Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Chinese and Other Foreign Students Seen Cheating More Than Domestic Ones

Chinese and Other Foreign Students Seen Cheating More Than Domestic Ones


Public universities in the U.S. recorded 5.1 reports of alleged cheating for every 100 international students, versus one report per 100 domestic students, in a Wall Street Journal analysis

Georgia tech engineering students Armaan Mehta, in blue shirt holding laptop, who is an American, and Lanqing Wang, in tank top, who is from Shanghai, criticized the large amount of cheating they see by international students.
Georgia tech engineering students Armaan Mehta, in blue shirt holding laptop, who is an American, and Lanqing Wang, in tank top, who is from Shanghai, criticized the large amount of cheating they see by international students. PHOTO: KEVIN D. LILES FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
At Ohio State University, a Chinese student took tests for Chinese classmates for cash last year, guaranteeing an A.
At the University of California, Irvine, some international students used a lost-ID-card ruse to let impersonators take exams in place of others.
At the University of Arizona, a professor told of Chinese students handing in multiple copies of the same incorrect test answers.
A flood of foreign undergraduates on America’s campuses is improving the financial health of universities. It also sometimes clashes with a fundamental value of U.S. scholarship: academic integrity.
A Wall Street Journal analysis of data from more than a dozen large U.S. public universities found that in the 2014-15 school year, the schools recorded 5.1 reports of alleged cheating for every 100 international students. They recorded one such report per 100 domestic students.
ENLARGE
Students from China were singled out by many faculty members interviewed. “Cheating among Chinese students, especially those with poor language skills, is a huge problem,” saidBeth Mitchneck, a University of Arizona professor of geography and development.
In the academic year just ending, 586,208 international undergraduate students attended U.S. colleges and universities, according to the Department of Homeland Security. More than 165,000 were from China. South Korea and Saudi Arabia were the source of nearly 50,000 each and India of about 23,500.
Faculty and domestic students interviewed said it appears that substantial numbers of international students either don’t comprehend or don’t accept U.S. standards of academic integrity.
At the University of Arizona, the staff works hard to explain academic integrity to those from abroad, but “our students don’t always understand what plagiarism is,” said Chrissy Lieberman, associate dean of students.
Citing the Freedom of Information Act, the Journal asked 50 public universities with large foreign enrollments how many reports of alleged academic-integrity violations they recorded for international undergraduates and how many involving U.S. undergraduates.
Many of the schools said they didn’t have such information or it would be too onerous to track down. Fourteen provided the full records sought, for the 2014-15 academic year.
At nearly all that provided data, the rate of such cheating reports was at least twice as high for foreign as for domestic students, ranging up to over eight times as high.
A plaque inside a Georgia Tech classroom urges students not cheat.
A plaque inside a Georgia Tech classroom urges students not cheat. PHOTO: KEVIN D. LILES FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
Universities don’t all define and track cheating reports exactly the same way. Most record the number of incidents, but some record the number of students involved. The Journal’s analysis tabulated cheating reports as the universities defined them. It didn’t delve into how the cases were resolved.
Lanqing Wang, a Georgia Institute of Technology electrical-engineering student from Shanghai, who is distressed by the cheating he sees, said, “In China, it’s OK to cheat as long as you’re not caught.”
