Academic Dishonesty in American Institutions


Academic dishonesty is one of the oldest forms of cheating. Studies point out that the earliest forms to be reported were thousands of years ago in China where students engaged so much in this vice that measures had to be taken to control it. Accordingly, all examinees in civil service examinations had to sit for their examinations in private cubicles. Before entry, they were frisked to ensure that they did not carry with their notes or other materials that would contribute to cheating. To tighten the conditions, the penalty for academic cheating was death (Aluede et al, 2006, p.3). However, this did not deter the students from cheating. Similarly, this vice has been experienced in other countries including America. This paper will determine that academic dishonesty is a rampant vice in America and that it is implicating negatively on the academic standards and the quality of education of students.


In their study, Boehm et al (2009, p. 45) point out that this vice has taken roots in the American institutions of higher education. In their literature review, they point out that an estimated 67% to 86% of undergraduates have gotten themselves involved in academic dishonesty activities at some point in their campus life. This percentage involved about 6,000 students sampled from 31 institutions. She further points out that an estimated 30% of undergraduates plagiarize in all their subjects. This vice has also affected education at the high school level. These students engage in academic cheating to ensure that they secure a place in college or university. To make the matters worse, more than half of them do not find academic cheating to be a serious offense.

Causes of Academic Cheating

Are there societal changes that are causing this rampant unethical behavior in students? Aside from these societal changes, are there personal characters that promote this vice? The answer is yes. Many changes within society have led to this ever-increasing vice. This has coupled up with personal traits that have driven more and more students into cheating during exams. These factors have been divided into three categories which are personal factors, situational factors, and the students’ reasons. Personal factors involve the characters of the students who engage in this vice while situational factors involve the prevailing environment that eventually makes the student decide whether to engage in this vice or not. Among the identified causes are shame and moral beliefs. Most students contemplate what society will think of them if they failed to perform well in exams. In addition, studies have shown that low self-control can lead to involvement in academic cheating. When students fail to control the urge to engage in such activities, they end up becoming rampant participants in examination cheating (Aluede et al, 2006, p.3).

The students’ need to appeal to higher levels of loyalty usually leads to academic dishonesty. Studies have pointed out that students try to increase their appeal to these loyalties in organizations that they are alienated from. To achieve such appeal, they resort to cheating to increase their grades. Faculty-related issues also lead to academic dishonesty. Sometimes students find a course to be too difficult or find the exam to be quite unfair. To improve their grades in such cases, they resort to cheating. Other factors leading to cheating include the students’ attitude when they feel that the course they are learning has nothing to do with their future careers, the prevailing societal values where people are allowed to achieve success, by all means, the desire to join high demand careers or prestigious institutions whose entry grades are soaring and also the competition is increasing and finally the technological advances that are making cheating an easy affair. This involves the Internet that promotes plagiarism and also phones that offer an opportunity for students to exchange notes with others who are outside the exam room (Center for Academic Integrity, 1999).

Role of Faculties

Faculties in many universities have played a great role in promoting this vice. This is contrary to the fact that most of the studies bestow upon the faculties the major role in controlling academic cheating. Most studies have identified that the traditional method of communicating to students concerning academic integrity and the measures against academic cheating through catalogs, student handbooks, and during orientations have failed to make any probable implications to the students. In addition, many faculties have failed to develop and enforce policies that would promote academic integrity. Many institutions have involved neither the faculty nor the students in their efforts to promote academic integrity. However, these are the most appropriate groups of people that must be actively involved in the effort of academic integrity promotion (McCabe & Trevino, 1993, p.41).

This low enthusiasm does not mean that institutions have nothing to lose. It is evident that if such vices increase, the institutions bear the brunt. Firstly, cases of academic dishonesty lead to loss of integrity for an institution. In addition, the institutions spend too much time that would have been spent productively on other activities. The loss of time on academic dishonesty issues reduces the quality of education being offered to the students. This eventually translated to the low ranking of the institution in terms of education quality. Finally, product students from such institutions eventually translate their lack of respect to academic integrity and values to the outside world. This leads to societies with deteriorating morals (Bouville, 2009).

What is the Solution?

The greatest solution to this vice is the enactment of functional policies and good communication and explanation of the policies by every institution. Students should know that the institution has rules concerning academic dishonesty. On their part, the institution must enforce these policies so that they are not simply non-functional written sentences. Enforcement can be achieved through the enactment of tight penalties for wrongdoers. Finally, the role of peer influence in this issue cannot be underestimated. Most students would engage in such activities simply because other students are doing the same. To curb this, a culture of academic integrity should be encouraged in the institutions. Ethics should be taught in institutions so that the students understand the implication of such unethical behaviors (Hendershott, Drinan & Cross, 2000).


The statistics pointed out above show that the vice of academic dishonesty is an issue that needs to be tackled because of its ever-increasing magnitude. The increase in cases of academic dishonesty makes more and more of the students perceive this as a routine and hence continue implementing the behavior. It is therefore the role of the institutions to identify the mentioned causes so that appropriate measures can be taken. These measures include strengthening policies and enforcing them, promoting ethics education, increasing the role of students and faculty so that they can be active participants in this fight against academic dishonesty. If the stipulated measures are followed faithfully, the vice can be curbed. However, failure to do this will continue cultivating a culture devoid of integrity. This does not only mean in learning institutions but the society at large.

Reference List

Aluede, O., Omoregie, E. and Osa-Edoh, G. (2006). Academic integrity as a contemporary problem in higher education: How academic advisors can help. Reading Improvement, 43(2), 97-107.

Boehm, P., Justice, M. and Weeks, S. (2009). Promoting academic integrity in higher education. Community College Enterprise, 15(1), 45-52.

Bouville, M. (2009). Why is cheating wrong? Studies in philosophy and education. Springerlink. Web.

Center for Academic Integrity. (1999). The fundamental values of academic integrity. Web.

Hendershott, A., Drinan, P. and Cross, M. (2000). Toward enhancing a culture of academic integrity. NASPA Journals, 37(4).Web.

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