FaceOff: Mandatory attendance ensures structured curriculum for all students


Kenny Phipps/Hilltop Views

Attendance policies lead students to excel in their classes. Being present in class leads to higher grades according to The Journal of Economic Education.

The greatest single aspect of college life is probably the freedom we all enjoy. As university students, we decide when to take classes, on which days and which professors we prefer. Students are able to control basically every part of their college experience.

As a consequence, it makes sense that we get annoyed when certain aspects of that control are taken away. Attendance policies are a case in point: if we are paying for our classes, shouldn’t we be able to choose when to show up?

While mandatory attendance policies can be annoying intrusions into the freedom of university life, they are ultimately valuable mechanisms that ensure our academic success.

My political statistics professor Dr. Brian Smith, used to explain to us that even though he didn’t take attendance every day, the students who showed up were the ones that did well. Showing up to class and paying attention is the single most effective way to ensure that you will be caught up on assignments, prepared for exams and generally learning the material you are paying so much money to be taught.

In my own personal experience, classes that I showed up to regularly have always been the ones whose material I retain the best. Without that looming possibility of getting a bad final grade for not regularly attending class (which is, by far, the worst possible reason to do poorly in a class), I have often found the temptation to skip pretty compelling.

However, when attendance is mandatory, I find it much easier to force myself out of bed or back to campus.

Outside of my own personal experience, research into the subject supports these claims. In a study conducted by Dr. Jonathan Golding of his own psychology classes over a period of several years, he found that introducing attendance policies greatly increased the number of students who attended his classes. Additionally, students who showed up more often did better on exams than those who did not.

One particularly strong argument against mandatory attendance policies is that life is difficult for students, and unexpected events can crop up that preclude a student’s ability to make it to class. This is true; a car accident or the death of a loved one are by nature impossible to predict, and could make it difficult for students to consistently attend class.

This argument makes more sense at a larger university. However, here at St. Edward’s, those problems are easily overcome by simply talking to your professors and letting them know what’s going on in your life. Mandatory attendance is designed specifically to get students to class so they can succeed and are necessarily strict in their execution. Still, I have yet to meet a single professor who would not be empathetic and compassionate if something dire really did come between a student and their attendance.

Simply put, attendance policies are beneficial to students in several ways. Relinquishing a little freedom in exchange for better grades and (most importantly) a deeper understanding of a course’s material is a small price to pay, especially when the price of classes themselves remain so high.