The Fight Over Credit Hours

In an update to the story of the American Council on Education’s “concerns” about the new federal definition of an academic credit, the group is now asking Congress to delay enacting regulations.

According to a piece in Inside Higher Ed:

A coalition of higher education groups on Thursday asked Congressional leaders to push for a one-year delay in two Education Department regulations that are scheduled to take effect in July. The groups, organized as usual by the American Council on Education, urged Representative Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), who heads the House of Representatives postsecondary education subcommittee, to either encourage or force the Education Department to delay the implementation date of rules that would establish a federal definition of “credit hour”…. The rules… “will have little or no effect in curbing fraud and abuse, but they could do enormous damage to the quality and diversity of postsecondary academic offerings,” the groups wrote. Education Department officials have ignored previous requests from the higher education associations to change or rescind the rules, the groups said. And with time running out, neither state officials nor campus administrators have guidance about how to implement the new rules, making for an impossible situation, the associations suggest.

The federal government defined credit hour for the first time because credit hours are used to determine federal financial aid.

It’s true that the new designation—under which college credits are defined as “measuring the amount of work consisting of one hour of classroom or direct faculty instruction and at least two hours of student work outside the classroom over a set period of time”—don’t really do anything to measure effort or learning, but colleges have had plenty of time to come up with a better way to measure student progress. Most of them are not interested in making those kinds of reforms.

The fact that the Education Department has ignored previous requests from ACE to change the definition of credit hours suggests that it doesn’t find ACE objections to be all that valid.

No word yet from Virginia Foxx, not exactly known as a innovative thinker on higher education matters, on what she plans to do about this.

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Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer