Should attendance be mandatory in college?

Should attendance be mandatory in college?

I remember when I was in school, and attending class was mandatory all the time. I had to wake up early, have breakfast, and get ready for school every morning like clockwork. Some mornings, I was quite motivated and excited about going to school, mostly to see my friends. However, most mornings, my parents woke me up early, and all I wanted was to skip class and sleep more. When I went to college, I was excited as I thought class attendance was not mandatory, so I could skip if I felt like it. Well, I was wrong because my university, like several others, had a mandatory attendance policy. Why does a college feel the need to force full-grown adults to attend classes so they can pass their courses? In this blog post, we will explore that question and answer whether attendance should be mandatory in college.


Key takeaways

  • Mandatory attendance policies have certain academic and non-academic benefits.
  • Yet, they also have certain drawbacks that need to be considered when implementing them
  • To implement successfully several points need to be considered and a reliable way of tracking attendance must be used.
  • Attendance Radar provides you with the best, fastest and most reliable way to track attendance.


Types of mandatory attendance policies

To understand if mandatory attendance policies are good or bad, we need to know the different types of policies. Some policies are more extreme than others. For example, in my university, in the first year, we had to attend at least 70% of classes for each course. Failing to meet this requirement invalidated the final exam grade, resulting in a failed course. Although this is an extreme policy, it effectively limits absenteeism.

Other policies are less extreme. For instance, some policies introduce participation grade components. This means that part of a student’s grade for a particular course is determined by their attendance and participation. The extent to which this grade component affects attendance varies, but it usually does not make attendance mandatory unless it accounts for more than half of the grade. Therefore, in this blog post, we will mainly focus on the type of attendance policy mentioned in the last paragraph, which is a truly mandatory attendance policy.

First, let’s examine whether this type of policy actually improves student performance.


Do mandatory attendance policies in college improve student performance?

Student attendance is highly important for a variety of different reasons. One of these is that higher attendance to class has repeatedly been shown to be related to better academic performance.

Marburger (2006) found a significant positive relationship between class attendance and students’ ability to answer multiple-choice questions correctly. However, similar to other studies like Credé et al. (2010), Marburger’s research suggests that the positive effect of a mandatory attendance policy on student grades is relatively small. Why is this the case? One reason is that the impact of such a policy on performance is not determined by its effect on students who would always attend class, but rather by its effect on those who would not attend without the policy.

student getting good grades

Good-performing student

Students who would not attend without the policy can be divided into two groups. First, there are students who perform well in courses regardless of their attendance. These students may not feel the need or desire to attend class if an attendance policy is not in place. For them, a mandatory attendance policy would likely have a very small positive or even negative effect on their performance. These students might benefit from alternative ways of learning the course content that a mandatory attendance policy would hinder.

On the other hand, there are students who perform worse if they do not attend class but tend to be absent without a policy. These students are likely to lack motivation and may not prioritize their academic performance. For them, a mandatory attendance policy would probably have a stronger positive effect on their performance.

Therefore, these two conflicting effects counterbalance each other, resulting in a relatively small, albeit positive, overall effect of a mandatory attendance policy on performance. This raises the question of whether such a policy is truly necessary. However, there are other potential benefits of a mandatory attendance policy that are unrelated to student performance.


Other benefits of a mandatory attendance policy in college

Introducing a mandatory attendance policy that encourages students to attend class can have additional benefits beyond performance improvement. Firstly, it promotes discipline and instills a sense of structure and routine in students’ academic lives. Regular class attendance helps students develop valuable skills in time management, prioritization, and maintaining a consistent study schedule.

Furthermore, regular attendance provides students with invaluable opportunities for engagement and active participation in the learning process. Being present in the classroom enables students to actively contribute to discussions, ask questions, and seek clarification directly from professors. This immediate interaction fosters a dynamic and collaborative learning environment, enhancing the depth of understanding and knowledge retention.

Another benefit of mandatory attendance policies is their role in cultivating a strong sense of responsibility and accountability among students. By consistently attending classes, students learn to honor commitments and fulfill obligations, traits highly valued in professional settings. They develop a work ethic grounded in punctuality and commitment, which can positively influence their future careers.


Drawbacks of a mandatory attendance policy in college

To decide if college attendance should be mandatory, we need to look at the possible problems with such policies. Firstly, as mentioned earlier, the positive impact of a policy like this on student performance is relatively small. Moreover, research findings on this topic are often based on small samples, focused on specific courses, raising concerns about the generalizability of these findings. While a mandatory attendance policy may improve student performance in some courses at certain universities, it may not hold true universally. Evaluating this issue requires considering other factors such as student motivation, instructional methods, course design, and the subjectivity of grading.

In addition, critics argue that mandatory attendance policies in college undermine student autonomy, neglect individual learning preferences, and fail to consider external commitments and responsibilities. Students may have different learning styles and find that attending all classes does not align with their preferred methods of acquiring knowledge. Furthermore, certain students face personal challenges such as health issues, work obligations, or caregiving responsibilities that make consistent attendance difficult. Mandating attendance without considering these circumstances can create barriers to education and exacerbate inequalities.

After examining the pros and cons of mandatory attendance policies, let’s discuss the factors to consider when implementing them.

sad student - mandatory attendance

How to implement a mandatory attendance policy in college

Below, I have provided nine considerations for implementing a mandatory attendance in college. Remember to adapt these pointers to your institution’s specific policies and guidelines:

  1. Define clear requirements: Clearly outline the minimum attendance percentage or number of classes required for each course.
  2. Communicate the policy: Clearly communicate the attendance policy to students through syllabi, official documents, and announcements, emphasizing its importance for academic success.
  3. Establish accountability measures: Implement a reliable system to track and record attendance, such as technology-based solutions or digital sign-in methods.
  4. Enforce consequences: Define the repercussions for non-compliance, such as grade deductions or course failure, to reinforce the importance of attendance.
  5. Provide exceptional circumstances policy: Develop a process for students to communicate and request excused absences due to illness or emergencies.
  6. Foster an engaging environment: Create a positive classroom atmosphere that encourages attendance through active learning and meaningful interactions.
  7. Faculty training and consistency: Provide training and guidelines for instructors to ensure consistent implementation of the attendance policy.
  8. Regular evaluation and feedback: Continuously evaluate the policy’s effectiveness, gather feedback from students and faculty, and make necessary adjustments.

The third point is particularly important. Introducing a mandatory attendance policy is futile if the method used to track attendance is unreliable. It is also unfair to students if their attendance is not properly recorded, leading to undeserved consequences. Therefore, having a fast and reliable way to track attendance is crucial. This is where Attendance Radar comes in.


What is Attendance Radar?

Attendance Radar is a cutting-edge mobile app developed by our team at Codific. It offers a seamless and efficient solution for tracking student attendance. The app utilizes a secure Bluetooth signal to register attendance. Teachers can create a course within the app, and students can join the course by selecting the appropriate signal emitted by the teacher’s app.

During each class session, the teacher activates a signal that prompts students to mark themselves as present on their app. The app then compiles an attendance list, which teachers can conveniently use to log attendance into their system. In case students do not possess a phone or forget to bring theirs, they have the option to request the teacher to manually register their attendance.

Attendance Radar

Furthermore, we are currently developing a fully integrated version of the app that will seamlessly sync with the university’s or school’s attendance system. This integration will provide universities and schools with a rapid and reliable method of tracking attendance.

Our mobile app not only simplifies the attendance tracking process but also ensures accuracy and efficiency. By leveraging secure Bluetooth technology, we aim to enhance the overall attendance management experience for educational institutions.

You can find all the information about the app here.


In conclusion, whether college attendance should be mandatory is a complex issue. Going to class has benefits like discipline and active learning, but it may not significantly improve overall performance. We must consider individual situations and avoid creating inequalities. If a mandatory policy is implemented, clear rules, good communication, reliable tracking methods, and regular evaluations are important. Attendance Radar, a mobile app by Codific, can help track attendance accurately and easily. Check out Attendance Radar to make attendance management simpler in schools and colleges.


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