Policy UL-HR04 Release Time to Attend Academic Courses

Main Policy Content


  • Purpose
  • General Statement
  • Course Eligibility
  • Employee Eligibility
  • Guideline
  • Types of Work Schedule Accommodations
  • Handling Time Spent Attending Course-Related Activities
  • Approval Procedure
  • Revocation of Release Time Privileges
  • Cross References


These guidelines provide a framework for employees and supervisors to use in making consistent and equitable decisions regarding release time to attend a Penn State academic course.


The University Libraries recognizes the importance of its employees and their contributions to the accomplishment of its mission.  The Libraries’ administration supports and encourages the continuing education of all its employees.  It is understood that is not always possible for employees to select a course that is scheduled outside of their normal working hours.  Therefore, supervisors are encouraged to grant release time or make work schedule accommodations, as work needs allow.  The granting of release time or any other work schedule accommodation for an employee to attend a Penn State academic course is a special arrangement and privilege, and should not be considered as a right.


Employees may request release time to attend any Penn State academic course. 

Employees may also request release time to attend a graduate study course at another institution if that course meets one of the criteria listed below:

  1. For employees at University Park and locations away from University Park: 
    • The graduate study course is not offered by Penn State either traditionally or online and the other institution is located within a reasonable commuting distance of the work location.
  2. For employees at locations away from University Park only:
    • The graduate study course is offered at Penn State, but is not offered at the employee’s work location, any other Penn State campus within a reasonable commuting distance, and/or online. 

Employees may not request release time to attend an undergraduate course at another institution. 


An employee must meet one of the categories below and have completed at least six months of employment in the University Libraries.

  1. A regular, full-time faculty or staff member appointed on a standing or fixed-term I appointment.
  2. A faculty member appointed on a full-time fixed-term II appointment.


Libraries’ employees may be granted paid release time to attend a Penn State academic course which is scheduled to meet during their normal working hours.  Release time includes travel and class time and will not exceed a maximum of three and one-half hours per week for full-time staff; for staff on less than 100% full-time equivalency (FTE) appointments, release time will be calculated on a pro-rated basis, based on their % FTE during the semester they are requesting to attend the course.  Release time is not considered “time worked” in the computation of overtime.

Service needs of the department must take first priority.  The immediate supervisor is responsible for ensuring that granting of an employee’s request will not interfere with the service needs of the department nor the employee’s job requirements.  (See HRG02, Alternate Work Arrangements.)

Employees who have received supervisory approval to either take more than one class or one that exceeds three hours per week, in any one semester, during normal working hours must either make-up the time missed, use vacation, or take a personal leave of absence without pay.

In cases where the granting of release time is not feasible due to service needs of the department, employees may request and supervisors may approve a work schedule accommodation.


The following accommodations are possible and are at the discretion of the immediate supervisor:

Flexible Work Schedule:

There are two options that apply:

  1. An employee may request to temporarily change their scheduled work hours during the semester in which they are attending a course, keeping in mind that they must still work the required number of work hours each work week (typically 40 hours for 100% FTE).  (See also, Guideline HRG02, Alternate Work Arrangements)
  2. A supervisor may grant release time during normal working hours but require the employee to make up the hours missed on an hour-for-hour basis within the same workweek, as scheduled by the supervisor.  For nonexempt employees, hours made up in addition to a 40-hour workweek are subject to overtime compensation.

Personal Leave of Absence without Pay or Use of Vacation Time:

In some cases the needs of the department and/or employee are better served by allowing the employee to take a personal leave of absence without pay (see Policy HR16, Leave of Absence without Salary) or to use vacation time to cover their absences.


Employees are not permitted to perform or attend course-related activities during normal working hours.  Examples of course-related activities include studying, homework, research, field trips, group project meetings, study sessions, etc.  Time spent performing or attending course-related activities outside of the weekly scheduled class meeting time should be done on the employee’s personal time and may be charged to vacation, personal holiday, or compensatory time or made up at the discretion of the immediate supervisor.


Employees requesting a work schedule accommodation to attend a Penn State academic course must submit their request, by completing the Request for Release Time to Attend an Academic Course Form (PDF), prior to registering for the course.  Approval must be granted by the employee’s immediate supervisor with concurrence from the unit/subject head and department head.

Supervisors may request to see proof of enrollment and completion of courses.


Release time privileges may be revoked if the time away from work negatively affects operations in the unit or the employee’s performance of their regular duties and responsibilities.


Form:  Request for Release Time to Attend an Academic Course (PDF)

Policy AC18 - was HR18 – Graduate Study Leave of Absence

Policy HR36 – Educational Privileges for Faculty, Staff, and Retirees

Guideline HRG02 – Alternate Work Arrangements

Effective Date: September 19, 2005
Date Approved: September 19, 2005 (Dean's Library Council)

Revision History (and effective dates):

  • May 2012 – Removed reference to HR65 Graduate Study Grant-in-Aid for Faculty and Exempt Staff  Who Are Permanently Away from University Park to Support Study at Other Institutions of Higher Learning, which has been deleted as of April 29, 2011.
  • December 2008 – Revised to include course eligibility requirements.
  • September 19, 2005 – New policy (Formal)
  • September 2002 – New policy (Interim)

Last Review Date:  May 2012