Students now have a new incentive to go to class — or do they?

Class120 is an app designed to record class attendance for college students. There are four versions: one for parents, one for coaches, one for college administration and one for the students themselves. The respective person can review any missed classes once the student has downloaded their schedule into the app.

“Studies show that of the 2 million students who enter college every year,” a CBS This Morning broadcast said, “45 percent will not graduate even in 6 years, largely because of low classroom attendance,” citing a 2013 study by the U.S. Department of Education Statistics.

According to a New York Times article, “At most public universities, only 19 percent of full-time students earn a bachelor’s degree in four years.” However, the Times does not list classroom attendance as a factor, instead saying students are taking fewer classes per semester.

The app may appeal to those who are concerned about student attendance, but some doubt its validity.

Rachael Jurek, a Plattsburgh State associate professor of journalism and public relations, has a son. By the time he attends college, she hopes he chooses to go to classes, and that she “almost never missed class” when she was in college.

“It (the website), quite frankly, made me laugh,” Jurek said. “I couldn’t believe this is real.”

Jurek points out the fact that the website itself does not cite its sources when the company makes their claims, such as, “44 percent of college students don’t graduate within six years.”

“Where was the research that they had?” Jurek said. “I don’t think that almost half of college students who start don’t finish. I see most of the students in my 311 class. I see them throughout graduation.”

The basic version of the app costs $199.99 a year, or $17.99 a month. The “plus” version costs $214.99 a year, or $19.99 a month.

The site also advertises the “best value,” where if two years’ service are purchased, the user will save 25 percent on their payment.

“College is not right for everyone,” Jurek said. “If somebody had to explain to you that going to class is important, and that there’s a correlation between attending class and finishing school, I really don’t think a four-year university is maybe the best choice for you.”

“This, to me, is a ploy for a company to charge people,” Jurek continued, when there may be better options for certain students, such as trade schools or apprenticeships.

However, Jurek sees benefits in the app, particularly for guidance counselors, academic advisors and athletic coaches.

“We need to be on top of the grades, and monitoring the path of the students,” she said. “I think that something like this would make things like taking attendance easier.”

PSUC Anthropology Professor Amy Mountcastle said she believes this app certainly has the potential for violating a student’s privacy, but that potential can be controlled because of its different versions.

However, Mountcastle doesn’t think students need to use it.

“I’d rather see them spend the 200 bucks on books,” Mountcastle said. “I think students are smart enough to know when they need to go to class.”

Mountcastle mentioned the app in one of her classes, and she said a large number of students were concerned with the issue of privacy.

“Do we want to live in a surveillance society?” Mountcastle said. “It seems to be going in that direction.”

“I think it assumes they don’t have an intelligent audience,” Mountcastle said when referring to Class120’s use of statistics to convey information.

In class, Mountcastle said, her students asked, “Why do you need an app to tell you to go to class?”

PSUC senior Public Relations major Mike Mitchell said he doesn’t have any concerns with privacy when it comes to class attendance, and he would feel comfortable with his parents checking that because he is rarely absent.

Mitchell also said that, as a member of the basketball team, this would be useful for coaches.

“During my collegiate career, my coaches (came) to my class to see if I was there,” Mitchell said. He said this would likely lessen the burden for coaches to ensure that student athletes are attending classes. “That’s definitely something to worry about I don’t mind, but I’m sure other student athletes might.”

Mitchell also said that happened once or twice during his entire academic career.

“We do have a set amount of absences for the semester or for the year,” Mitchell said. Sometimes, he said, the basketball team travels to away games on Thursday, so they have to get their work done early. Their coach, Tom Curle, will encourage them to attend class by mentioning it at practice.

“I would definitely recommend it to some people who aren’t going to class as much as they should,” Mitchell said.

Jeff Whorley, CEO of Core Principle, the company who owns the Class120 app, said they base their findings largely on a National Student Clearinghouse Report, and they are very pleased with the national attention they are receiving.

Whorley said if one is going to take a serious look at why Class120 exists and question whether it is a worthwhile venture, then it is important to step all the way back and take an honest look at what is happening with students in terms of graduation rate.

“Half of today’s freshmen are likely to have a degree within four years,” he said.

Whorley said the company aims to improve graduation rates to an estimated 80 percent.

He also addressed the matter of the app’s cost. Whorley said, in comparison to PSUC’s annual costs, “we think spending $200 a year for $17.99 a month should dramatically improve that student’s chances of graduating on time. It’s an absolute bargain.”

“If we know class attendance correlates to success in college, I think we don’t have to say a product like Class120 is good for every class, or every school, or every student,” Whorley said, but he said there are students for whom it can make a difference.

Email Timothy Lyman at timothy.lyman@cardinalpointsonline.com

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