Is the heightened attendance monitoring reasonable?

BY DI STAFF | AUGUST 28, 2012 6:30 AM

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The federal government provides financial aid to approximately half of all college students in the nation. So, of course, there is nothing wrong with making sure its money is being used correctly.
How does it do that? By making sure students are going to class.

The federal government offers an average of approximately $5,000 in Stafford loans to young people with 0 percent interest during school, an interest rate as low as 3.4 percent afterwards, and the knowledge that more than 8 percent of students will default on the loans.    

The federal government also provides funding in the forms of grants and scholarships — which will not be paid back and are involved in helping to finance nearly half of all undergraduates.

But it really can’t afford that.

The federal debt is now more than $15.9 trillion, so the government is finally trying to find ways to spend taxpayer money a little more wisely. In terms of student financial aid, a sound investment only applies to students who actually go to class.

This week, students at the University of Iowa all received an email encouraging them to attend at least one class period for each one of their classes in these first two weeks of school or risk losing financial aid.

Immediately, students may object that they do not want the government telling them what to do, because they are adults perfectly capable of deciding to attend class. While that may be the case, they are also adults who entered a contract, which stipulates that they must go to class in order to receive funding and therefore should act like adults and uphold their end of the bargain.

Giving money to people who will not use it properly or who may never pay it back is a very foolish thing to do with taxpayer money, as the federal government discovered in the housing crash that caused one of the largest recessions in our nation’s history.

The federal government has every right to monitor those who will receive its funding. Taxpayers should not pay for students to go to college if that student is not actually going to college.

Katie Kuntz


Students who receive federal aid are no different from students who receive no federal aid; the same rules should apply to both groups.

No, attendance should not be monitored for recipients of financial aid.

Current UI Student Financial Aid Office policy mandates that students receiving federal financial aid attend all of their registered classes at least once during the first 10 days of the semester and “continue to actively participate in classes throughout the semester.”

Federal law requires the university to investigate attendance habits of federal-aid recipients who don’t receive any passing grades in a given enrollment period. It also uses attendance to determine whether students will have to return any of their unused federal aid.

Currently, a student whose attendance can only be verified for the first 60 percent of an enrollment period could be required by law to refund 40 percent of her or his unused aid money.

An email sent to beneficiaries of federal financial aid by the Financial Aid Office last week warned that “approximately 40 students had to repay an average of $1,900 because the UI Office of Student Financial Aid could not confirm participation in classes throughout the semester.”

The monitoring of students’ class attendance is an imposition on individuals whose academic progress could be adequately measured without the need for classroom surveillance.

Forty-seven percent of undergraduate students nationwide have some kind of federal financial aid, according to a report by the National Center for Education Statistics. This massive group of students shouldn’t be scrutinized like high-school truants for the sake of weeding out a handful of freeloaders whose academic disinclinations can be discovered by far less-invasive means.

A reliance on academic standards such as grade-point averages, completion of required assignments or exams, and progress toward degrees would reveal potential abusers of the system without subjecting students who receive federal aid to stricter attendance rules than those that apply to other students.

Zach Tilly  

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