Course Credit Hour Assignments
Rules governing assignment of course credit hours are set by the U.S. Department of
Education, and the Michigan Department of Management and Budget. Each year, the Michigan
Office of the Auditor General audits five Michigan universities to ensure their compliance
and thus their eligibility to receive federal and state funding.
For lecture and recitation courses, the rules are precise. One class meeting of 50 minutes per week is assigned one course credit. In contrast, universities are allowed considerable latitude for laboratory and field courses.
General practice is that one credit may be assigned to laboratory sections ranging from 50 to 170 minutes (one to three "hours"), two credits for sections ranging from 170 to 230 minutes (three to four "hours"), and three credits for those ranging from 170 to 290 minutes (three to five "hours").The variation in time-to-credit ratio is intended to reflect both the intensity of the laboratory experience and the time required out of class to develop reports. Field classes typically carry the same or fewer credits per class hour compared to laboratory classes since time is often spent in transit and in other relatively low intensity learning activities.
Academic advancement by students is measured in terms of semester-hour credits or simply credits as defined above. One credit should average 3½ hours of a student’s time per week for one semester. One hour in class and 2½ hours in individual study is a typical division. Thus students should multiply the course credits by 3.5 to determine the demands the course will place on their time during a typical week of the semester. For example, in MA5524 Functional Analysis (a 3-credit course with no lab), one would expect to spend 10½ hours per week on the course (3 hours in class and 7½ hours out of class).