Top 10 Cheating Scandals in College History

Posted February 1, 2010

By Jessica Cortez

Most people go to college so that they can earn a degree, whether it be a design degree, math degree, education degree, health degree – but there are always a few of those rogue students who think they can skate through a little easier without having to do all the work. The following list details some of those instances where students get carried away in an effort to do well without trying. From getting a degree they didn’t actually earn to changing grades to faking transcripts to cheating on exams, these cheating scandals caught plenty of attention.

  1. