Attending classes: Debating mandatory participation

Whether attendance should be mandatory in college classes is a divisive topic, even among students. Some students who have no issues making it to all their classes do not think it is fair that students who attend less do not receive any penalty in 300-level classes and above. 

As a senior about to graduate, I have taken my fair share of college classes. I have always done my best to attend, knowing that I am putting a lot of money into my education and that I am choosing to be here, but on occasion, it has been difficult to make it to class for various legitimate reasons. Many students would attend regularly, but they might have a job, they may have a disability or illness that makes consistent attendance difficult, they may have family that needs to be tended to or they may even live off-campus and struggle to park or have time to get to class that day.

College students are young adults, and yes, we will be entering the career world soon, but I am not talking about the students who are lazy and skip class so they can do something fun or sleep. It would be unfair to punish the adults who are doing their best to attend as much as possible and get an education by making attendance mandatory and making it more difficult for those students to succeed in school. They would have to choose between work and school, family and school or health and school, and neither choice would be without consequence.

Permitted absences should simply be stricter. Students should be required to email their professors with a valid reason to be excused, and the number of allowed excused absences should be raised. There should also be more freedom in how students can show up to class. If someone cannot come in person but would be able to attend online, would it not be better to give them access to the education they are paying for rather than to decide they cannot learn that class period at all?

Of course, attending in person is ideal, and it should always be the first option, but there might be times it is not an option for some students. The students who are simply lazy and do not show up by choice will face consequences when their peers who chose to attend class are succeeding rather than failing. However, the students who genuinely do not always have a choice in attendance should not be punished for their peers’ lack of interest in showing up. 

An article by Attendance Radar suggests that there is not much success difference in classes with mandatory attendance versus classes that do not require attendance; the outcome depends on the individual student. Those who are too lazy to show up would probably not be motivated to show up to get a better grade anyway. Students who would show up but genuinely cannot are the ones who are punished with mandatory attendance.

College students are typically adults who pay for the opportunity to be in class and a higher education. As the Huntington News says, taking away points on top of losing the money spent on the class is an unnecessary punishment, and if they are willing to sacrifice the money, the students who actively choose to regularly skip probably won’t care about the points regardless. Why give a double punishment to the students who want to show up but cannot? Is it really a fair and right solution to the problem of attendance?    

Students who need to work to put themselves through school should not have to run out of funding because they cannot work as much as they need to in order to attend every single class. Students who suffer from a chronic illness or disability should not have to leave home on a bad day just to attend every class or else worry about their future being heavily impacted by it. Students who need to care for sick or elderly family members should not have to choose between family or class. 

Hybrid and work-from-home-jobs are becoming a new normal. Why should college be any different? The world is always changing; maybe the way we hold college classes should change too. Education should be accessible to everyone, no matter their situation. Having accommodations such as attendance not being required or classes being streamed can make education accessible to people who would not have the opportunity otherwise. 

Carter is an opinion writer for the Liberty Champion

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