Credit Hours

Some of our most accomplished leaders in a wide variety of areas were largely self-educated. Abraham Lincoln, for example, was a self-educated attorney. Over time post-secondary institutions began to become more valuable, but that created a problem. At the time, there was no way to compare education achievement across the institutions. Some standard of comparison was needed.

In the late 19th century, Charles Eliot proposed the first standard based on what was called a credit hour. The standard was developed for secondary education as well as post-secondary education. The secondary standard was accepted in 1894.

The acceptance of a credit hour standard in colleges was delayed until 1906. When retirement pensions were developed for college faculty, there needed to be a qualification standard for faculty who qualified. Thus, colleges requiring 120 credit hours to graduate were adopted nationwide. One credit hour was defined as one hour of instruction for three days per week over a period of time that lapsed for 14-16 weeks.

Today the credit hour is a universally accepted standard for the content of a course. However, there are still challenges that have not been resolved. The first is the issue of how the standard is assured in the thousands of courses across America.

The second issue concerns what the standard should be for time requirements outside of the classroom. The Obama Administration established rules that defined one credit hour to be one hour in class and two hours of work outside of class. This rule was found to be hard to document by accreditation agencies. It was eliminated by the following administration.

What was begun in the late 19th and early 20th centuries is still not settled. In fact, there seems to be an effort to remove any standard for academic attainment. The emerging loss of meaning associated with what constitutes a credit hour is just one component of a general disintegration of educational standards at all levels.

It’s hard to continue to advance promising beginnings when there are powerful forces in opposition.

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“Those who work to oppose standards of achievement value words over results.”– Anonymous

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