Credits without hours?

There’s a growing wave of enthusiasm for degrees based on competency rather than credit hours. Echoing Sherman Dorn, Matt Reed asks whether high ed should just drop the “hours” from “credit hours.” His answer:  Because then “credits” could mean anything or nothing.

For-profit providers have an incentive to inflate credits, writes Reed, who’s worked in the for-profit sector.

In my DeVry days, we were careful with the weekend program — which was specifically geared at working adults — to keep the number of classroom hours congruent with the requirements for the number of credits given, even when it became inconvenient.  The idea was to avoid the suspicion that fell upon certain competitors, who made a habit of awarding outsize numbers of credits for various courses to both make it easier for students to complete programs and to keep their own labor costs down.

. . . If we just declare that credits mean whatever a given provider says they mean, then there’s no basis for denying federal funding or regional accreditation to a college that awards twelve credits for a three-hour class and a paper.  And now that many of those classes are online — in which the entire conceit of “seat time” becomes vaporous — there would be nothing at all to put the brakes on a given college twisting “credits” to mean whatever is convenient at the time.

The “credit hour” was at least based on something, even though it was the wrong thing, he writes.

Competencies require a reliable way to document that students have acquired the skills they claim. That’s not simple. Southern New Hampshire University’s competency-based College for America — the first to receive approval for federal financial aid —  doesn’t accept transfer credits. That doesn’t answer the question: How will a student transfer from a competency-based college to a credit-based one?

POSTED BY Joanne Jacobs ON May 29, 2013

Comments & Trackbacks (2) | Post a Comment


To answer the question about transferring Competency Units, I would say that it would transfer by course code/objectives. It can be done because competency based universities can transfer in credits from traditional colleges, why wouldn’t hour based credited colleges allow competency based units?

Jimmy N. Collins

To read our full investigation into competency-based programs, please visit .

Your email is never published nor shared.