Area of Focus:
An area of study at the undergraduate level within an approved Concentration or Track, of at least 12 credit hours.
A sequential arrangement of courses within a program which at the undergraduate level exceeds 23 semester credit hours, at the master's level exceeds 11 semester hours, and at the doctorate level exceeds 17 semester hours.
A type of distance learning in which there is no requirement for the instructor and students to interact in “real” time.
Articulated System (ARTSYS):
A Computerized data information system created to facilitate the transfer of students from Maryland community colleges to the University of Maryland System and other participating institutions.
Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.):
Recognizes a mastery of vocational-technical occupational skills (law enforcement, computer technology, and engineering technology, etc.). These programs are intended for those seeking immediate employment opportunities. However, it does not preclude a student from transferring to a technical baccalaureate degree program such as a bachelor’s degree in technology or to transfer non-technical courses to a four-year institution.
Associate of Arts (A.A.):
Recognizes mastery in the liberal arts (social sciences, humanities, and similar subjects) and in the fine arts (music, art, etc.). These programs are intended for transfer to equivalent Bachelor of Arts degree programs at four-year institutions.
Associate of Art in Teaching (A.A.T.):
Recognizes mastery in teacher education which:
(a) Meets the lower-level degree academic content, outcomes, and requirements for teacher education, similar to the first 2 years of a baccalaureate program in teacher education;
(b) Requires a passing score on Praxis I;
(c) Requires a cumulative grade point average of 2.75 on a 4.00 scale; and
(d) If achieved, transfers in total without further review by Maryland public and independent four-year institutions.
Associate of Science (A.S.):
Recognizes mastery in science or technology (engineering, agriculture, the natural sciences) with a heavy emphasis on undergraduate mathematics or science. These programs are intended for transfer to Bachelor of Science degree programs at four-year institutions.
Associate of Fine Arts (A.F.A.):
Recognizes mastery in the professional arts in programs which have as a primary goal transfer to a B.F.A. degree program, are similar to the first two years of a B.F.A. degree program, and requires at least 60 percent of the course credit to be in studio work and related area
Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science Degree (BA/BS):
Degree awarded for successful completion of a program of 120 or more undergraduate semester credit hours.
Award recognizing mastery in a particular program area. The level of certificate is based on the entry requirements and the number of hours required. Categories include:
Lower Division certificate- An award that requires successful completion of at least 12 semester credit hours at the freshman or sophomore levels, or both.
Post-baccalaureate certificate - An award for successful completion of at least 12 semester credit hours at the graduate or upper division level, the majority of which are at the master's or specialized postgraduate level.
Post-master's certificate - An award for successful completion of at least 12 semester credit hours of graduate study beyond the master's degree.
Certificate of Advanced Study - An award that that requires successful completion of at least 30 semester credit hours beyond the master’s degree.
Directed Technology Certificate - Certificate awarded for successful completion of a specialized learning program which meets employer training needs and consists of at least 12 credits but no more than 24 credit hours at the freshman or sophomore levels, or both.
Upper Division Certificate-An award that requires successful completion of at least 12 semester credit hours at the junior or senior levels, or both.
Professional Certificate- An award for the successful completion of the number of courses required by the appropriate natural professional association.
Maryland colleges and universities maintaining full and unconditional accreditation and approval from the Middle States Association and from the Commission may respond to the request of a sponsoring agent to offer a previously approved academic degree program at a business or industry or governmental site solely for its own employees by submitting a letter of notification to the Secretary.
Distance Education/Distance Learning:
An educational process in which all or the portion of the instruction occurs with the instructor and student in different locations. Instruction may be synchronous (in real time; simultaneous) or asynchronous.
An educational program is considered distance education by Middle States if 50 percent or more of the credits required for the degree are delivered using distance technologies, regardless of site of delivery.
Dual Degree Program:
A program of study which provides students with an educational opportunity to complete two separate programs of study (majors) at two different institutions. Specifically, students would complete a program at one institution, usually in a shortened period of time, and then transfer to a second institution, completing a related or complementary program (e.g., Political Science & Law; Physics, Astronomy, and Geo-Sciences & Engineering). Upon completion of the second program, degrees would be awarded by both participating institutions in the areas of study successfully completed.
Degree awarded for successful completion of at least two years of study beyond the master’s level, including completion of a thesis or dissertation.
First Professional Degree:
Degree awarded for successful completion of all institutional requirements for becoming a practitioner in a field such as law, medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, theology, and nursing.
A certificate, diploma or degree granted in recognition of successful completion of the requirements of a program. Such official awards are conferred by the faculty and ratified by the institution’s governing board.
Full-time equivalent faculty (FTEF) is defined as the number of full-time faculty plus the number of course credit hours taught by part-time faculty during the fall and spring semesters divided by 24 for teaching four-year institutions and 18 for research institutions.
