Definition of Credit Hours

The US Department of Education requires that post-secondary institutions develop written policies regarding assignment of credit hours that conforms to the definition in the Federal Register (CFR 600.2). The federal definition for a credit hour, which is consistent with the Carnegie Unit, is: 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.


The New Jersey Administrative Code (N.J.A.C. Title 9A:1-1.2 “Definitions”) defines a semester credit hour as: 50 minutes of face-to-face class activity each week for 15 weeks (or the equivalent attained by scheduling more minutes of face-to-face class activity per week for fewer weeks in the semester) in one semester complemented by at least 100 minutes each week of laboratory or outside assignments (or the equivalent thereof for semesters of different length).


The New Jersey Administrative Code further defines the academic year in relation to the semester credit hour (N.J.A.C. Title 9A:1-2.1 “General Program Standards”): The regular academic year, regardless of organization, should fall within a 10-month period and should include at least 30 weeks, or the equivalent in duration, of regularly scheduled student/faculty instructional activity, including final examination periods but excluding holiday and summer sessions.


Implementation at William Paterson University
The William Paterson University academic calendar reflects adherence to the above definition: the academic semester consists of a minimum of 15 weeks of instruction, inclusive of testing. Every effort is made to ensure that 75 days of instruction, inclusive of finals week, are provided. These 75 days are distributed such that there are 15 meetings in each of the five weekdays. Classes schedule on weekend days may meet for fewer than 15 weeks; weekly contact hours are adjusted accordingly.

 William Paterson University abides by the Federal and State definitions of a credit hour: one credit represents a minimum of 150 minutes of academic work per week over a 15 week semester. This definition applies to all types of courses (for example: lecture, seminar, laboratory, studio, practicum, clinical, thesis, etc.) and all delivery formats (for example: face-to-face, online, hybrid, independent study, etc.). Based on New Jersey Administrative Code, meeting times and expectations for amount of work per week are adjusted accordingly for semesters of different length. Sample scheduling practices at William Paterson University are summarized below.

Lecture and Seminar Classes
A typical 3-credit lecture course at William Paterson University is scheduled to meet for 150 minutes per week (three 50-minute, two 75-minute or one 150 minute meetings) for 15 weeks and it is expected that students will be need to spend an average of 300 minutes per week on outside assignments for the duration of the course.

Class schedules and outside assignment expectations for a 15 week semester are adjusted based on the credits awarded for the course as follows:


Meeting Time/ Week

Outside Assignments/ Week


50 minutes

100 minutes


100 minutes

200 minutes


150 minutes

300 minutes


200 minutes

400 minutes

Laboratory and Studio Classes
The combination of scheduled laboratory or studio time combined with expectations for out of class assignments equals 150 minutes per week for each credit. For example, a typical art studio course is scheduled for 300 minutes per week with the expectation that students will spend at least 150 minutes outside of class each week and is awarded 3 credit hours.

A typical laboratory is scheduled for 150 minutes per week with no expectation for outside work and is awarded 1 credit hour. William Paterson university laboratory courses are typically combined with a 3 credit lecture and awarded four credit hours total with the following contact and work expectations:


Lecture Time /Week

Lab Time/ Week

Outside Assignments/ Week





Music Lessons
Programs in Music include instructional time that does not follow typical course configurations. These programs are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music and conform to the NASM Standards Excerpt on Credit and Time Requirements. For example, applied music lessons meet for one hour per week over a 15 week semester and may be awarded 1, 2, or 3 credits. Additional practice is expected outside the weekly lesson.  The practice expectation is 1-hour daily for 1-credit, 2-hours daily for 2-credits and 3-hours daily for 3-credits.


One credit for Clinical, Cooperative Education, Field Experience, Independent Study, Internship, Ensemble Performance, Practicum, Thesis and other types of courses represents a minimum of 150 minutes per week of supervised and/or independent practice. For example, 1-credit hour is assigned to enrollment in a performance ensemble based on a minimum of 150 minutes of rehearsal time each week for 15 weeks. Clinical courses in nursing assigned 6-credit hours are scheduled for a minimum of 900 minutes per week clinical time. Some courses combine lecture with clinic or field experience. For example, a nursing course that meets 100 minutes in the classroom with 200 minutes of weekly assignments/preparation expected and 300 minutes per week scheduled in the clinical setting is assigned 4 credit hours.

Delivery Format
The definitions above refer primarily to face-to-face courses. The total amount of academic work per credit hour for online or blended formats remains the same. Academic work is comprised of, as appropriate, class meeting time, synchronous online course activities, asynchronous online course activities, and student preparation. The William Paterson University policy for online and hybrid courses states that faculty are expected to schedule the same amount of contact time as a face-to-face course regardless of delivery mode.

Non-Standard Length Semesters
The total amount of academic work per semester for courses offered for fewer or more than 15 weeks is adjusted accordingly to achieve the same amount time expected for a 15 week semester. For example, a face-to-face, 3-credit hour lecture course scheduled over 5 weeks rather than 15 weeks will have a minimum of 450 minutes scheduled weekly and an out-of-class work expectation of 900 minutes per week.

Verification of Time Scheduled
The registrar’s office publishes scheduling parameters, including a matrix of times acceptable for scheduling class, laboratory, studio and other courses consistent with the credit hours definitions described above. The Registrar is responsible for verifying that the final course schedule conforms to these definitions.

Credit Hour Assignment
Credit hour assignment occurs through the curriculum approval process. New courses and associated credit hour assignments as well as changes to existing credit hour assignments are reviewed by the College Curriculum Committees, Deans, Provost’s Office and Registrar.