University pushes for better attendance with electronic scanners

“We are already paying thousands of dollars to go to school, and I do believe that we are all adults that can make our own decisions,” Brackett wrote. “Are we … children that need to be told what to do?”

NAU officials say the electronic attendance tracking will encourage better attendance for first- and second-year college students—a key component to academic success, according to research and surveys.

A 1990 study of 78 students three business classes at Broome Community College in Binghamton, N.Y., showed that students with “excellent” or “good” attendance—meaning they missed fewer than six classes during the semester—all received a final grade of A, B, or C. Of the 28 students with poor attendance records—defined as more than six absences—11 received final grades of D or F.

Mississippi State University released a survey in 2006 showing that students with consistently poor class attendance had a grade-point average one full point lower than peers who regularly attended class.

Officials at MSU’s Social Science Research Center deemed attendance the best predictor of freshmen’s academic success.

“The better students perform, especially in their early years, the more likely they are to move toward a bachelor’s degree,” said Bauer, the NAU spokesman. “The proximity card readers are a small part of that. If they encourage students to attend class more often, so much the better.”

The University of Kansas’s efforts to boost student retention include working with a data-mining company that can pinpoint at-risk students with consistently low grades and spotty attendance records.

“We’re not going to become Big Brother and look at every move by the undergraduates,” said Christopher Haufler, a Kansas professor who chaired the university’s student retention task force last year. “That, to me, is beyond where we ought to be. … But at the same time, we have a chance to monitor the progress of our students, and if a student hasn’t been going to class, then somebody should do something about it.”

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