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Concern Over Cheating Goes Beyond Harvard

Last week an academic-integrity scandal rocked what many consider the nation's top college.

At Harvard nearly half of 250 undergraduates who took a final take-home exam in the spring are accused of inappropriately sharing answers. The schools' administrative board is investigating the allegations, which could result in discipline as harsh as students being kicked out of the college for a year.

The episode is being reported by some as the largest cheating scandal at any Ivy League school in recent history.

Shocking as it might be in scope, cheating is unfortunately fairly common on college campuses. A feature in USA Today highlights recent surveys where students are candid about their dishonest behavior.

Nearly two-thirds of students admitted to cheating during their four years in college, according to a survey of 14,000 students by a professor at the Rutgers University Business School. A smaller survey of 200 students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill revealed 80 percent had personally engaged in dishonest activities, such as copying someone else's paper or taking a cheat sheet into a test, while on campus.

These issues don't start in college. Cheating is on the rise in high schools in the past 50 years and it no longer carries the negative stigma it once did, according to the Center for Academic Integrity. Also, it's not just an issue among struggling students. Today high achieving, college bound students are also cheating. About 86 percent of high school students and 73 percent of teachers say that most students cheat at some point, the Center reports.

Last year, the ACT and SAT put in place tighter security measures after 20 students in New York got others to take the tests on their behalf.

Some try to explain these ethical lapses as the result of ramped up competition. Taking these kind of shortcuts in school can just lead to a lifetime of unethical behavior. The USA Today article notes that students who cheat in school are more likely to do so in the workplace and in their personal relationships.

Perhaps teachers, professors, counselors, and parents need to do a better job of teaching the importance of integrity and holding students accountable when they cheat. And students need to stand up to their peers when they witness wrongdoing. If students can learn the right path in high school, they will be better prepared for success in college.

Some might argue that having solid values is as critical to college readiness as good academic performance and high test scores. In the long run, those who honestly earned their grades and truly learned have the best chance of success.


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