Tag Archives: cheating

How Chinese Students Are Changing Our Colleges

Nearly 600,000 foreign undergraduate students now study at US colleges and universities, some 165,000 of them from China, the total from China grew by nearly 30 percent in 2009/2010, with a percentage rise in double digits every year since, according to the Institute of International Education’s “Open Doors” report, funded by the U.S. Department of State

UC Berkeley’s 2015 international students’ GPA’s, and SAT and ACT test scores were competitive with those of California and out-of-state residents, according to a spokeswoman from the Student Affairs Communication office.  Average admission SAT scores were 2124 for California and international students, 2171 for out-of-state residents.

UC Berkeley’s 2015 international students’ GPA’s, and SAT and ACT test scores were competitive with those of California and out-of-state residents, according to a spokeswoman from the Student Affairs Communication office.  Average admission SAT scores were 2124 for California and international students, 2171 for out-of-state residents.

The Problem of Cheating

But colleagues of mine still teaching say that the quality of Chinese students is deteriorating. Schlafly reports that about 8,000 Chinese students were expelled last year for poor academic performance or for cheating.  An executive from the WholeRen company that caters to such students admits that the students used Jo be considered “top-notch”; but over the past five years they have gained a reputation as wealthy kids who cheat.

The Wall Street Journal recently acquired data on cheating from 14 public universities around the country and found that students from China were reported  to be cheating at five times the rate of American students. Faculty contacted by Journal reporters often singled out Chinese students. “Cheating among Chinese students, especially those with poor language skills, is a huge problem,” said Beth Mitchneck, a University of Arizona professor of geography and development.

Maseratis and Lamborghinis

The wealth of the Chinese who come to the United States to buy real estate and study (including high school students) has been widely reported.  An indication comes from sales data at luxury car dealers.  Chinese students’ car purchases accounted for 10 to 20 percent of a luxury car dealer’s entire sales near Michigan State in East Lansing, 8 percent of luxury car sales near the University of Oregon at Eugene, and 5 percent near the University of Iowa in Iowa City.  The 12,000 Chinese students (out of 44,000 total foreign students) attending the dozens of colleges in the Boston area are often seen driving Maseratis, Lamborghinis, and Range Rovers, according to Schlafly’s report.

Boston University, where international students make up 24 percent of the student body, has a “strong” and longer than usual history of welcoming international students, says Anne Corriveau, Senior Associate Director of the Office of International Admissions

At public colleges, administrators see a financial benefit from the higher out-of-state tuition rates that international students pay. While UC Berkeley maintains that scores for admission of international students are competitive, Schlafly claims that 4,500 California students were denied entry to the state’s public colleges in favor of out-of-state and foreign students with lower SAT scores. Foreign students pay two to three times the rates for in-state American students, which makes up for shrinking subsidies from state governments.

While overall SAT scores may be on par, international students’ scores in the critical reading and writing portions may lag, says Carriveau.  She admits that the Toefl (Test of English as a Foreign Language) often does not indicate a proficiency that is adequate for passing a freshman writing course.  Agencies in China and other places guide families through the application process, even writing essays for students. Many pass the Toefl test by memorization.  Such students are accommodated with extra resources and special classes at Boston University, and elsewhere.

The Pressure on Teachers

College administrators, however, are also placing the burden on professors, as the Chronicle of Higher Education reported in the recent article, “Colleges Help the Faculty Adapt Teaching for Foreign Students.”  Iowa State University communications professor Jay Newell, for example, adapted after observing a group of disengaged Chinese students and realizing that they could not understand his lectures because, of course, they were in English. Newell told the Chronicle, “My job is to make sure that students learn this stuff and understand it and engage with it.”  He saw the foreign students’ falling behind as being his “’problem as much as it was theirs.’”

But it seems to be getting worse.  Rather than insisting that Chinese students perform at the same level as other students, our universities are catering to them. This includes my old workplace, Emory, where a 2014 news article applauded professors who took lessons in Mandarin.  One is Italian lecturer Simona Muratore who enrolled in the free language classes offered on campus after she found she could not communicate in either English or Italian with the growing number of Chinese students in her Italian language class.

Economics professor Frank Maddox, who also teaches on Emory’s Oxford campus, was preparing to leave for a fall sabbatical in Beijing to study “business culture and central banking,” as well as to participate in a seven-week language immersion course. After teaching an intermediate microeconomics course in the fall 2010 semester, in which over half of his students were Chinese, he had learned Mandarin well enough to drop phrases into his lectures.  But he wanted to get to the point where he could “’casually chat with’” and “’engage’” his students.

