Why Does Attendance Matter In Proprietary Schools?

Why does attendance in college matter? If you ask some traditional four year college professors, they might say that it doesn’t (and shouldn’t). Students are adults, they claim, and because they’re paying for the service regardless, it should be up to them whether or not they want to attend class. For four year universities, this logic makes sense, which is why their professors’ attendance policies vary based on personal belief. But for proprietary schools, the four year college mentality about attendance doesn’t cut it. In proprietary schools, where students earn career specific credentials instead of general degrees, attendance is mandatory — and extremely important to the schools’ operations.

Because proprietary schools are under tighter federal regulations in comparison to non-profit colleges, they need a way to prove that students are receiving the education they’re paying for and that the college is providing the education they’ve promised. Historically, attendance has been used as the litmus test to validate whether or not a school is delivering what it has promised. If instructors are frequently canceling classes or if students are skipping class, then the students are missing the material they’ve paid the institution to teach them.

Return To Title IV

Proprietary schools receive federal funding based on the number of students that are enrolled in a program at the beginning of a module. But in the case where a student drops out of the program, the government demands that the school returns a portion of that funding back to them. The portion of funding returned is representative of how long the student was in attendance before they dropped out and is called Return to Title IV. Calculating Return to Title IV requires knowing the last day a student was in attendance (known as LDA) before they officially dropped out or stopped coming to class. Attendance records are how a school tracks LDA for every student, which the school needs to accurately calculate how much of the financial aid needs to be reimbursed. Once a student passes the 60% mark in a module or semester, however, no repayment for the enrollment term is necessary if the student drops. The significant tuition dollars in play here are a huge reason why proprietary schools are highly regulated and why tracking attendance is so important.

Make-Up Work

When a student does miss class, the school is responsible to offer the student make-up opportunities so that they can still gain access to the content and instructional hours. Schools need to understand which days a student has missed in order to know what make-up content and how many hours a student needs. It’s their responsibility to make sure that students who missed class are receiving the same amount of education as the students who haven’t missed classes. Tracking attendance is necessary to know which classes students have missed so that schools know how to handle the make-up work. 

Audit Time

During audits, one of the aspects of compliance that reviewers check is if the school is handling and storing attendance records according to policy. Because attendance is the proverbial measuring stick for different monetary processes, the schools are required to keep their students’ records for several years after they’ve graduated. 

For example, there have recently been “borrower’s defense” cases that grant students forgiveness of their federal student loans used for their program if they can prove that the school misled them or violated other related laws. Because cases like these rely heavily on if the student can prove they did not receive the education they were promised and that they paid for, attendance records are pointed to by students and schools alike to make their case. Incomplete or inaccurate attendance tracking poorly reflects what happened in class, which renders them unreliable in cases pertaining to “borrowers defense.” 

Many students who attend career schools take out loans to pay for their programs. Because it’s not 100% guaranteed that a student will get a job after graduation, it’s important to track and save attendance records to protect the school from lawsuits claiming the student was misled by the school. 

Student Progression

Attendance is also a big part of a student’s satisfactory academic progress, or SAP, which is a policy that helps ensure students are moving toward successfully completing the program of study for which they’re receiving aid. To be eligible to continue receiving aid, a student must earn a minimum number of credit/clock hours and maintain a minimum grade point average over a specified period of time (quarter, semester, program, etc.). Included in the SAP metrics is attendance, which could vary slightly depending on school policy, but the bottom line is that a student who isn’t regularly attending class isn’t maintaining satisfactory academic progress and will lose access to aid.

Skill Development & Career Readiness

In addition to being vital to school operations, tracking attendance is extremely important to monitoring a students’ skill development. Students who go to career colleges are preparing for careers in very demanding fields that are vital to upholding our society. In nursing schools, for example, students need to be in class so that they can learn, understand, and practice difficult skills required for a nursing career, like phlebotomy or checking blood pressure. These students are the nurses of tomorrow and if they aren’t in class to properly learn how to conduct a test or practice, then they are putting their patients and themselves at risk of being harmed. They’re learning skills that other people in society rely on in dire situations where speed and accuracy can be the difference between life and death. Preparing for those critical moments starts by learning the basics in class. 

Because of how critical missing even a few days of class are to skill development, many schools deem students who have a handful of absences unfit to be placed in a career. The students will have to redo the program and take measures to show up every day. The only way to earn the credentials that prove their well rounded education and readiness for career placement, students must maintain a high attendance record in all aspects of their programs, including places outside the classroom such as labs and externships.

Along with ensuring students are learning the skills necessary to succeed in their desired careers, mandatory attendance is an important part of teaching students to be punctual. They’ll have to be accountable for showing up to their job on time on a daily basis, and requiring attendance during school is an effective way to measure if a student can be responsible in that regard. Students who understand the importance of showing up on time form habits that will help them succeed in their careers after school.

Accuracy is Key

The bottom line is that attendance is incredibly important in proprietary schools for the purposes of handling tuition and financial aid as well as ensuring graduates are fit for the careers they’re entering. Schools across the country have started to upgrade their attendance tracking processes to ensure accurate attendance data in classrooms, externships, labs, and clinicals. The most accurate attendance method on the market today is location-based attendance  which uses mobile technology to track attendance. 

To learn how mobile attendance tracking can ensure your school is accurately recording attendance data, schedule a demo with a member of the CourseKey team below.

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