Johnson University debates becoming ‘Non-Attendance Tracking School’

In order to remain compliant with financial regulations, Johnson University faculty are considering a new approach to attendance policies: Becoming a “Non-Attendance Tracking School” as defined by the U.S. Department of Education.

This proposition came down through the Provost’s office and the Academic Council, which includes representatives from all areas of the university, such as financial aid,  academic support, the deans of the schools, and more.

The policy will be voted on in November by the full faculty on both Tennessee and Florida campuses. If approved, the change will go into effect this spring semester.

“When federal regulations change, we have to change our policy in response to that,” said Tommy Smith, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost.

Smith said becoming a Non-Attendance Taking School means the university cannot have a blanket policy requiring class attendance. However, individual school and professors may still require attendances part of their course requirements.

“We can’t as Johnson require attendance, but individual schools and professors can require attendance,” he said.

According to the proposal, professors must record attendance at the beginning of the course to determine that students have started a specific class. Professors will then take attendance again on a specific Add/Drop date, “to ensure they [students] have maintained their enrollment.” This process is known as enrollment verification.

“Each school will set a certain policy for all their courses and each professor will have that in their syllabus,” Smith said.

Individual schools, programs and professors all have the option to assess student participation in class through various ways such as tests, quizzes, class discussions, online discussions, direct interaction with the professor, Sakai participation, participation in study groups and/or submitted assignments.

Smith said, “[With the current system] we have to determine within 14 days when the student stopped going to class.”

However, the current six allotted absences for a traditional face-to-face class could span a time longer than 14 days, and is out of compliance with federal regulations. Johnson University would face fines if it continued with the same system for attendance.

Smith said the new system would  “put us in regulation and make it easier to report” as enrollment would only be submitted at the beginning of the class and at midterm.

Allowances will still be made for students who must miss classes for sports or choir.

If faculty approve the change, midterm reporting will be used for Johnson University’s federal reporting.

Students who have stopped attending class may be reported to the Vice Provost for Academic Services for retention purposes or, if necessary, to Financial Aid.

Students who no longer attend classes may be at risk of losing federal grants, and may even jeopardize federal loans.

With roughly 70 percent of Johnson students receiving financial aid, it is vital to be aware of this possible shift to becoming a Non-Attendance Tracking School.

If the policy is approved, students are responsible for reading the attendance guidelines outlined in the syllabus for each class they take.

“We’ve got two values: We want to meet all federal requirements [and] we want students to stay in school,” Smith said. “We still value attendance in class. It’s just a different way of approaching attendance.”

The bottom line? Just keep going to class.

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