The college student cheating epidemic

Monday night on the ABC show Nightline a segment aired called “The College Cheating Culture.  The segment said that 70% of the students admitting to cheating.  The segment focused on students hiring others to write papers for them.  As a CPA it pained me to hear that the “ghost writer” interviewed on Nightline had been hired to write a 175-page Accounting paper for $2,000.  The ghost writer admitted to making a good living, and that it is perfectly legal – he “pays taxes.”  He also said that the parents were right there with the students, sometimes even writing the checks for the papers themselves and following up with the writers if their kids didn’t get A grades.

Wow.  I’m almost speechless.  There are so many ethics issues here I don’t know where to start.  So let’s start with something basic.  Are these students acquiring the skills to fill open jobs? Do they have the skills to take over for the Baby Boomers who want to retire right now?  Do we even want to turn over the reins to them?  And what are those parents Thinking??

Being able to write a coherent, cohesive message is critial to business success.  At some point every one of us in business has to document in writing our thoughts about a particular situation happening at work.  Researching facts, analyzing data, forming opinions and presenting our case is part of our day-to-day work responsibility.  If students today are hiring others to do this for them, they are not learning how to do this.  How exactly will they be able to handle the boss’ request to email thoughts, solutions, or proposals?  Hire another ghost writer to do the work for them?

My bigger concern is that the parents should know better.  And they are Equally Responsible for this decline in ethical conduct.  Yes, I said Equally Responsible.  Parents are enabling their children to cheat – for what reason? What purpose does it serve?  How exactly does paying for the papers teach their children the skills they will need to survive?  Are we thinking that some distant day in the future we will no longer need to write or use critical thinking skills we’re supposed to be learning in the university?  I don’t know the answers to these questions.  I’m still getting over the shock of learning the parents are supporting this behavior.

Enough is enough.  When are we going to wake up and realize that we’re only hurting ourselves by cheating? What will it take – another scandal like the one at University of Central Florida?  Thank goodness for Professor Richard Quinn, who forced his students to come clean or face the consequences.  Part of the consequences included a requirement to take a 4-hour ethics class.  Maybe we should all take that class…
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