Parents, do you ever wonder if your college student is skipping class? Now you can find out — for a mere $200 a year.

An Indianapolis company has launched a tracking service that will alert you if your son or daughter doesn’t show up for class.

The service, called Class120, uses a smartphone app to check if students are where they’re supposed to be, when they’re supposed to be. So if, say, they decide to ditch Chemistry 101 to play Frisbee, mom and dad will get a text or e-mail almost immediately.

Jeff Whorley insists it’s not as ominous as it sounds.

“It’s not ‘1984,’ ” said Whorley, founder and CEO of Core Principle, which created the service. “We’re not going to say they were at a bar all night or home in bed … We’re just going to say they weren’t in class.”

To some, this may sound like the ultimate in helicopter parenting.

But Whorley argues that skipping class is often the first sign of trouble for struggling students. Unless someone steps in to help, he says, many of those students end up dropping out.

“What we discovered when we interviewed literally hundreds of dropouts,” he said, is that “they get to some sort of tipping point where they get off track.” And nobody noticed “until it was too late.”

The other “uncomfortable fact,” he notes, is that families spend billions of dollars on tuition for missed classes. So it’s perfectly reasonable, he said, to want some proof that they’re getting their money’s worth.

For this to work, the students must be willing participants, providing their class schedules in advance. The company spent two years mapping 2,000 campuses — including eight in Minnesota — to be able to match the student’s “geolocation” to the proper classroom.

Won’t savvy students figure out a way to fool the system? Whorley thinks not.

“The one thing you could do is give someone else your phone,” he said. But these are college students, after all. “Their phone is the one thing that they want with them all the time.”

 

maura.lerner@startribune.com