International students, in particular those from China, are more than five times as likely to cheat at U.S. colleges compared to domestic students, according to a new analysis by The Wall Street Journal.
WSJ reporters analyzed data from a dozen major U.S. universities, and found 5.1 cases of cheating for every 100 international students. That’s more than five times the cheating rate found for domestic students.
The cheating schemes ran the gamut of academic dishonesty. Some students collaborated to turn in the same set of (incorrect) answers, others had plants take exams for them, while one student took cash payments to complete papers.
In the past year, about 586,000 international students were studying at U.S. schools. China is by far the largest source of foreign students, without about 165,000 citizens studying in the U.S. this year, far ahead of Saudi Arabia and South Korea with about 50,000 apiece.
Both professors and students told the Journal that Chinese students seemed to pose the biggest risk when it comes to cheating.
“In China, it’s OK to cheat as long as you’re not caught,” an engineering student from Shanghai told the paper. The head of the Chinese student association at the Universtiy of California, San Diego agreed, saying that many Chinese students simply want to coast through college by cheating, if necessary.
“Cheating among Chinese students, especially those with poor language skills, is a huge problem,” added University of Arizona geography professor Beth Mitchneck. Arizona had a remarkably high cheating rate, with 11 incidents per 100 foreign students. Mitchneck placed partial blame on the school itself, which she accused of not adequately punishing dishonesty — not a single student was expelled for it in the 2014-15 school year — because it could imperil a lucrative revenue stream. International students almost always pay full freight on tuition, making them a helpful source of cash for schools that are dealing with stagnant or declining state funding. (RELATED: UC System Rejects In-State Students For More Outsiders, Foreigners)
“I can assure you that somewhere someone at the university is doing a calculus about how much tuition they would lose if they start coming down hard on students who cheat,” Mitchneck told the Journal.
Arizona’s Associate Dean of Students Chrissy Lieberman was more charitable, arguing that foreign students often don’t understand the idea of plagiarism as Americans do.
Widespread cheating originating from Asia is hardly a surprise. The SAT standardized test has been struggling for years to cope with massive cheating efforts on the Asian version of the test. Earlier this year, a major security breach forced the cancellation of the test at many Asian testing centers.
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