Student Life

Jaipuriar: Skipping class should be up to students, not attendance policies or financial pressures

Students didn’t choose the delinquent life — the delinquent life chose them.

We’ve all had those days when we have to skip class because we just didn’t feel well, or worse, the ominous “stomach flu” conveniently striking after a night at Chuck’s. But students often forget that skipping class can be a waste of money.

A recent study by USA TODAY College found that each missed class costs about $104 at a private university. And when the average college student skips 240 classes by the time they graduate, according to the study, that can add up to roughly $24,960 over the course of four years at a private school like Syracuse University.

So while it’s tempting to miss those 8 a.m. classes and large lectures that don’t take attendance, there is a heavy financial consequence of this seemingly harmless behavior. But, at the same time, it shouldn’t be forgotten that students are also paying for the freedom to choose how to spend our time in an academic setting and not have our lives micromanaged, as if we are in K-12.

The beauty of the college experience is being in control of your own path, and students should be able to use personal discretion to determine how time is best spent. For some, a missed class means catching up on sleep after a long night of studying. For others, it’s time to take a break and binge watch Netflix.

“You’re grown ups, you’re adults, it’s your responsibility — it’s your money and we’re here for you, take it or leave it,” said Larry Lewandowski, the interim chair of the psychology department in SU’s College of Arts and Sciences. “I think a lot of faculty feel like they (shouldn’t have to implement mandatory attendance policies) — that’s high school. And that you’re here to learn because you want to learn, not because we’re forcing you to learn.”

Skipping class is not necessarily a sign of laziness or apathy: It is a perfectly valid decision when done for the right reasons. This isn’t a PSA to skip class, but life happens. Sometimes, it can feel tedious to attend a redundant 80-minute lecture for material that’s easily accessible in a textbook, especially when students may have a more important task at hand.

So even though you’re technically wasting money by missing class, having the flexibility and the freedom to prioritize your tasks is an equally — if not more — valuable skill for college students. Besides, perfect attendance doesn’t guarantee the perfect education, and the classroom shouldn’t be the sole focus of a student’s life. Striving to make use of every dollar spent on class is unrealistic. It’s like the campus meal plans: How many students can honestly say they’ve used every meal swipe available to them?

But students should use this privilege wisely. Higher education is so expensive that it is frivolous to throw money out the window, especially when you’re paying a significant amount to be here. Evaluating the monetary value of each missed class or credit hour reminds us of the value of our education that should not be taken for granted.

And going to class does help you succeed. As shown in a 2010 study by the State University of New York at Albany, class attendance is a better predictor of grades than SAT scores, studying skills and the amount of time spent studying. Knowing this, some professors implement sporadic attendance checks or award participation points to encourage students to come to class.

Besides the actual grade, being present is also important for intellectual stimulation, said Lewandowski.

“There’s a lot of times when (students think), ‘Yes, I am bored, this information is not that interesting to me,’” Lewandowski said. “But there are going to be times when something hits you, something moves you, something jogs an idea in you — that if you weren’t there, (that) wouldn’t happen.”

While some techniques to monitor student attendance are effective, some go too far – apps like Class120 help institutions, athletics departments and parents alike monitor student attendance by sending a text or email notification to a designated person when a student isn’t in class. Besides being slightly sketchy, this concept is inappropriate for young adults, considering it coddles college students and assumes we need external incentives to go to class.

Paying thousands of dollars a year is enough proof that a student wants to be at school. Especially at institutions of higher caliber, it should be accepted that students are intrinsically motivated to succeed. Mandatory attendance undermines student independence, especially when time management to assess individual needs is one of the most essential skills that can learn in college.

Students shouldn’t feel guilty for skipping the occasional class for reasons other than illness or a family emergency. A day off didn’t kill Ferris Bueller, so you should be fine too.

Rashika Jaipuriar is a freshman broadcast and digital journalism major. Her column appears weekly. She can be reached at rjaipuri@syr.edu and followed on Twitter @rashikajpr.

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