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Business and Policy Areas
Business and Policy Areas

ED Provides Clarification on the Definition of a Credit Hour

March 24, 2011

Amidst considerable controversy over new rules defining a credit hour, the Department of Education has issued a “Dear Colleague” letter (GEN-11-06) largely reiterating its position on the definition and providing some guidance through questions and answers.

Among the answers provided, ED explains that the definition of a credit hour “does not dictate particular amounts of classroom time versus out-of-class student work.” The amount of work for a credit hour approximates “not less than one hour of class and two hours of out-of-class student work.” Additionally, for institutions offering asynchronous online courses, there is no “seat requirement” in the definition, so institutions may calculate the amount of work expected in those courses. An appropriate number of credit hours would then be assigned.

The 15-page letter further explains that institutions are not required to have a single credit-hour policy that applies to all “disciplines, degree levels, teaching/learning formats, and delivery modes.” ED does state, though, that institutions must have policies and procedures that ensure consistency “to gain the confidence of accrediting agencies.”


Anne Gross
Vice President, Regulatory Affairs