Class120 app tells parents when college students skip class

Want to know if your child is skipping class?... 03:33

The rising costs of a college education may leave parents and kids wondering if college is worth the money. One man is out to prove that they can get their money's worth thanks to a smartphone app, CBS News' Dean Reynolds reports.

If you're shelling out something north of $50,000 a year for college, it would be nice to know your 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.

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. That's $31 billion a year," Core Principle CEO Jeff Whorley said.

Whorley and his Indianapolis-based company thinks they have an answer. He calls it Class120, a smartphone app that alerts students and their parents, or a designated third party, when a class has been cut.

"We'll know based on a geo-location pinging system that we've developed to say whether that student and their smartphone is in class at the appointed time for the class," Whorley said.

He believes the app's time has come and has mapped out 2,000 campuses so far. The only caveat -- 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 that son or daughter, saying 'We're all for you having a great time. We just want to have one thing: You agree to go to class,'" Whorley said.

But he said the app won't tell parents where their child is when they're not in class.

"We don't tell them that they're sleeping in or that they're in another state or anything," Whorley said.

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

"If my parents don't trust me enough to go to class, then 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, their semester's blown up, and in many cases their whole college life is blown up." Whorley said.

Caleb Hiltunen, a sophomore at Columbia College in Chicago, was one of the students who tested out the smartphone app for the manufacturer.

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

And when students don't, they receive a notification.

"The message is 'We did not detect Caleb Hiltunen at art 101 on 1-27-15,'" he said.

He said the reminder makes him buckle down.

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

With so much money at stake now, flunking out can really cost you.