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Cheating Among College Students

Cheating Among College Students

15 February, 2016

Back in 1940, only 20 percent of college students admitted to cheating during their academic careers. Today, that number has increased to a range of 75%-98%.


Cheating usually begins in middle school. Nine out of ten middle schoolers confess to copying someone else’s homework; two-thirds say they have cheated on exams. Cheating most frequently happens in science and math classes. 75%-98% percent of college students surveyed each year admit to cheating at some time in their academic careers. The college students who are most likely to cheat are engineering and business majors (Source: NoCheating.org).

Cheating to Pass or  to Get Ahead?

The number of students admitting to this act has increased significantly over the last 60 years, and students aren’t just cheating to pass, they’re cheating to get ahead.

According to a survey by the Josephson Institute of Ethics of 12,000 high school students, 74% confessed to cheating on an exam at some point during the past year to get ahead (www.josephsoninstitute.org).

Michael Josephson, the president of the Josephson Institute of Ethics stated that students these days are more willing to cheat, and parents, teachers and other authoritative figures are having a difficult time reversing the trend.

These results paint a grim picture of today’s youth, and it makes many wonder whether the students who are willing to cheat are willing to do other unethical deeds to get ahead in life.

Cheating Isn’t Limited to Students

Of course, students aren’t the only ones who cheat nowadays. Teachers and administrators have also been caught altering grades and most recently, this is committed on standardized tests required by the No Child Left Behind Law.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, 123 public schools in California have been caught cheating on No Child tests in the last three years. Approximately two-thirds of the schools admitted to cheating when asked about their test results.

Is There Any Way to Stop this?

Campbell’s Law, created by social scientist Donald Campbell more than 30 years ago, states that measuring effectiveness with a single influential metric invites corruption. In other words, assessing a student’s performance based on a single standardized test score or one major project/exam per semester promotes unethical behavior.

Critics of the No Child Left Behind Law frequently use the argument that if classes were structured differently, maybe today’s students wouldn’t feel the necessity to cheat so frequently. This is usually applied to elementary school students but could actually be used in high school and college classes as well.

After all, many of the students who cheat say they feel their actions are justified because the system is structured unfairly or because so many other students are doing it as well. In fact, this act no longer carries the stigma it once did.

According to recent statistics from National Public Radio, two-thirds of parents think that to cheat is no big deal and say that ‘all students do it’. During an NPR panel discussion on the topic, one caller admitted to cheating – with multiple peers in cahoots – in high school honors classes to get in to the best colleges. The caller still upheld the moral fiber of those in the classes, saying that cheating was just something that had to be done to be able to enroll in quality universities.