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The Credit Hour


Semester Conversion

Please note that the credit hour policy refers to quarter and semester calendars. As such, the number of credit hours, classroom time, and minimum expectations for out-of-class work will not change as part of the semester conversion process.

Historically, the California State University has used the equivalent of the Carnegie Unit for measuring and awarding academic credit that represents student work and achievement. The credit hour measure is also used by the U.S. Department of Education and therefore is the basis of requirements for Cal Poly's accreditor, the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

CSU policy states the following:

[F]or all CSU degree programs and courses bearing academic credit, the "credit hour" is defined as the 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.
A credit hour is assumed to be a 50-minute (not 60-minute) period. In courses, such as those offered online, in which "seat time" does not apply, a credit hour may be measured by an equivalent amount of work, as demonstrated by student achievement.

Credit hours, classroom time, and minimum expectations for out-of-class work correspond to different course modes as follows:

Course Mode

Weekly Hours of classroom or direct faculty instruction per unit weekly minimum hours of out-of-class student work per unit










Courses offered in shorter time frames (less than ten weeks) must provide the equivalent required number of classroom or direct faculty instruction.

The credit hour policy applies to all instructional modes and modalities, as well as to courses at the bachelor's and master's levels.

Review Processes. The application of this policy across the institution, to ensure that credit hour assignments are accurate, reliable, appropriate to the degree level, and conforming to commonly accepted practice in higher education, is assured by the following existing review processes:

  • the New Course Proposal form, which, in order to maintain accreditation standards and quality curricular control, asks the proposer to specify the number of hours of face-to-face or synchronous/asynchronous instruction, and the number of hours of out-of-class work;
  • the curricular review process as supervised by the faculty, in which the approval of any course includes evaluation by the department, college, and Academic Senate curriculum committees of the course credit hours assigned;
  • the course scheduling process as instituted quarterly by the Office of the Registrar, which specifically checks and confirms the correspondence between credit hour assignment and class meeting times.

Faculty are encouraged to acknowledge this policy in course syllabi so that students understand conventional expectations for work outside the classroom.

Departments are encouraged to design their own policies for the review of current courses and their adherence to credit hour policy.


WSCUC (WASC Senior College and University Commission): "Credit Hour Policy" (PDF). Revised November 2020.

California State University: AA 2011-14 "CSU Definition of a Credit Hour" (PDF). Revised 11 March 2022.

Academic Senate Resolution: AS-838-17 "Review of Courses with Condensed Time Schedules" (PDF). Adopted 6 June 2017.

Academic Senate Resolution: AS-896-20 "Online Teaching and Learning" (PDF). Adopted 19 May 2020.

Academic Senate Resolution: AS-922-21 "Resolution on How Credit Hour Policy Adherence is Assessed and Assured" (PDF). Adopted 25 May 2021. ['March 25' adopted date on resolution is incorrect.]

Last updated 2/27/2024

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