International students do indeed bring both diversity and new perspectives into the classroom. But while American students are encouraged to study abroad and learn about foreign cultures and languages, students from China are being catered to here by professors and administrators.  Faculty time previously spent on scholarly research is being used for training to “engage” a certain ethnic segment of the student body. Time previously spent with American students is spent on bringing international students up to speed.  Classroom discussions and lessons have to be slowed down for international students. Our students stand to lose more than they gain as their universities cater increasingly to international students.

The Unstoppable MOOCs


Richard Vedder

Although difficult to measure, it is unlikely that higher
education has had any productivity advance in the 50 years since I finished
college. Economists like Princeton’s William Baumol have argued that rising
college costs are inevitable, given inherent limitations on reducing the cost
of disseminating knowledge -only so many people can fit into a room to hear a

Yet on-line education, including massive open on-line
courses (MOOCs), are changing that. Prestigious universities like Harvard,
M.I.T., and Stanford are working with various providers to offer courses taught
by well known and often very effective professors. Coursera, Udacity, edX and
others are providing increasing numbers of courses where students can learn.
They join other low-cost options such as provided by StraighterLine and the
extensive, high quality free offerings of the Saylor Foundation, a pioneer in
the free open source movement. Khan Academy also offers materials at all levels
of learning, and some of those materials are used by college providers.

Continue reading The Unstoppable MOOCs

Harvard Botches a ‘Cheating’ Scandal


Harvey Silverglate and Zachary Bloom

At first blush, the ongoing cheating scandal at Harvard
College appears to raise serious questions about academic integrity at that
fabled institution. If the allegations that 125 students inappropriately shared
notes and answers for a take-home exam in violation of the exam’s rules prove
true, the result will be a massive blot on Harvard’s near-perfectly manicured
public  image–especially now that top 
athletes have been implicated.

But let’s remember that because of the course’s confusing rules and guidelines concerning collaboration, no one, likely not even the
students themselves, can say right now whether their conduct was illicit. Worse
yet, we may
never know the truth, much less have a just verdict on the
propriety of the students’ actions, now that the case is securely in the hands
of the spooks haunting Harvard’s notorious Administrative Board.

Continue reading Harvard Botches a ‘Cheating’ Scandal

Harvard’s Cheating Scandal

Yesterday Harvard
University announced its investigation of about 125 undergraduates who are
believed to have improperly collaborated on a take-home final examination last
spring. It is tempting to use this case to generalize about an Ivy League sense
of entitlement, declining student morals in general, or perhaps the failure of
Harvard and other universities to teach character and a sense of honor to its
students along with their academic subjects. For now, though, we should focus on
the specifics of this cheating incident, or at least what we know of them,
since many of the precise details of the scandal have yet to emerge:

1. The class in question,
“Introduction to Congress,” enrolled more than 250 students. If
Harvard’s suspicions are correct, this means that half the class thought they
could get away with violating a specific instruction in the exam itself:
“[S]tudents may not discuss the exam with others–this includes resident
tutors, writing centers, etc.” Most college cheating rings are relatively
small groups of trusted friends. Not this one.

2. The cheating appeared
to be careless and blatant. A graduate-student teaching fellow grading the
exams uncovered the alleged collaboration on noticing that several of them
contained the exact same words or strings of ideas in answering some of the
exam questions. The students allegedly involved didn’t bother to disguise what
they were doing very artfully (surprising for clever Harvardians)–because they
thought they could get away with it.

3. Many students didn’t
like the class very much. According to Harvard Crimson reporter Rebecca D.
, Harvard’s “Q Guide” of student course evaluations gave “Introduction
to Congress” a score of 2.54 out of a possible 5. Robbins noted that the
average score for social-science courses at Harvard was 3.91. Some of the
student evaluators took the course to task for lack of organization and
difficult exam questions. One student wrote that she and about 15 other
students, most of whom had stayed up all night working on the exam, gathered at
a teaching fellow’s office for clarifications a few hours before the deadline because
they didn’t understand one question worth 20 percent of the grade. “On top
of this, one of the questions asked us about a term that had never been defined
in any of our readings and had not been properly defined in class, so the TF
had to give us a definition to use for the question,” the student wrote.

None of this excuses in
the slightest what went on last spring. Students found to have collaborated on
that exam deserve not just to be suspended for a year–which is apparently
Harvard’s maximum punishment. However, there’s a lot here we just don’t know.

Cheating is the New Normal

A well-publicized cheating scandal at Great Neck High School featured a criminal entrepreneur taking SAT tests for college-bound high school students. My colleagues in the Academy tell me cheating is endemic with papers written by “service” organizations and plagiarism a national contagion. Teachers are routinely engaged in “scrubbing” various tests in an effort to increase the ratio of passing grades. The Atlanta school system was recently indicted for changing, student grades in an effort to improve the schools’ performance profile.

These stories invite the obvious question: Are conditions worse now than earlier?

Continue reading Cheating is the New Normal