Attendance Definition

The U.S. Department of Education requires that schools are able to document that students are actually in attendance to finalize their Federal Student Aid eligibility. For example, if a student doesn’t begin attendance in all of his or her classes, the school must recalculate the student’s award based on the lower enrollment status. A student is considered to have begun attendance in all of his or her classes if the student attends at least one day of class for each course in which that student’s enrollment status was determined for Federal Student Aid eligibility. In a distance education context, documenting that a student has logged into an online class is not sufficient, by itself, to demonstrate academic attendance by the student. A school must demonstrate that a student participated in class or was otherwise engaged in an academically related activity, such as by contributing to an online discussion or initiating contact with a faculty member to ask a course-related question.

South Texas College documents attendance for Federal Student Aid purposes by collecting on-line rosters from all instructors before census day. The instructors use the rosters to indicate whether a student has attended or not. Students must attend each class that they are enrolled in, at least once between the first day of school and the census day of each term to be counted as being in attendance in that class for Federal Student Aid eligibility purposes.

In cases where students do not attend class at least once, Federal Student Aid eligibility will be adjusted based on the enrollment status for the number of credits that they are actually attending. If this adjustment results in a student not having sufficient grant funds to pay for any charges or advances that they have incurred or received, that student will be responsible to pay South Texas College for the difference between their adjusted eligibility and the original amount of the cost of their tuition and fees as well as any advances that the student received.

The U.S. Department of Education provides the following definition of attendance for financial aid purposes:

Attendance must be academic attendance or attendance at an academically-related activity.

Moreover, the school (not the student) must document:

  • That the activity is academic or academically related, and
  • The student’s attendance at the activity

Department of Education has modified and expanded the definition “academic attendance’’ and ‘‘attendance at an academically related activity’’ to include the criteria outlined in a new definition of academic engagement as provided under 34 CFR 600.2. Academic engagement is the active participation by a student in an instructional activity related to the student's course of study that is defined by the institution in accordance with any applicable requirements of its State or accrediting agency, and includes, but is not limited to the following academically-related activities:

  • Attending a synchronous class, lecture, recitation, or field or laboratory activity, physically or online, where there is an opportunity for interaction between the instructor and students;
  • Submitting an academic assignment;
  • Taking an assessment or an exam;
  • Participating in an interactive tutorial, webinar, or other interactive computer-assisted instruction;
  • Participating in a study group, group project, or an online discussion that is assigned by the institution; or
  • Interacting with an instructor about academic matters.

Examples of acceptable evidence of academic attendance and attendance at an academically-related activity in distance education courses/program include, but are not limited to:

  • student submission of an academic assignment,
  • student submission of an exam,
  • documented student participation in an interactive tutorial, webinar or other interactive computer-assisted instruction,
  • a posting by the student showing the student’s participation in an online study group that is assigned by the institution,
  • a posting by the student in a discussion forum showing the student’s participation in an online discussion about academic matters, and
  • an e-mail from the student or other documentation showing that the student initiated contact with a faculty member to ask a question about the academic subject studied in the course.

Please note that only active participation by a student in an instructional activity related to the student's course of study that meets the definition of “academic engagement” in 34 CFR 600.2 and takes place during a payment period or period of enrollment qualifies as attendance in an academically related activity. If a period of orientation takes place prior to the start of a course, it would not qualify as attendance in an academically related activity.

Excused Absences: A school may only count as days in attendance, excused absences that are followed by some class attendance. That is, a school may not include as days attended any excused absences that occur after a student’s last day of actual attendance.

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