Credit Hour Policy


This policy codifies the university’s requirement defining credit hours and guides compliance with the following regional accrediting agency guidelines.

Federal regulations mandate that all candidate and accredited institutions comply with the definition of the credit hour as set forth in Section 600.2, which defines the credit hour as:

Except as provided in 34 CFR 668.8(k) and (l), a credit hour is an 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:

(1) One hour of classroom or direct faculty instruction and a minimum of two hours of out-of-class student work each week for approximately fifteen weeks for one semester or trimester hour of credit, or ten to twelve weeks for one quarter hour of credit, or the equivalent amount of work over a different amount of time; or

(2) 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. (NWCCU, Policy on Credit Hour, November 2012)

Credit Hour at Willamette

Willamette University operates under a semester credit hour system. The credit hour policy applies equally to courses of varying credits, duration, and modes of instruction, and applies to all credit granted by the university, whether through programs on or off campus, or through transfer from other institutions. Determination of the amount of credit awarded is made by the pertinent school or college’s curriculum committee based on accrediting agency guidelines and federal regulations.

Periodic Compliance Review

New courses are reviewed and approved by the pertinent school or college’s curriculum committee for compliance with the credit hour policy. The periodic compliance review of the credit hour policy is incorporated into each school’s and college’s established curriculum review schedule under the supervision of the respective dean’s office.

Guidance for Meeting the Credit Hour Requirement

  1. Curriculum committees in the pertinent school or college evaluate courses for credit. They approve and maintain written records of substantive exceptions to the base hour-counting guidelines. Documentation of compliance includes course syllabi and class schedules.
    • Syllabi include information outlining the expected amount of work the course requires for the designated number of credit hours. Representative syllabi are kept on file and available for review for both standard courses and types of courses that do not meet for the standard amount of in-seat class time. Regardless of mode of instruction, syllabi demonstrate that courses are consistent in terms of purpose, scope, quality, assessment, and expected learning outcomes with other courses with the same department code, number, and course title.
    • Each school and college maintains a course schedule showing the weeks, hours and days that courses meet. In addition, they maintain a list of the kinds of courses that do not require the standard amount of in-class seat time designated in the policy (for example, online and hybrid courses, laboratory courses, studio courses, independent study, and internship/externship courses) and a schedule showing when those courses meet. A course offered in fewer than 15 weeks contains the same total number of hours – the combined time spent on direct instruction, preparation for class, homework, lab work, field work, etc. – as an equivalent credit-hour course offered in the standard 15-week semester as documented by a combination of the meeting schedule and syllabi.
  2. In the undergraduate college, credit is awarded as follows:
    • 4 semester hours = 150 clock hours of instruction and student work
    • 3 semester hours = 112.5 clock hours of instruction and student work
    • 2 semester hours = 75 clock hours of instruction and student work
    • 1 semester hour = 37.5 clock hours of instruction and student work
  3. In the College of Law, credit hours are allocated within a conventional semester system for law schools, typically requiring approximately 700 minutes of instruction time (fourteen 50-minute classes or thirteen 55-minute classes) per course unit (see Interpretation 304-4, ABA Standards for Approval of Law Schools). The typical law class meets for a total of 780 minutes over 13 weeks for a total of 15.6 “Carnegie” hours.

Definition of Hour

One semester credit equals one hour* of direct faculty instruction and a minimum of two hours* of out-of-class student work per week for 15 weeks. Generally, one semester credit is granted for a minimum of 45 hours* of student work.

*This rule refers to a 50 min. “Carnegie hour” so the requirement is for 12.5 clock hours (750 min.) of direct instruction or a total of 37.5 clock hours (2,250 min.) of total student work for one semester credit.

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