Paidi Shi, vice president of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association at the University of California, San Diego, disagreed that it was all right to cheat in her home country but said, “In China, our culture puts a lot of pressure on students. We are more likely to find a shortcut to get a good grade.”
Qingwen Fan, president of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association at the University of California, Davis, said some students in China get burned out by cramming in high school, and when they get to college “they want to enjoy life. They are busy with social stuff and everything they missed before. They start to cheat. They didn’t put in the time but they want to pass the test. That is kind of a cultural thing.”
Ms. Shi said her association plans to launch a social-media campaign to tackle the problem next fall.
ENLARGE
Both private and public U.S. universities have welcomed a surge in foreign students, who often pay two to three times the tuition and fees of others, partly because of special programs for them. At many public universities, their payments help compensate for shrinking state subsidies.
Sanctions for cheating can range from an F on an assignment to suspension or expulsion. At the University of Arizona, which recorded over 11 reports of alleged cheating for each 100 foreign undergraduate students in the 2014-15 school year (and 1.8 per 100 domestic undergrads), no student was expelled that year and just two suspended, according to the university.
“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,” said Ms. Mitchneck, the geography professor.
Asked about that, Lynn Nadel a leader of the faculty senate, said it is true the university’s business model “is somewhat dependent on out-of-state students, and it’s an acknowledged fact that we depend on them to cover our costs. But the next step, that therefore we should treat them with kid gloves, has never come before me or even been uttered in my presence.”
Academic dishonesty is an issue on campus without regard to students’ origins. About 60% of all students on U.S. campuses admit they cheated at least once in the last year, according to Teddi Fishman, director of the International Center for Academic Integrity, a nonprofit with offices at Clemson University. She said that level has remained steady for 23 years. Most of this cheating never leads to a formal complaint, the Journal’s analysis shows.
The especially high rate of cheating reported for international students fuels faculty concerns about a cheapening of schools’ diplomas. “If the integrity of the degrees they are earning is undermined, that market could also be undermined,” said Ms. Fishman.
Armaan Mehta, a computer-engineering major at Georgia Tech, shows his notes for a signals and systems class. Mr. Mehta, an American, said he sees ‘ridiculous amounts of cheating’ among Indian and Chinese students.
Armaan Mehta, a computer-engineering major at Georgia Tech, shows his notes for a signals and systems class. Mr. Mehta, an American, said he sees ‘ridiculous amounts of cheating’ among Indian and Chinese students. PHOTO: KEVIN D. LILES FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
Some universities work harder than others to monitor cheating, which could affect where they stood in the Journal’s analysis. UC San Diego, which had one of the higher cheating-allegation rates for international students, also has an especially robust effort to track infractions, led by Tricia Bertram Gallant, its academic-integrity director. 
“We decided to admit more international students in response to a decrease in public funding without consideration of extra socialization they might need to adapt to the new academic culture,” Ms. Bertram Gallant said. Schools are still “playing catch-up.”
At Purdue, David Sanders, a leader of the university senate, recently had the task of reading 4,000 essays from applicants and said he found the obvious copying among Chinese students, in particular, mind-numbing.