A course of study, requiring the completion of a specified number of course credits from among a prescribed group of courses, which leads to a formal award.
Joint Degree Program:
A program of study that allows students to complete major requirements by taking courses at another participating institution through a standardized registration process, and without paying an additional or differential tuition rate. Upon successful completion of a joint program, a diploma would be issued listing the names of both institutions sponsoring the program, with the student’s home school listed first.
A coherent, sequential, and integrated study of an academic discipline which includes in-depth study of a body of knowledge, methods of study, and practice appropriate to a specific discipline. At the undergraduate level, majors consist of a minimum of 30 semester credits of which at least half must be upper-division.
Degree awarded for successful completion of at least 30 semester credit hours or the equivalent of graduate-level courses in a defined program of study.
An institutionally approved area of study outside of the major, of at least 12 but no more than 24 credit hours.
MHEC and Middle States have different definitions regarding off-campus offerings. Off-campus locations (MHEC): Programming or courses offered at a location or site other than the primary campus. An off-campus program exists when an institution offers more than 1/3 of the required course work in a major at a location other than that of the sponsoring institution or campus during any 12-month period. For certificate and graduate programs, the total number of credits is based on the number of hours applicable to the degree.
Off-campus Location (Middle States): An off-campus location exists where 50 percent or more of the credits required for the degree are offered.
Off-Campus Program (MHEC):
An off-campus program exists when one or both of the following occur:
A. An institution offers more than 1/3 of the required course work in a major field of study leading to a certificate or degree at a location other than that of the sponsoring institution or campus during any 12-month period.
B. An institution advertises or advises students that course work at an off-campus location will lead to the award of the certificate or the degree.
Other Instructional Sites (Middle States): An instructional site, other than the primary campus, a branch campus or additional location, at which the institution offers one or more courses for credit. Sites established outside the U.S. for the sole purpose of offering courses through the study abroad experience are not considered to be instructional sites. If 50 percent or more of a program is offered, the site will meet the definition of an Additional Location and must be reviewed and approved accordingly.
Branch Campus (Middle States): A branch campus is a location of an institution that is geographically apart and independent of the main campus of the institution. Branch campuses may be domestic or international. The location is considered independent if it offers courses in educational programs leading to a degree, certificate, or other recognized educational credential; has its own faculty and administrative or supervisory organization; and has its own budgetary and hiring authority.
The program of study (or courses) at one institution of higher education which has comparable objectives to those at another higher education institution, e.g. a transfer program in psychology in a community college is definable as a parallel program to a baccalaureate psychology program at a four-year institution of higher education.
Programs of study designed by institutions to prepare students for specific careers in such areas as: medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, veterinary medicine, engineering, and law, etc. Students should consult the sponsoring departments regarding requirements for specific pre-professional programs of study.
Program of Study:
A program of study is used to describe the complete requires associated with earning a specific degree or certificate.
Undergraduate programs of study include: general education coursework [University Requirements -for students following a catalog prior to 1996-97), General Education Requirements - for students following the 1996-97 to 2010-11 catalogs, or University Core for students following the 2011-12 catalog or later), the major (required courses within a given discipline, and electives. The student may also elect to include a concentration or track if offered within the major, or a minor outside the discipline supporting the major. For example, an accounting major may elect a concentration of finance, but may not elect a concentration outside the major. Every student takes at least (60) credit hours of course work outside the major discipline. A minimum of thirty-two (32) upper division credit hours (300-400 level) are required for graduation.
A graduate program of study includes coursework in the discipline. It may also include a concentration or track if available. Some programs require cognates (coursework in a related discipline, but outside of the major).
Recommended Transfer Program (RTP):
A planned program of courses, including both general education and courses in the major, taken at the community college which is applicable to a baccalaureate at the receiving institution; ordinarily the first two years of the baccalaureate degree.
Middle States identifies a series of activities that may potential have in impact on the capacity of an institution to offer high quality programming. These require prior approval. They include:
Significant Changes in Mission, Goals, or Objectives of an Institution, Other Changes that Significantly Affect the Institution -This includes any changes that might affect mission, goals, or objectives including merger, acquisition, closure, expansion, adoption of new delivery modes, establishment of a new program that is not a logical extension of programs currently offered.
Distance Education; New Courses and Programs; Change in Content or Method of Delivery - This includes instruction constituting at least 50% of a degree or certificate program that represents a significant departure, in terms of either the content or method of delivery, from those assessed when the institution was most recently evaluated (e.g., a business school now offering nursing; distance education; correspondence courses). Although an institution may have offered one or more distance education courses in the past, the Commission requires that the institution receive prior approval through the substantive change procedures before offering 50% or more of a degree or certificate program through distance education. The 50% standard includes only courses offered in their entirety via distance education, not courses utilizing mixed delivery methods.
