Should there be attendance policies in college classes?

Should there be attendance policies in college classes?

Danielle Zukowski

In high school, many teachers have tardy policies. If you’re late too many times, you receive a detention. What about college? Does attendance merit penalty?

Many of the teachers at Grand Valley seem to have attendance policies – especially 8 a.m. classes where students are more likely to skip. Typically, from what I have seen, teachers allow two or three absences before penalty. Some want a written explanation for every absence. Some meticulously keep track of attendance. Others, usually lectures, just allow students to come and go because there are so many of them.

So how do they get students to attend class? What threat? What motivator? Grades. Sometimes it’s a few points off an assignment or test. Or attendance is a separate grade out of 100 points and each absence is taken from the number.

It can be more extreme. I’ve heard some teachers that take 10 percent off the final grade with each absence. That makes a huge difference. It can be especially influential if you don’t understand the material, or already aren’t doing well in the class.

So why would someone create these policies in college? Clearly they want people to attend so they aren’t just lecturing to a few students. They want to maintain a level of respect and integrity in the classroom by encouraging student participation. They’re trying to teach you, and how can they teach if you’re not there? They want to do what they’re getting paid to do. Most teachers also want you to be successful in their class. They’re trying to get students to care about their education.

Attendance can definitely affect how well a student learns the material. If you’re not showing up to class, you could easily miss assignments. None of my teachers post homework on Blackboard this semester.

Then you also have to learn things by yourself. Sometimes students can still succeed even if they’re skipping. They find someone to tell them the homework assignment. A friend picks up the paper. They read the PowerPoint, the textbook or maybe even go to office hours. Some students just naturally take to the subject. They can learn fast and don’t need extra help or reinforcement of the material like others may.

Students have different learning capabilities. If they are able to maintain a passing grade while completing all assignments, attendance should not be a factor in their grade.

The most common argument I’ve heard against attendance policy in college is tuition. Students are paying to be here. It should be their decision what they are getting out of the college experience. If they want to waste money by skipping, that is up to them. They are potentially risking their grade, but it is of their own choice.

If students are being forced to attend classes they don’t want to go to, it is just a distraction to other students. Phones will be in front of their face the entire period. They probably won’t be completing assignments. It’s more likely that they’ll be late. They won’t contribute positively to the environment. Let their decision just affect them instead of just depreciating education for everyone else.