The High Price of Cheating

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2016 Barrett Winner

3rd Place Brittney Arafat

Cheating has always been a concern for educators. However, with the steady rise in technology, students have found new, innovative ways to cheat in their classes. With the increase in online courses and education, a new market has developed. This goes beyond the traditional ways of cheating, which include plagiarism, asking others to write papers, and sneaking glances at the desk next you. Now, companies offer to complete entire classes, including all coursework and tests, for a less than modest fee. “Education is the only thing Americans are willing to pay for and not actually get,” states Scott Still, English Instructor at HFC.

There are a variety of websites and individuals posting on social media looking for students who want less-than-honest assistance with their work. The targeted customer is the busy student who doesn’t have time or who is afraid of failing a class due to being unprepared or unmotivated to take it. Boostmygrade.com, an online cheating website states, “Are your online classes a bore? Aren’t quite getting the grades to cut it? We specialize in completing your entire college online class from start to finish. Count on us to complete your entire semester! Our experts are available to help you with virtually every subject.”

Still commented that some of these companies have even been so “brazen to come to the HFC campus to distribute their business cards.” In the article, “Paying for an A,” Alexandra Tilsley of Inside Higher Ed impersonated a student seeking online course assistance. The prices for the service ranged from $95 to $900 depending on the work needing to be completed. Most of the websites Tilsley investigated “promised at least a B in the course.” On the higher end of the spectrum, paying for a course can cost almost the same as a five credit hour class. This also equals about 160 work hours at a minimum wage job.

High price aside, if a student can cheat their way to an “A,” what's the catch? While this may seem like an expensive dream come true for some, these websites are not always what they seem and in the long run, are just not worth the money or the risk. According to HFC staff members, in a recent incident of academic dishonesty, a website was hired to take a student's online business class. Once the student provided a username and password, the company had access to school information, instructor and course number, and completed a few assignments; then demanded a large quantity of money for the coursework completed. When the student couldn’t pay, the company attempted to threaten the student, stating “We are calling the school and the professor. We promise you will never graduate.” The company also stated that the “tutor” would “kill himself” if he was not paid on time. The student ended up admitting cheating to the instructor.

In another incident recounted by an HFC staff member, “a student who had paid someone to take the course for him, called and complained [to a professor] because they had received a ‘B’ in the class and had paid the service to get an ‘A.’” University level cheating is seen as a major infraction and can seriously affect a student’s future. According to HFC’s Policy on Academic Dishonesty, “The registrar maintains a record of all such violations. If a student fails two classes as a result of academic dishonesty, he or she is dismissed from the College for two academic years. In addition, a notation of the reason for academic dismissal is placed on the student’s transcript.” These notations are then visible to four-year universities and employers, and can negatively affect a student's chances of transfer, financial aid, scholarship opportunities, or future employment.

“We want to make sure that the word gets out to students that this isn’t going to be tolerated and will not work out well for them in the long run,” states Still. “Even if you get away with [cheating] once or twice, it’s still not worth it because you short circuited your own education.”

At HFC, administration and staff are doing their best to thwart both old and new styles of cheating. “In terms of face to face classes that use a computer for tests, we’ve purchased this software product called Respondus Lockdown Browser,” states Adam Cloutier, Director of Teaching and Learning Services. Respondus allows instructors to “lockdown the environment” and makes students unable to access any other unpermitted websites while taking tests. “In terms of virtual learning,” continues Mr. Cloutier, “instructors can use the same [program] to lock down the student’s computer, but there is also a new tool … called Respondus Monitor.” Cloutier explains that this monitor is a webcam application that requires a room scan and will flag any suspicious activity for the instructor to review later. Other tools used at HFC to catch cheating are checking IP addresses, and Turnitin.com, a plagiarism checker.

While cheating may seem like an easy way to get an “A,” too many cases prove that the monetary and academic price is too high. Cloutier explains, “There are a number of services we have to help students on their path to academic success; we have our library which offers research assistance … which could help students put together a package of information that would be relevant to the assignment. The learning lab also offers free tutoring for lots of disciplines … . We have great counselors and advisors who can sit down and weigh options with students.” The college also offers the Accelerated Learning Program in English, and the Redesign Program and Best Fit Model for students in Math. All courses provide students with extra help from instructors and peers.

Of course, the best protection students may have against the high price of cheating is to study hard and do their own work.