Data Definitions

Here are the definitions of some commonly used terms in Institutional Research.

Source: National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education Glossary


American Indian or Alaska native – A person having origins in any of the original peoples of North and South America (including Central America) who maintains cultural identification through tribal affiliation or community attachment.

Asian – A person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian Subcontinent, including, for example, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Associate’s degree – An award that normally requires at least 2 but less than 4 years of full-time equivalent college work.  Degrees that Tompkins Cortland Community College’s offers.


Black or African American – A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa.


Certificate – A formal award certifying the satisfactory completion of a postsecondary education program. Tompkins Cortland Community College offers a number of certificates.

Cohort – A specific group of students established for tracking purposes.

Cohort year – The year that a cohort of students begins attending college.

Completer – A student who receives a degree, diploma, certificate, or other formal award. In order to be considered a completer, the degree/award must actually be conferred. 

Concurrent Enrollment - A program (Known at TC3 as CollegeNow) through which high school students may enroll in college courses while still enrolled in high school. Students are not required to apply for admission to the college in order to participate.



Degrees – An award conferred by a college, university, or other post- secondary education institution as official recognition for the successful completion of a program of studies. Tompkins Cortland Community College offers associate degrees and certificates in 38 program areas.

Distance education program - A program for which all the required coursework for program completion is able to be completed using one or more technologies to deliver instruction to students who are separated from the instructor and to support regular and substantive interaction between the students and the instructor synchronously or asynchronously.

Dual Enrollment  – See Concurrent Enrollment.


Fall cohort – The group of students who enter an institution as full-time, first-time degree or certificate-seeking undergraduate students during the fall term of a given year.

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. 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 or recognized postsecondary credential earned before graduation from high school).

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.


Graduation rate – The graduation rates measure the percentage of first-time undergraduate students who complete their program at the same institution within 150% of normal time divided by the revised cohort minus any allowable exclusions.


High School student - A student enrolled in secondary school or pursuing a high school diploma or recognized equivalent . Includes students who have not received but are pursuing a high school diploma or recognized equivalent and taking college coursework concurrently.

Hispanic/Latino – A person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race.


Initial cohort - A specific group of individuals established for tracking purposes.

IPEDS – Integrated Post-secondary Education Data System It is a system of interrelated surveys conducted annually by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). IPEDS gathers information from every college, university, and technical and vocational institution that participates in the federal student financial aid programs.


Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific islander – A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands.

NCES – National Center for Education Statistics – The statistical branch of the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, a principal operating component of the U.S. Department of Education. NCES collects statistics on the condition of education in the United States, analyzes and reports the meaning and significance of these statistics, and assists states and local education agencies in improving their statistical systems. For further information, see the NCES website.

Noncredit - A course or activity having no credit applicable toward a degree, diploma, certificate, or other recognized postsecondary credential. Tompkins Cortland offers noncredit workshops.

Non-degree seeking student – A student enrolled in courses for credit who is not recognized by the institution as seeking a degree or formal award.

Nonresident Alien or International – A person who is not a citizen or national of the United States and who is in this country on a visa or temporary basis and does not have the right to remain indefinitely.


Part-time Student: Undergraduate – A student enrolled for either 11 semester credits or less.

Program – A combination of courses and related activities organized for the attainment of broad educational objectives as described by the institution.


Race/ethnicity –  Categories developed in 1997 that are used to describe groups to which individuals belong, identify with, or belong in the eyes of the community. The categories do not denote scientific definitions of anthropological origins. The designations are used to categorize U.S. citizens, resident aliens, and other eligible non-citizens.

Individuals are asked to first designate ethnicity as:
- Hispanic or Latino or
- Not Hispanic or Latino

Second, individuals are asked to indicate all races that apply among the following:
- American Indian or Alaska Native
- Asian
- Black or African American
- Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander
- White

Race/ethnicity unknown – The category used to report students or employees whose race and ethnicity are not known.

Resident Alien – A person who is not a citizen or national of the United States and who has been admitted as a legal immigrant for the purpose of obtaining permanent resident alien status (and who holds either an alien registration card, a Temporary Resident card, or an Arrival-Departure Record with a notation that conveys legal immigrant status such as Section 207 Refugee, Section 208 Asylee, Conditional Entrant Parolee or Cuban-Haitian).

Retention rate – A measure of the rate at which students persist in their educational program at an institution, expressed as a percentage. For two-year institutions, this is the percentage of first-time degree/certificate-seeking students from the previous fall who either re-enrolled or successfully completed their program by the current fall.



Semester – 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.


Transfer Out Rate - Total number of students who are known to have transferred out of the reporting institution within 150% of normal time to completion divided by the adjusted cohort.  Access Tompkins Cortland Community College transfer rate. 

Transfer Student – A student entering the reporting institution for the first time but known to have previously attended another post-secondary institution. A student may transfer with or without credit.


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.

Unduplicated count – The sum of students enrolled for credit with each student counted only once during the reporting period, regardless of when the student enrolled.

Unit ID – Unique identification number assigned to postsecondary institutions surveyed through the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Also referred to as UNITID or IPEDS ID.  Tompkins Cortland Community College’s Unit ID is 196565.


White -  A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa.


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