Accreditation Advisory on Federal Credit Hour Definition

The Department of Education has mandated that accreditors perform a review of the elements of the education program that an ACICS accredited institution uses to assign academic credit to coursework. Performing that review with rigor and integrity is important to ACICS’ on-going recognition by the Department; the review must also demonstrate integrity and consistency so that the amount/level of federal student financial aid awarded on the basis of ACICS-reviewed academic credit is defensible and appropriate.


ACICS has enhanced its site-review accreditation program to ensure that every member institution receiving federal student financial aid is subject to:

  • Written policy and procedures that address the review and evaluation of your institution’s assignment of credit hours as defined for Federal program purposes.
  • Criteria for assessing your institution’s assignment of credit hours, adequacy of your institutionally-identified policies and procedures, and evidence of an accurate, reliable application provided by your institution.
  • A reasonable determination by the site review team and the Council as to whether your institution’s policies and procedures result in the establishment of credit hours for title IV, HEA program purposes that meet at least the minimum standards in the definition in 34 CFR 600.2 and that conform to commonly  accepted practice in higher education.


The appropriate assignment of credit to academic work on behalf of the federal government is a new role for ACICS (and all recognized institutional accreditors); carrying out the review effectively and defensibly has substantial implications for your institution’s students continued access to federal student financial aid, as well as the good-standing of ACICS as a reliable authority on quality and integrity.


A series of informative communiques have been developed and conveyed to all ACICS member institutions in recent months. They include:


The Accreditation Advisory on the federal definition and requirements for assigning credits for financial aid purposes was developed at the request of members.  It includes a summary of the requirements as well as some examples and definitions, and it is now posted on the ACICS website, along with the Memoranda to the Field and the slides from the AWARE webinars.   Please be sure that your institution’s academic affairs professionals have reviewed the information thoroughly and have made outreach to ACICS policy specialists if they have questions.  Also be aware that institutions with team visits beginning this fall will be subject to the credit hour review policies and protocols established by ACICS and approved by the Council.


While these protocols and policies may evolve over time as they agency develops more experience in their application, it is expected that all institutions will follow the current guidance in good faith and demonstrate compliance during the accreditation process.


October 9, 2012

Albert C. Gray, Ph.D.
Executive Director/CEO