Higher Learning Commission

Policy Title: Assignment of Credits, Program Length, and Tuition

Number: FDCR.A.10.020

An institution shall be able to equate its learning experiences with semester or quarter credit hours using practices common to institutions of higher education, to justify the lengths of its programs in comparison to similar programs found in accredited institutions of higher education, and to justify any program-specific tuition in terms of program costs, program length, and program objectives. Affiliated institutions shall notify the Commission of any significant changes in the relationships among credits, program length, and tuition.

Assignment of Credit Hours. The institution’s assignment and award of credit hours shall conform to commonly accepted practices in higher education. Those institutions seeking, or participating in, Title IV federal financial aid, shall demonstrate that they have policies determining the credit hours awarded to courses and programs in keeping with commonly-accepted practices and with the federal definition of the credit hour, as reproduced herein for reference only, and that institutions also have procedures that result in an appropriate awarding of institutional credit in conformity with the policies established by the institution.

Federal Credit Hour Definition: 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 activities as established by an institution, including laboratory work, internships, practica, studio work, and other academic work leading toward to the award of credit hours. 34CFR 600.2 (11/1/2010)

Commission Review. The Commission shall review the assignment of credit hours, program length, and tuition in conjunction with a comprehensive evaluation for reaffirmation of accreditation during the Commission’s assurance process. The Commission may sample or use other techniques to review specific institutional programs to ensure that it has reviewed the reliability and accuracy of the institution’s assignment of credit. The Commission shall monitor, through its established monitoring processes, the resolution of any concerns identified during that evaluation with regard to the awarding of academic credit, program length, or tuition, and shall require that an institution remedy any deficiency in this regard by a date certain but not to exceed two years from the date of the action identifying the deficiency.

Commission Action for Systematic Noncompliance. In addition to taking appropriate action related to the institution’s compliance with the Federal Compliance Requirements, the Commission shall notify the Secretary of Education if, following any review process identified above or through any other mechanism, the Commission finds systematic noncompliance with the Commission’s policies in this section regarding the awarding of academic credit.

The Commission shall understand systematic noncompliance to mean that an institution lacks policies to determine the appropriate awarding of academic credit or that there is an awarding by an institution of institutional credit across multiple programs or divisions or affecting significant numbers of students not in conformity with the policies established by the institution or with commonly accepted practices in higher education.

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Policy History

Last Revised: June 2012
First Adopted: February 1996
Revision History: Adopted February 1996, effective September 1996, revised November 2011, revised and combined with policies 3.10, 3.10(a), 3.10(b), and 3.10(c)
Notes: Former policy number 4.0(a).

Policy Number Key

Section FDCR: Policies Required by Federal Regulation

Chapter A: Federal Compliance

Part 10: General

Related Procedures


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