary of Terms

The following is a collection of explanations and interpretations of terms commonly used in the City College at Montana State University Billings Catalog.

Academic Probation - Denotes that a student’s academic performance is below standard as defined by the institution; the student is warned of possible suspension.

Academic Record - The unabridged and complete historical record of a student’s academic coursework.

Academic Year - That period of time from the opening of Fall Semester to the closing of the next Spring Semester is the “academic year.”  Summer Session is specifically excluded.

Accredited Institution - A college or university accredited by, or a candidate for accreditation from, one of the recognized regional accrediting commissions.  Montana State University Billings is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. As such, all college-level coursework from institutions accredited by the following list of agencies will be received and applied toward associate or baccalaureate degrees as applicable to general education, major, minor, and elective requirements.

  • Higher Learning Commission
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • New England Commission of Higher Education
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • WASC Senior College and University Commission

Admission - The process of accepting a candidate for enrollment into college.

Advising - A service provided by a faculty member or designated person (advisor).  An advisor guides students through academic questions, problems, and/or coursework to plan and complete a degree program.

Adjunct Faculty - A part-time faculty member.

Academic Advisor - A faculty member or designated person who guides students through academic questions, problems, and/or coursework to plan and complete a degree program.

Associate Degree - A degree which generally requires two years to complete. MSU Billings offers Associate of Arts and Associate of Science degrees as well as the Associate of Applied Science degree.

Auditor - One who enrolls in a class for informational instruction only.  No academic credit is granted for auditing a class.

Bachelor’s Degree - A first-level degree granted upon completion of a course of study in a given field and based on at least four years of college work, or the equivalent thereof.

Candidate for a Degree or Certificate - A status students assume when they have completed all requirements for a degree and apply for graduation.  To apply for graduation a student completes an application for graduation at the Registrar's Office, pays a fee, and returns the application to the Registrar's Office.

Certificate - Official recognition denoting successful completion of a technical body of knowledge.

Class Schedule - The list of courses and sections offered in a given semester, including days, hours, places of meeting and names of instructors.

College - One of five major divisions of academic areas at MSU Billings.  They are the College of Business, the College of Education, College of Health Professions and Science, the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, and City College.  Each college is headed by a dean who reports to the Provost and Academic Vice Chancellor.

Core Courses - Courses required by the University, the college, or the department by all students in a degree program regardless of the option or concentration in which they may choose to major.

Course - A unit of academic work in a particular subject, normally one semester long, for which credit toward graduation is usually given.

Course Load - The number of semester credit hours associated with the academic work in which a student is enrolled in any given term.

Credit Hour - A credit is the unit used in recording an amount of work and engaged effort represented in learning outcomes and verified by evidence of student achievement. Each credit hour represents a minimum of three class-oriented work hours (60 minutes of classroom instruction and an additional two hours of out-of-class engaged effort and work per student) each week during a 15-week (minimum) semester.  One credit of achievement should approximate 45 hours of combined instruction and student work/engaged effort. At least an equivalent amount of work and engaged effort is required regardless of pedagogical format (lab, web-enhanced, on-line, condensed coursework, internships, studio, independent study, etc). 

Degree - An academic title MSU Billings is authorized to confer as official recognition to those who complete an academic program.  An example is a Bachelor of Science Degree.

Degree or Certificate Program - A prescribed course of study which leads to a degree or certificate.

DegreeWorks - A program used to provide degree audit information for students, faculty, and graduation.

Dual Enrollment - Dual enrollment, or concurrent enrollment as it is also known, is the practice of allowing a student to be enrolled in two academic institutions at once. Usually, this involves a high school and a college. The credits can apply to both high school diploma requirements and college graduation requisites.

Electives - Courses which are not a required part of a degree program are electives.  Some departments may insist that their majors choose between certain electives, referred to as Restricted Electives.

Faculty Advisor - A faculty member who helps a student plan and complete a degree program.

Fall Start Program - Programs which start their core class rotations only in the Fall semester. Please note that some students may be able to take general education courses prior to the Fall-start semester.  Some programs require a prerequisite semester of training.

