OPINION: Should colleges enforce attendance policies?


Photo by Dom Fou on Unsplash

Students in a class at Aalto University in Espoo, Finland.

Emma Sheeran, Opinion Editor

Strict attendance policies are a reality for college students nationwide. These policies threaten academic consequences if students miss a certain number of classes. While the policies are well-intentioned, they do much more harm than good.

At many universities, once a student receives three or more absences, they suffer the consequence of a dropped letter grade. Furthermore, once a student receives a certain number of absences, they automatically fail the course.

These attendance policies are enforced in an attempt to limit the amount of class absences. However, the consequences of these policies simply degrade the trust between the student body and faculty. In fact, these rules make students more inclined to skip classes than if there were no policy in place.

The dramatic and academically damaging consequences of attendance policies are unfair and leave students with a strained school, life and work balance. Stress and anxiety are inevitable as a result of these policies.

Studies show that the leading cause of student absence is poor mental health. In fact, 75% of college students reported suffering mental health problems. Rather than subjecting students to strict policies, universities should shift their focus on providing mental health resources for the student body.

Universities can start by promoting mental health by bringing awareness to the problem. They can advertise the mental health facilities and resources on and off campus for students to utilize. Bettering the student body’s mental health will in turn lead to better attendance.

Attendance is a necessary part of learning. Students need to interact in the classroom in order to best absorb the material being taught. With that being said, attendance policies are not an effective way to manage student attendance.

Universities are filled with students from all walks of life from traditional, nontraditional and veteran students. All these students of have lives and commitments outside of their education. These make take the form of a job, family, or other responsibility.

Oftentimes, students are fully committed to earning their degree but have another responsibility that results in them missing a few classes here and there. These dedicated students shouldn’t be punished for their imperfect attendance record. They may achieve high scores and succeed in the course because they study independently, yet still receive a deducted grade due to an unfair attendance policy.

After all, college students are legal adults capable of managing their own time and making decisions. Although some within this demographic may lack maturity, they are still self-directing.

Universities need to eliminate traditional attendance policies and adopt a philosophy of positive encouragement. Encouraging students by positive means would result in much higher attendance and ultimately lead to a happier student body.