The costs of missing class

David Fox | Business Contributor 

How long would it take a student working on campus with an average wage of $10 per hour to make enough money to pay for a three-hour lecture that meets once a week?

You might be surprised to find out that the answer is a whopping 28 hours. Missing a class could cost you as much as $282.

Annual tuition at the University of San Diego is $42,330 for full time students not receiving scholarship. By breaking this number down into semester and course equivalences, students are paying $4,230 per three-credit course.  Courses meet either 15, 30, or 45 times per semester depending on the amount of weekly meetings.  Each class session has the tuition equivalence of $94 for a course that meets three times a week, $141 for a class that meets twice a week, and $282 for a class that meets once a week.

A college education is one of the most valuable and rewarding investments in a person’s life. Many students are unaware of the numerous costs that are associated with university life, including attending class. If students were to see the numbers and tangible costs behind each class, maybe some of us would rethink sleeping though our next 8 a.m.

USD prides itself on its ability to foster a close community of students and faculty to enhance the learning process. With a 14.8 to 1 student-to-faculty ratio and an average class size of 22, accessibility to professors is often listed as a key ingredient to the success of the student.

The USD website offers pertinent information, which can be found on the USD undergraduate admissions page, regarding the student expenses and the instructional benefit of small class sizes.

Although 72 percent of undergraduate students at USD are receiving financial aid and 68 percent are receiving grants or scholarships, the magnitude of the dollar amount or information retained from attending each class is still startling. One cost that is not often substantial enough to reasonably excuse a student from class is the opportunity cost.

Mike Williams, a political science professor and director of the Changemaker Hub, shares his views on the importance of attending class.

“It’s hard to measure the actual dollar cost of what each class is worth other than if you divide by the tuition,” Williams said.

While the monetary value of tuition is considered a sunk cost, or a payment that has already been incurred, there are other costs associated with missing a class. The cost of shared information is the price of the discussions and collective interactions that take place during a class period. With many classes at USD being interactive or discussion-based, this shared information is invaluable to students.

In an age of instant information accessible through the Internet, professors’ notes can often be found online after the lecture. The ability to access this information has given students another excuse to miss class. However, many professors have organized slides as the platform of their lecture. Through class dialogue, the direction of the discussion is interpreted on a more intimate level. When students are left to translate professors’ notes on their own, the information may be misunderstood or remain unclear. The information and time relinquished from absence is irreplaceable in a student’s college education.

Williams also explained the relationship he has noticed between attending class and academic performance.

“In terms of student learning, my experience has been that there is definitely a correlation between students who miss class and the grade they earn in the class,” Williams said. “I think why this happens is most faculty come into a class with their lecture notes or PowerPoint information… but as they start the discussion, lectures start to take on a life of their own… and it is those rich discussions that makes USD a unique and special learning environment.”

Williams’ quote about USD students missing class directly relates to a line from the poet Minx Boren.

“Show up because you can because life has come knocking and you are there to answer now not when or then but in the immediate potency of the call,” stated Boren in a poem.

We all have an obligation to ourselves to answer the call and promote the advancement of our own lives by becoming more informed about the world around us by attending class.

Class is costly and we all can learn from the insight of Minx Boren and professors such as Williams who understand the long term benefits that are fostered by our short term decisions.