The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) jointly issue The Statement on Standards for Continuing Professional Education (CPE) Programs, which provides a framework for the development, presentation, measurement, and reporting of CPE programs.  This post will discuss Standard No. 16: Program Length Measured in CPE Credits, which is the standard that addresses how to properly measure the amount of credit earned for CPE.

Standard No. 16 first addresses the basic CPE measurement criteria, which most CPAs are familiar with and that is the use of actual program length in minutes.  One 50-minute period equals one CPE credit.  For group, independent study, and blended learning, a minimum of one full credit must be awarded (one 50-minute period) and then partial credits can be earned in one-fifth (10 minutes) or one-half (25 minutes) increments.  For self-study courses, a minimum of one-half credit must be awarded and then partial credits can be earned in one-fifth or one-half increments.  For nano-learning, a minimum of one-fifth credit must be awarded.  Nano-learning credits are only awarded in one-fifth credit increments.  State boards will determine if they actually accept one-half and one-fifth credits, so the respective state board should be contacted to verify if these partial hour credits will count to meet the licensing minimums.

Calculating Credits for Segmented Activities:

If a course is made up of several individual segments and each segment is less than 50 minutes in length, then the segments should be added together to total for one CPE course with the amount of credit awarded based on the total number of minutes across all segments.  Credits awarded must be rounded down, not up, if there are remaining minutes after dividing the total number of minutes by 50. 

Calculating Credits for Group Internet Based Programs:

To determine if credit can be awarded for group internet based courses, there has to be a minimum number of activities completed by the participant, while taking the course, to show engagement in the course.  To check for this activity, some type of monitoring mechanism must be implemented, with at least three instances of interactivity taking place per credit hour, to verify participation.  Each full hour of credit must follow the three instances rule, with zero to two monitoring activities also taking place for partial credit hours. 

Calculating Credits for Small Group Internet-Based Programs:

If a small group is viewing an internet-based program and one person logs in and answers the participation questions for the group, then there must be attendance documentation in order to award the CPE credit to all attendees.  There must be a group facilitator who authenticates the attendance.

Calculating Credits for College Credit and Non-credit Courses:

If a college credit course meets the CPE standards, then each unit of college credit equals 15 CPE credits, if a semester system is followed by the college, or 10 credits if a quarter system is followed by the college.  If a student is taking a college non-credit course, then credit is only awarded for the actual classroom time spent in the course.