Steamboat Springs 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.