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Are you managing a secondary educational program and need a comprehensive understanding of clock-to-credit hour conversions? With so many regulations to consider, course credit distribution can get confusing. Fame is here to help eliminate uncertainty about clock or credit hours allocation for post-secondary programs.

Continue reading about clock hour to credit hour conversions and how current regulations affect your program.

What Are the Current Clock-to-Credit Hour Conversion Regulations?

Based on the new Distance Education and Innovation regulations that went into effect back on 7/1/2021, non-degree credit hour programs are now required to use the clock-to-credit conversion of 30:1 for semester/trimester credit and 20:1 for quarter credit.

The new regulations also eliminate outside coursework hours for the U.S. Department of Education’s clock-to-credit conversion. However, check with your accrediting agency to see if you can still include external coursework in your academic credit conversion.

Note: Credit hour schools that are not affected by clock-to-credit hour conversion regulations are those offering degree programs and any program that transfers to a degree program.

What’s Changed

The Distance Education and Innovation Regulations, effective July 1, 2021, changed the clock-to-credit financial aid conversion to a 30:1 ratio for semester credit and a 20:1 ratio for quarter credit. The calculation is calculated on a class-by-class basis, except for clinical or externship, where the actual academic credits must be used. The conversion is required for any program that does not offer or fully transfer to a degree program at the same institution.

Current Clock Hours to Credit Hours Conversion Regulations

Here’s a sample table of the current regulations. Note: you must divide the hours in each class by 30.

 Lecture   Lab   Externship   Total FA Credits
 80  10  3
 80  20  3.33
 80  20  3.33
 80  30  3.66
 80  30  3.66
 80  30  3.66
 120  2.66 (academic credits)
 480  140  120  23.3 (20 without using decimals)

Note: You can only use decimals if your accrediting agency allows it for Title IV purposes.

All institutions should review the ECAR to ensure that the credits listed are correct based on the required conversion. If the credits are incorrect, or they wish to covert from clock hour to credit hour, they need state and accrediting agency approval of the new program. Once the programs are updated or approved, they are submitted to the U.S. Department of Education.

Program Changes for ESP and Freedom FinAid Clients

For ESP/AFA clients, if your program credits change, you must create new programs on Fame Connect with the new number of credits after you submit the changes to the U.S. Department of Education via the E-App (instructions below). Also, please send a copy of the revised clock-to-credit hour conversion calculation worksheet in a ticket to Fame so we can determine if the calculation is accurate.

For Freedom FinAid clients, if your program credits change, please create a ticket to include your clock-to-credit calculation. Also, add new programs as applicable after you submit the changes to the U.S. Department of Education via the E-App (instructions below).

There are three available options:

  1. Your institution can teach the remainder of the current program to currently enrolled students according to the existing conversion calculation.
  2. New students (enrolled after the implementation date) may be enrolled in the program under the new conversion regulations.
  3. Your institution may choose to switch from the old conversion calculation to the new one at the end of a payment period.

Once your institution implements the new regulatory provisions, here’s what you must do:

  • If the new calculations change the number of Title IV credit hours in your program, submit an E-App to update the number of clock hours and Title IV credit hours in the program.
  • If the new calculation doesn’t change the number of Title IV credit hours in the program, your institution should update the E-App to change the number of clock hours reported for the program. Perform the update when the next update or recertification application is submitted.

Your institution would only need to end a program and create a new program on the E-App if the accrediting agency or state considers it to be a new program. Read our featured clock-to-credit hour conversion story to learn more provisions and regulations about credit hours.

Achieve Credit Hour Compliance with Fame

Clock-to-credit hour conversions and regulations can get complex. Here at Fame, we’re committed to helping post-secondary programs navigate complex federal regulations so they can focus on maximizing the student experience and refining their educational program.

Check out our products and services and find what you need to run your school efficiently. If you need guidance or don’t know where to start, request a free consultation.

If you want to see what our products and services can do, request a free demo today!

Check out our FAQ section for everything you need to understand clock and credit hours regulations.


1. What are clock hours?

Clock hours refer to the total hours a student spends attending class or engaging in other educational activities that count toward their classroom studies. This calculation includes all hours dedicated to:

  • Class lectures
  • Lab work
  • Hands-on training (internships and externships)

Note that clock hours don’t account for any test preparation done outside the campus, such as studying at home. However, they can include externships on a site that’s not on campus.

2. What are credit hours?

Credit hours reflect how many credits students receive in their courses. Credit hour measurements are based on the time a student spends in class and the amount of work they do outside of class.

These calculations are a standardized way of evaluating and measuring a student’s involvement with their courses and how they’re progressing toward graduation. There needs to be one hour of classroom activity and two hours of out-of-class work each week for 15 weeks (one semester). To help you understand, here’s a basic calculation:

  • (1 hour of classwork + 2 hours homework) / per week x (15 weeks/semester)

While the number of credit hours varies, college-level courses tend to be worth three credits. Additionally, students can earn credit hours through:

  • Internships
  • Externships
  • Laboratory work
  • Service learning

3. What are contact hours?

Contact hours are the hours a student spends in a classroom setting per week for an entire semester. Specifically, it refers to the amount of time students receive lessons from their instructors.

Contact hours are calculated weekly for an entire semester; they also depend on the number of credits each course has. Here’s an example for better clarity: In a three-credit course that meets for 15 weeks, the class would have 45 contact hours in one semester.

4. Are there factors that affect credit hour calculations?

Yes, there are. Credit hour calculations can change depending on the following factors:

  • Institution policies: Some institutions have specific guidelines for calculating credit hours, which can affect a student’s graduation progress.
  • Course level and difficulty: Depending on the subject and the course level, one course might offer more credit hours than others.
  • Accreditation: A higher educational program undergoing several accreditations must abide by the regulations established by their accrediting agencies. Some of these regulations impact credit hours.

5. How do you calculate credit hours from clock hours?

As stated earlier, non-degree programs must use a 30:1 factor for determining clock hour to credit hour conversion.
Here’s an example: Suppose a student is enrolled in a course with 50 clock hours. You divide 30 into 50 clock hours (50/30= 1.6). That final number represents how many credits the course is worth for financial aid purposes.

6. What is the purpose of the clock-to-credit hour formula?

There are two purposes for the clock-to-credit hour formula. The first is to establish whether or not a program has enough credit hours to receive and distribute federal student aid to its students.

The second intention is to determine the number of financial aid credits associated with a specific course.

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Sally Samuels | Fame Director of Compliance

by Sally Samuels, Director of Compliance at Fame