Full-time Student - An undergraduate student registered for 12 or more semester credits, or any graduate student registered for nine or more semester credits is considered a full-time student.

General Education/Related Instruction - A common body of knowledge which supports every program of study for which a specialized associate degree or certificate is granted.

Good Standing - Status which denotes that a student is eligible to continue at or return to an institution.

Grade Point Average (GPA) - The grade average a student earns for each semester.  It is calculated by multiplying the number of credits given for a course times the value of the grade received for the course (A=4, B=3, C=2, D=1, F=0), adding the value calculated for each class and dividing by the total number of credits.  Thus, if a student has an “A” in a 4 credit course; a “B” in a 3 credit course; a “C” in a 2 credit course, and a “D” in a 2 credit course the GPA calculation would be as follows:

Letter Grade Description
A 4 times 4 credits = 16 grade points
B 3 times 3 credits = 9 grade points
C 2 times 2 credits = 4 grade points
D 1 times 2 credits = 2 grade points

Total = 31 grade points divided by 11 total credits = 2.82 GPA.

Grade Report - A report of the student’s grades earned at the end of each semester.

Graduation Check - The determination of whether a student has met the specified minimum educational requirements necessary for the granting of a degree.

Headcount - The number of students enrolled in an educational institution, program, course, etc., without regard to the number of credit hours being taken by individual students.

Hours - Sometimes referred to as semester credit hours unless specifically stated otherwise.

Intersession - An enrollment period that is held between the end of Fall term and the beginning of Spring term.

Laboratory - A course involving supervised experimentation or practice related to an academic area.  It generally requires hands-on use of equipment and materials.

Major - The area in which a student concentrates.  An academic major is required for graduation.  

Moratorium - The academic program remains in the catalog, but the University has suspended admission to the program.

Part-time Student - A student enrolled with 11 or fewer credits.

Pre-registration - The process by which students select courses for a succeeding term in advance of the official opening date of the semester.

Prerequisite - A course to be completed successfully or a condition to be met before a student may enroll in a specific course.

Probation - Academic probation is the result of unsatisfactory scholarship.  It is not a penalty but a warning and an opportunity to improve.

Registration - The process by which students officially enroll in classes and pay fees.  Students must be formally admitted to MSU Billings before they may register.

Restricted Electives - Courses where students choose between several particular classes to meet requirements of the University, college, or department.

Section - A division of a course, as between one or more instructors, but having the same course title and the same subject matter.

Semester - An enrollment period of about sixteen to eighteen weeks.

Semester Credit - Units of credit awarded for successful completion of academic work. Students’ progress toward fulfilling curricular, degree and certificate requirements is measured in terms of semester credit hours.

Semester Hour - Normally one semester credit hour represents 60 minutes of classroom instruction each week for one semester.  Credit in a laboratory, independent study, or internship may require a longer period.  A three-credit class will meet for three 60-minute or two 90-minute sessions each week for the entire semester.  A semester hour is the basis of college credit at Montana State University Billings.  A semester hour is the credit received for passing a subject taken one hour a week for one semester.  Laboratory courses require two or three hours a week for each semester hour of credit.

Spring Start Program – Programs which start their core class rotations only in the Spring semester.  Please note that some students may be able to take general education courses prior to the Spring-start semester.  Some programs require a prerequisite semester of training.

Summer Session - An enrollment period that begins after the Spring Semester ends.

Suspension - Academic suspension is an involuntary separation of the student from the University for unsatisfactory scholarship. Financial Aid also has suspension policies. (See Minimal Academic Progress or the Financial Aid section for details.)

Transcript - An Official Transcript is an unabridged and certified copy of a student’s permanent academic record.  A small fee is charged for each copy.  (An uncertified working copy of the student’s academic record is available at no charge.)

U-card - Refers to a student ID card used to make purchases at the food services on campus.

Undergraduate Student - A student who has not yet earned a bachelor’s degree or who has earned a bachelor’s degree, but is a candidate for an additional bachelor’s degree, or is pursuing additional undergraduate coursework.