April 21, 2014

Credit Hour Bulletin


June 1, 2011

To:  ABHES-Accredited Institutions and Programs Interested Parties
From:  Carol A. Moneymaker, Executive Director

Re:  Academic Credit and Credit Awarded for Federal Funding Purposes

In a bulletin dated April 4, 2011, the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) provided general clarification of ABHES’ expectations relative to the awarding of academic credit, including appropriate documentation of student experience and outside preparation within a program of study. 

As a result of the U.S. Department of Education’s concerns about credit assignment, which affects the amount of federal financial aid awarded, the program integrity final rules dated October 29, 2010, effective July 1, 2011, included a definition of “credit hour” for “federal funding purposes.”  These regulations hold the accrediting agencies accountable in determining whether the credit hour assignment for each course meets the minimum requirements for federal funding purposes.  As such, ABHES is required “to conduct an effective review and evaluation of the reliability and accuracy of the institution’s assignment of credit hours by: (i) reviewing the institution’s policies and procedures for determining the credit hours; (ii) reviewing the application of the institution’s policies and procedures to its programs and coursework; (iii) sampling credit hour assignments; and, (iv) taking actions that it deems appropriate to address deficiencies that it identifies. ABHES will promptly notify the U.S. Secretary of Education if significant or systemic noncompliance with ABHES policies or federal laws and regulations is found regarding one or more programs at the institution.

This Bulletin serves as additional clarification regarding the requirements and expectations of ABHES, including those inherent in the new federal regulations, as well as the process of review ABHES undertakes relative to the awarding of academic credit.

I. Federal Requirements for Credit Allocation and  Conversion

Credit Allocation For Purposes of Title IV Federal Financial Aid:

The U.S. Department of Education defines a “credit hour” as “an amount of work presented 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 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, (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, or other academic work leading to the award of credit hours.”

Clock Hour to Credit Hour Conversion:

For financial aid purposes, except in certain cases specified by the United States Department of Education, the method of converting clock hours to credit hours for lecture, laboratory, and/or externship/internship is as follows

1.  One semester credit hour is based on 37.5 clock hours of student work. This may include 7.5 hours of documented outside preparation per credit hour.

2.  One quarter credit hour is based on 25 clock hours of student work.  This may include 5 hours of documented outside preparation per credit hour.

II. ABHES Requirements for Program Revisions and Conversions

For academic purposes, the definitions used by ABHES remain unchanged and are published in the Accreditation Manual (visit www.abhes.org/publications/AccreditationManual (see IV.G.2.)).

Institutions seeking to change the total number of hours must submit (i) a Minor Program Revision Application for a change of less than 25%, (ii) a Program Revision Application for a change of 25% to 50%, or (iii) a New Program Application for revisions over 50%. Institutions converting from a clock-to-credit-hour system or from a credit-to- clock-hour system must also complete the appropriate application. Visit www.abhes.org, forms link to access current applications recently amended in response to the new requirements and to be used as of June 1, 2011.

ABHES will not approve any revision to a current program without academic justification for the change, including profession demands, and completion of the current and appropriate application.  If the institution or program is including outside preparation in credit awarded this may include, but is not limited to, the following:

(i) homework with specific requirements such as reading and  writing assignments,
(ii) practice and practical application,
(iii) laboratory research; and
(iv) projects or other equivalent learning experiences.

In all cases, student work performed outside of class must be documented and justified as leading toward the achievement of the stated goals and objectives of the program.  The outside work must conform to commonly-accepted standards and requirements for the discipline and must be consistently applied by the program/institution. The outside work is to be graded, as appropriate, and must serve as an integral part of the structured, sequenced educational program as described in the syllabus.  Credit for student work performed outside of class must reflect a reasonable estimate of the actual time required to complete the work taking into account the nature and rigor of assignments.

Attached is a grid entitled “Profile of Clock-to-Credit-Hour Conversion” that will be appended to ABHES new and revised program applications and will be required to be completed.  The grid is also a necessary component of the Self-Evaluation Report and on-site review. There is an instructions tab to be used attached to the grid.  It is noted that institutional members are required to round their credits down to the nearest .0 or .5 and indicate this in the total credits column.  Programmatic members will use the system required by their institutional accreditor.

Profile of Clock-to-Credit-Hour Conversion