OPINION: Survival of the trickiest

While cheating was once a means of survival for students who could not meet benchmark standards, it has evolved into a lifestyle even high achievers subscribe to.

Academic misconduct has rapidly increased within the U.S.. Previous research by Stanford shows only 20 percent of college students claimed to have cheated in the 1940s. According to Kessler International, 86 percent of college students claimed to have cheated in 2017.

As the pressure to be academically successful has increased, the dependency upon cheating has as well. The focus of our education system has shifted away from learning. Rather than absorbing new information, students feel pressured to maintain high GPAs.

The same study by Kessler revealed 54 percent of college students believed cheating was necessary to remain academically competitive. The pressure to be successful has resulted in a culture of academic dishonesty. Once intrinsically motivated to be high achievers in school, modern students have become extrinsically motivated — they are in constant competition with their peers. 

The high-pressure system is exacerbated by an increase in educational requirements for jobs. According to a study conducted by Career Builder, 37 percent of employers are hiring employees with college degrees for positions which previously only required high school diplomas. As the educational standards transform, students must modify their education to keep up. 

Many students at SIUE have succumbed to the pressures of a highly-competitive academic atmosphere. The academic culture is rapidly evolving and becoming increasingly problematic. The culture thrives upon students who trade old tests, new tests and other exclusive information. While many students prosper, others are left outside of the loop and are ultimately left behind.

The effects of academic dishonesty extend beyond the cheater. Whether students actively choose to abstain from cheating in their classes or simply don’t have the right connections, students who don’t encounter disparities in achievement. 

Since many professors choose to implement grade curves, students who cheat offset it. Students who remain firm in their academic integrity suffer as a result. As instances of academic dishonesty increase, the confidence of the cheaters also increases. However, professors have not implemented strict policies against cheating. 

Beyond receiving a negative score on an exam, students may be blacklisted from entire academic departments at the discretion of their professors. Blacklisted students are unable to obtain their intended degrees. Without certain degrees and course requirements, many pre-professional students will no longer be able to advance on their career paths.

While cheating has become increasingly normalized at SIUE and other colleges, it is imperative for students to choose academic integrity over academic dishonesty. 

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