From the Archives

One Chinese Student’s Journey to the U.S.

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Fan Yue dreamed of escaping the pressure of China’s ultra-competitive college entrance exam and studying in the United States. Now attending the University of California-Irvine, she’s one of many Chinese students reshaping the U.S. education system. (Originally published May 1, 2016)
“I can’t tell you how many times I read an essay that started, ‘The 20th century was the century of physics and the 21st century will be the century of life sciences.’ I read that same phrase over and over and over again,” he said.
Ms. Fan of the Chinese students association at UC Davis said there was a “concept difference” in how Americans and Chinese “define cheating.” She said it is common for Chinese students to collaborate on assignments.
A spokesman for Purdue, Brian Zink, said the school stresses academic integrity at freshman orientation, “and we don’t accept ‘cultural confusion’ as an excuse for dishonesty.”
It is possible that cheating is more likely to be caught when a student is foreign, said Ms. Fishman of the academic integrity center. A student who can barely speak English but hands in a skillfully written English-language paper would draw attention, she noted. And instructors, once having perceived a cheating issue among foreign students, might scrutinize their work more closely.
Still, Ms. Fishman said, there is a profile of a certain kind of student more likely to cheat: a youth who faces a high-stakes test, feels unprepared for it, and believes that others are cheating anyway. A relatively high percentage of foreign students, especially those with poor language skills, fit this description, she said.
They often are targeted by entrepreneurs offering to sell custom-written research papers. Other opportunists offer the services of professional test takers.
Last year, Ohio State learned that a Chinese student had been advertising on a Chinese message board that he could guarantee an A on a test by taking it in someone’s place. His price was around $500 per test, said Kim Arcoleo, associate dean for transdisciplinary scholarship.
Ohio State has so far found more than 30 Chinese students who made use of the scheme, she said, with the investigation still under way.
“The cheating isn’t limited to Chinese students, but we see a disproportionate amount coming from international students,” Ms. Arcoleo said.
The University of Iowa is investigating at least 30 students suspected of paying professional test takers to take online exams in their place, the school says. Some of the suspected impersonators took the online tests in China, said one person familiar with the matter. Some of the students have been sent letters explaining what offenses can result in expulsion.
One method used by stand-in test-takers was uncovered at UC Irvine. Imposters would report losing their university ID cards. The bookstore would issue new ones bearing the imposter’s picture, but carrying the name of the student for whom a test was to be taken. The system was used mainly by Chinese students, faculty members said.
A spokeswoman for UC Irvine said it didn’t know how many students were involved in the scheme and declined to say how they were disciplined. She said campus police have helped develop a system to thwart the ID-card trick.
Adele Barker, a professor in the Department of Russian and Slavic Studies at the University of Arizona, said frequently a cluster of four or five Chinese students sitting near one another during a test all provide the same version of a wrong answer.
The influx of Chinese students with weak English-language skills has grown “exponentially,” she said. “Their comprehension is so bad the cheating is a nonevent. And I can tell you everyone is dealing with this, across disciplines, across universities.”
Stacey Hancock, a statistics professor at UC Irvine, said a large portion of faculty time is spent trying to ensure academic honesty. She uses randomized seating and four different versions of a test in an effort to deter copying from someone sitting nearby.
Georgia Tech students Armaan Mehta, left, and Lanqing Wang criticize what they say is much cheating by international students.PHOTOS: KEVIN D. LILES FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
Many professors spell out in a course syllabus what constitutes cheating, lest there be any doubt. Ms. Arcoleo of Ohio State devotes three pages of the syllabus to this.
At Georgia Tech, the honor code is emblazoned on plaques outside classrooms. Armaan Mehta, an American student there majoring in computer engineering, showed a note on one assignment stating that “you should design, implement and test your own code,” and that not doing so “constitutes academic misconduct.” 
Despite the warning, he saw “ridiculous amounts of cheating” among Indian and Chinese students, Mr. Mehta said, sitting in Georgia Tech’s futuristic Clough Commons building.
A spokesman for Georgia Tech said it works diligently to make sure students know its policies and the consequences of a violation.
Suspension or expulsion for cheating is a risk for those from abroad. Their student visas can be revoked if they aren’t registered at a U.S. college.
“I have had students sobbing in my office, saying their family has done everything to get them here and pleading for mercy,” said Melissa Famulari, vice chair for undergraduate education in UC San Diego’s economics department.
Mr. Sanders of Purdue said confronting a cheater is “incredibly unpleasant for everyone concerned. All of the institutional incentives, at multiple levels, are against catching and prosecuting cheaters.”
Expulsion can be a business opportunity for Andrew Hang Chen, a Pittsburgh-based consultant who places Chinese students in U.S. colleges. If a foreign student is in danger of losing a visa, he can assist.
Clough Commons, a futuristic building at Georgia Tech, where, as at many U.S. public universities, there are frequent reports of cheating by international students.
Clough Commons, a futuristic building at Georgia Tech, where, as at many U.S. public universities, there are frequent reports of cheating by international students. PHOTO: KEVIN D. LILES FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
His company, WholeRen Education, charges $4,000 to help a student transfer to another U.S. school. The stakes are high because experience shows if a student has to return to China, he or she likely won’t ever go back to college.
“We have to act very, very quickly” to transfer the student to another U.S. college, Mr. Chen said. “When we get a call, we are counting by the hour.”
Last year, he said, a Chinese student at a large public university in New York sold test answers to a classmate for $2,000. Both had to leave the school. Mr. Chen said he got both into a U.S. community college, which they attended for a year and half before being allowed to return to the large university.
Though many colleges include explanations of academic integrity in orientation for international students, the lessons often don’t sink in, said Wenhua Wu, a 21-year-old Chinese economics major at the University of Pittsburgh.
Over time, Chinese students come to understand what constitutes cheating, Mr. Wu said, but many do it anyway.
“They do it for better grades,” he said. “Most of them don’t get caught.”