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New smart phone app tracks skipped classes at college

Photo Source: CBS News Photo Source: CBS News
Class 120 sends an alert when it detects a student may not be in a scheduled class. (Photo Source: CBS News) Class 120 sends an alert when it detects a student may not be in a scheduled class. (Photo Source: CBS News)

INDIANAPOLIS (CBS News) -- For some parents who are shelling out more than $50,000 per year for college, it might be nice to know their children are at least showing up for class.

Or, if a student is benefiting from a state-sponsored scholarship, taxpayers may draw comfort knowing it's money well-spent.

One man is out to prove parents and kids can get their money's worth thanks to a new smart phone app he created.

Studies show that of the nearly 2 million students who enter college every year, close to 45 percent will not graduate, even in six years, largely because of low classroom attendance.

"We've even been able to identify how much in tuition costs are wasted on classes that are paid for but not attended," Jeff Whorley said. "That's 31 billion dollars a year."

Whorley, CEO of an Indianapolis-based company called Core Principle, thinks he has the answer. He calls it Class 120, an app for your smart phone that alerts students and their parents, or a designated third party, that class has been cut.

"We will know based on a geo-location pinging system that we have developed to say whether that student and their smart phone are in class at the appointed time for the class," Whorley said.

Whorley believes the app's time has come and has mapped out 2,000 campuses so far. One thing though: students have to upload class schedules on their phones or the app won't work.

"We think that's a reasonable conversation for a mom and dad to have with their son or daughter, saying we're all for you having a great time. We just want to have one thing, that you agree to go to class," Whorley said.

Whorley says the app won't tell parents where students are instead of class, only that they aren't attending a scheduled class.

On the Butler University campus, the notion of tracking students met some resistance.

"I feel like if my parents don't trust me enough to go to class they shouldn't be paying for my college education," sophomore Hayley Ross said.

And yet focus groups of failed students keep telling Whorley one thing about skipping class: no one noticed.

"And by the time someone did, the semester's blown up and in many cases their whole college life is blown up," he said.

"There are a lot of people that don't show up," sophomore Caleb Hiltunen said.

Hiltunen is a sophomore at Columbia College in Chicago who tested out the smart phone app for the manufacturer.

"The message is, 'We did not detect Caleb Hiltunen at art 101 on 1-27-15,'" he said, reading an alert sent by the app.

He says the reminder makes him buckle down.

"You feel better about yourself. You don't feel like a bum, you know, for laying around and doing nothing," Hiltunen said.

Over the past 30 years, the price tag for a degree went up by 225 percent at public universities and 146 percent at private institutions. And with so much more at stake now, flunking out can really cost you.

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