Kerry Hart: College degrees for sale


— In a less-than-perfect world, there are ways that money can be misused by students to get through school. I'm not talking about those unaccredited fly-by-night universities that use the garage to print out custom-made diplomas for a price - albeit this is a problem for our society. I'm talking about a simple, but dishonest, economic system of supply and demand that has turned the selling of essays and term papers into big business. It's a problem encountered in almost every college and university in our country.

Students can find just about anything they want on the Internet, and many sites do not hide the fact that they will help students cheat. In particular, many of these sites boldly promote plagiarism. Plagiarism is the most wide-spread form of dishonesty and the means for teachers to find the occurrence of plagiarism has become both sophisticated and expensive. Last year, 30 million papers were submitted by teachers and professors in more than 8,000 institutions to Turnitin, one of the largest and fastest growing anti-cheating software companies.

Alarmed by this epidemic of cheating, I did an Internet search to find out how many sites were available to buy essays and term papers. I wanted to see how easy it was for students to engage in academic dishonesty. I gave up after counting forty-five sites and was overwhelmed by the hundreds (if not thousands) of sites left unvisited that potentially promoted cheating. Most of those that I perused in searching for essays and term papers boldly advertised someone else's work for sale, starting at $7.95 per page and averaging $15 per page for higher-quality work. Customized papers are even more costly. One can buy anything from an English class essay to a dissertation for a doctoral degree.

The cat and mouse game of catching cheaters only addresses the symptoms of a deep-rooted values problem. Our children are pressured to succeed at any cost and the measure of success is to have a college degree in hand.

If we are going to reverse the epidemic in dishonesty, part of the solution is in redefining the meaning of success. Instead of looking at the outcome of education in terms of the marketability of a college degree, we must consider success in relation to the quality of the learning process and the acquisition of knowledge as it can be applied to serving humanity. Colleges and universities have an added responsibility of delivering curriculum with uncompromising standards of rigor where a "store-bought" paper will stick out like a sore thumb. Otherwise, a lot of money will be spent to buy a college degree that won't be worth the paper it's printed on.

Kerry Hart is dean of Colorado Mountain College's Alpine Campus in Steamboat Springs. Contact him at 870-4414 or


id04sp 9 years, 2 months ago

When people say, "It's just sex," about Bill Clinton and Gov Spitzer, they're saying, "cheating doesn't hurt anybody unless you get caught."

In our technological society, you cannot buy academic works of others that will satisfy the testing requirements for competency in engineering and science. When it comes to English, History, Philosophy, etc., who, uh, really cares? People who don't take the time to do the work are not going to be literate and knowledgeable anyway, so who are they going to fool?

Honestly, Mr. Hart, what is the loss to society for someone who makes an "A" versus a "C" in English at the college level? When I was in college, we wrote our English essays in class under the gaze of the professor, so it was impossible to cheat anyway. The only term paper I remember writing in engineering school was in a course on the history of the American economy, and it was required to have an "analytical" character. Basically, I did research on the amount of time and the number of workers required to clear an acre of land in the tobacco producing states during colonial times, and showed that employment of scientific crop rotation practices known during that time could have replenished the land required to grow tobacco while also providing food for the plantation owners and workers rather than moving on to "new" undepleted land, which had to be cleared from the virgin forest, every 4 to 5 years. Where would you buy a paper like that?

Okay, so you have a course where you study the poetry of Maya Angelou. You have to write a term paper, so instead, you buy one from somebody else. Rather than complaining about people cheating in such a manner, maybe the better question is, why study the poetry of Maya Angelou? Read it, or don't, but holy cow, who's going to live or die either way?

The key to this controversy is for professors to administer and grade essay exams in courses where that form is useful, and check ID cards as people come and go to the test. Make sure the guy taking the test is the guy taking the course.

Another tactic to thwart cheaters would be to require students to turn in their notes from referenced works along with the final paper. If you're going to have to fake the notes, you might as well write the paper too.

Basically, the reason we have cheating is because professors are lazy and do not interact with students enough to learn who they are, and see samples of what they write in essay exams in class compared to what they turn in in a term paper. A person who can't write using proper spelling, grammar and tense on an essay exam will not be able to do it in an original term paper either.

So, the problem here is people who get the Ph.D., get a teaching job, and then sit around in their offices working on their own books and publications instead of really teaching, giving exams, and doing some honest work in return for the paycheck.


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