In the United States, the credit hour system is used to
calculate the academic work done by a student in universities, both at the
undergraduate and the graduate levels. Students need to earn a specified number
of credit hours in each degree program to be eligible to be awarded the degree.
Apart from computing the amount of academic work done by students, credit hours
are also used to compute the tuition and fee for students and determine their
academic status. For example, at Virginia Tech, the tuition for each credit isUSD 437.25 for in-state undergraduates for the academic year 2015-16. Similarly, there are different fee amounts
for each credit at graduate level and out-of-state enrollment. Moreover,
full-time enrollment is defined as enrolling for at least 9 credit hours at
graduate level and 12 credit hours at the undergraduate level. In order to
obtain an undergraduate degree, a student is typically required to earn around
120 credits. In order to earn a graduate degree, the requirements vary starting
from 30 to 90 credits depending on the type of degree.

In order to complete an undergraduate degree in four years,
one needs to take 15 credits per semester on an average. According to the US
Department of Education, to earn 1 credit, a student needs to spend 1-2 hours
per week in-class and 2 hours of preparation time out of class. This means that
a student who takes 15 credits per semester is required to spend 15-18 hours of
time in class and 30 hours of time out of class. This sums up to almost 45-48
hours of academic work each semester. I think this is a very high expectation
from students, especially considering the fact that students need to spend time
on extra-curricular activities and co-curricular activities in college for
which they do not get any credit. And if a student does a part-time job besides
attending full-time college, something that a lot of students do, the number of
hours which they need to spend on school and work easily add up to around
55-60. This means students have very little personal time in college. In order
to meet their job and college requirements, a lot of students neglect their
health and social life. This, in turn, leads to heath and psychological issues
for them.

The situation gets even worse in graduate school. A lot of
graduate students do a 20-hour assistantship besides their full-time graduate
level academic work which is 9-12 credit hours per semester. At Virginia Tech,
a graduate student on any assistantship is required to take 12 credit hours per
semester. Although the in-class hours for graduate students is less than those
of undergraduate students, due to the nature of graduate courses, the
out-of-class hours per credit are greatly increased. Even if we assume that
each credit in the Graduate School at Virginia Tech requires a total of 4 hours
of academic work (this is only 1 hour per credit more than the undergraduate
credit requirement), this would mean that each graduate student with a 20-hour
assistantship needs to spend 68 hours on academic work and assistantship.
Needless to say, this is impractical considering this is required of them each
week of a semester.

However, this is not to say that students actually spend the
same number of hours per week as discussed above to obtain their degrees.
Studies have shown that students, especially undergraduates, spend a lot less
than 3 hours per week to earn a credit. I myself have earned a graduate level
degree at Virginia Tech but do not think I spent 4 hours per credit for all the
credits I earned for the degree. But whatever number of hours students actually
spend to earn their degrees, in theory, the requirements seem too difficult and
taxing.