Course Credit Hours

Academic advancement by the student is measured in terms of semester hour credits, or simply, credits. One credit should, on the average, require three hours of a student's time each week for one semester. These three hours may all be spent in the classroom or laboratory, or may be divided between home study and class or laboratory attendance. One hour in class; two hours in individual study is a typical division. Course descriptions in the catalog show the number of credits for the course. Until the student determines by experience whether they require more or less time than the average student, they should multiply the course credits by three to determine the demands the course will place on their time during a typical week of the semester (updated from senate proposal 11-69).


In all cases, a credit hour should approximate three (3) hours of student effort per week for fifteen (15) weeks (counting finals week) or the equivalent student effort (45 hours) over a different time period.

Typical, full-semester, course credit hour assignments are normally done based on scheduled contact hours as described below and in the course proposal guide. In cases where contact hours would not accurately reflect total student effort (e.g., short courses, novel course types), credits will be assigned as above.

Course Credit Hour Assignments

Rules governing assignment of course credit hours are set by the U.S. Department of Education. 

For lecture and recitation courses, the rules are precise. One class meeting of 50 minutes per week is assigned one course credit. However, 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.