American universities have a cheating problem, and the culprit may be the international student population. A recent Wall Street Journal analysis of data from 14 public colleges in the United States found that, for every 100 domestic students, administrators dealt with one report of cheating during the 2014-2015 school year. For every 100 foreign students, they saw 5.1.
"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," University of California Davis student Qingwen Fan, the president of the campus Chinese Students and Scholars Association, told the Journal. "That is kind of a cultural thing.”
The story, published Sunday, noted the number of international students at U.S. colleges is on the rise. About 975,000 students came from abroad to study in the U.S. during the 2014-2015 school year, up 10 percent from the year before, NPR reported. The students — mostly from China, India and South Korea — added about $31 billion to the U.S. economy, in part because they paid high tuition and fees.
They also reportedly swapped IDs, copied each other's essays and hired people to complete their homework.
Language barriers, pressure to perform well and disagreement over the definition of cheating were all named in the Journal as possible explanations for the trend of international students allegedly cheating more often than domestic ones. General statistics weren't any more reassuring: About 68 percent of undergraduates admitted to the International Center for Academic Integrity said they'd cheated either on essay assignments or exams.
"Plagiarism is a new word, intellectual property is a new word and idea," Lori Friedman, a director of student services at the University of St. Thomas, told MPR News. "What we might call cheating, they might call it sharing."
Cheating often starts before the student even gets to college. In 2014, CNN found that 10 percent of applications from Chinese students included forged transcripts or fake essays. Another report from 2010 claimed that 90 percent of Chinese students' recommendation letters are made up.