Higher Degree or Credential Level - The addition of the first two courses or programs offered at a degree or credential level above that which is included in the institution’s current accreditation must be approved by the Commission prior to implementation. Because branch campuses and additional locations operate with some independence from the main campus (including the resources available on each campus), the Commission also may require a branch campus or additional location to request a substantive change for the addition of programs at a higher degree level at that site, even if the main campus already offers that degree.
Contractual Agreements - Certain contractual agreements with an institution or organization not accredited by a federally recognized agency to provide any portion of a postsecondary educational program that leads to an academic or professional degree, certificate, or other recognized educational credential on behalf of the accredited institution are subject to Commission review. This includes degree completion programs developed by third parties. In addition, certain contractual relationships with entities accredited by a federally recognized agency to provide a credit-bearing program are substantive changes. The types of factors that will determine whether a particular contract is a substantive change include: the experience of the accredited institution and of the contracting entity in offering similar contracted services; the percentage of total programs affected; and the location and method of delivery of the program. Other contractual agreements may be considered substantive changes under other circumstances.
Non-credit Offerings that Affect Mission - Commission review typically covers programs and courses that are offered for academic credit, including credit-bearing non-degree courses and certificate programs offered at either the pre-baccalaureate or the post-baccalaureate levels. Non-credit courses and community services offered in response to constituency needs do not normally fall within the purview of this policy unless they become a major component of the institution’s activities. Nonetheless, the Commission expects that established institutional procedures will ensure their quality and integrity, and will ensure that these offerings do not affect negatively the institution’s ability to meet its mission.
Branch Campus - A branch campus is a location of an institution that is geographically apart and independent of the main campus of the institution. Branch campuses may be domestic or international. The location is independent if the location offers courses in educational programs leading to a degree, certificate, or other recognized educational credential; has its own faculty and administrative or supervisory organization; and has its own budgetary and hiring authority.
Additional Locations - An additional location is a location, other than a branch campus, that is geographically apart from the main campus and at which the institution offers at least 50% of an educational program. Additional locations may be domestic or international. These include corporate sites and locations for limited, rather than ongoing, provision of programs. Some additional locations might be subject to other substantive change policies, including contractual agreements for the provision of courses at the site, which might require additional substantive change requests.
Instructional Site - An Instructional Site is a location, other than a branch campus or additional location, at which the institution offers one or more courses for credit. Instructional Sites should be noted on the annual Institutional Profile. Commission approval is not required for an Instructional Site to be included within the scope of accreditation. However, if an Instructional Site changes over time and meets the definition of an Additional Location or Branch Campus, further reporting and a substantive change review are required. Sites established outside of the U.S. for the sole purpose of offering courses through the study abroad experience are not considered to be instructional sites. If 50% or more of a program is offered, the site will meet the definition of an additional location and must be reviewed and approved accordingly.
Rapid Growth - The Commission may, at its discretion, conduct visits to additional locations, to ensure that accredited and pre-accredited institutions that experience rapid growth in the number of additional locations maintain educational quality. Institutions contemplating rapid growth (or uncertain whether planned changes fall under this category) should be in contact with the institution’s designated Commission liaison prior to submitting comprehensive information to the Commission.
Mergers and Other Changes in the Legal Status, Form of Control, or Ownership of the Institution - This includes, for example, merger or consolidation with another institution; sale of a proprietary institution; or beginning or ending public sponsorship and control. The institution must notify the Commission as soon as it is aware of the potential change, such as negotiations for transfer of ownership.
Site Closure - An institution planning to close or merge an additional location or branch campus should inform the Commission no later than six months prior to the planned closure/merger date or as soon as such plans are approved.
Institutional Closure - An institution planning to close or merge should inform the Commission no later than six months prior to the planned closure/merger date. Institutions planning an institutional closure should submit to the Commission for approval any plans to provide students with reasonable opportunities to complete their education, including any teach-out agreements that the institution has entered into or intends to enter into with another institution. Approvals from any licensing, regulatory or other legal entities as may be necessary also should be provided.
Clock/Credit Hours - Change from clock hours to credit hours; or a substantial change in the number of clock or credit hours required for the successful completion of a program, or the length of a program.
Often used in descriptions of distance education, this term can also be used to describe a traditional classroom setting. In a Synchronous learning environment, the instructor and students interact in “real” time, whether in a classroom or via distance education through the Internet or videoconferencing.
Track A sequential arrangement of courses representing a specialized area of study within a program (does not require external approvals). Tracks appear on the student’s transcript as a Sub-Plan upon graduation.
At the undergraduate level, a track requires between 18 and 23 units; 2/3 of the units should be unique to that track and distinguish it from the major, a concentration or another track. No course can be common to all tracks and concentrations within a major.
At the graduate level, a graduate level, a track requires between 9 and 11 units. 2/3 of the units should be unique to that track and distinguish it from the major, a concentration or another track. No course can be common to all tracks and concentrations within a major.