On July 1, 2020, the United States Department of Education changed its definition of the student credit hour. Fundamentally, the change shifted responsibility for credit hour compliance to the accreditation agency and/or to the state.
As such, the CSU’s accreditor, the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC), has published its own updated definition of student credit hour and related accreditation processes. The new regulations no longer require an accrediting agency to review an institution’s credit hour policy and procedures. It does require the WSCUC to review the institution’s definition of credit hour and an institution’s processes and policies for ensuring the credit hour policy is followed.
The CSU credit hour definition is consistent with federal law (600.2 and 600.4 revised July 1, 2020) and the requirements of the WSCUC. The CSU defines a credit hour as an amount of work represented in stated learning outcomes and verified by evidence of student achievement. Such evidence is an institutionally established equivalency that:
- Approximates not less than:
- One hour of direct faculty instruction and a minimum of two hours of out-of-class student work each week for approximately 15 weeks for one semester or equivalent amount of work over a different amount of time; or
- At least an equivalent amount of work as required in paragraph 1.a. of this definition for other academic activities as established by the institution including laboratory work, internships, practica, studio work and other academic work leading to the award of credit hours; and
- Permits an institution, in determining the amount of work associated with a credit hour, to take into account a variety of delivery methods, measurements of student work, academic calendars, disciplines and degree levels. Institutions have the flexibility to award a greater number of credits for courses that require more student work.
As in the past, a credit hour is assumed to be a 50-minute (not 60-minute) period. In some courses, such as those offered online, in which “seat time” does not apply, a credit hour may be measured by an equivalent amount of work, as demonstrated by student achievement.
For purposes of accreditation, all CSUs are required to develop, communicate and implement procedures for regular, periodic review of this credit hour policy to ensure that credit hour assignments are accurate, reliable and consistently applied. WSCUC published new draft guidelines that took effect in June 2021. Universities are responsible for publishing a clearly stated practice or process that ensures they are in compliance with the student credit hour definition.
CSUN Credit Hour Policy
For all CSU degree programs and courses bearing academic credit, the “credit hour” is defined as “the amount of work represented in intended learning outcomes and verified by evidence of student achievement that is an institutionally established equivalency that reasonably approximates not less than:
- One hour of classroom or direct faculty instruction and a minimum of two hours of out-of-class student work each week for approximately 15 weeks for one semester or trimester hour of credit, or 10 to 12 weeks for one quarter hour of credit, or the equivalent amount of work over a different amount of time; or
- At least an equivalent amount of work as required in paragraph (1) of this definition for other academic activities as established by the institution, including laboratory work, internships, practica, studio work, and other academic work leading to the award of credit hours.”
A credit hour is assumed to be a 50-minute period. In courses in which “seat time” does not apply, a credit hour may be measured by an equivalent amount of work, as demonstrated by student achievement.
CSUN faculty will evaluate the credit hour designations for approved curriculum in regular cycles to coincide with the campus accreditation cycle. No later than one year prior to the submission of the WSUSC reaccreditation documents, each college will be required to provide a certification of all of their approved courses meeting the guidelines above. These certifications will be reviewed by the Educational Policies Committee (000-400 level courses) or the Graduate Studies Committee (500-700 courses) and the record of these certifications will be maintained by Undergraduate Studies on behalf of the University.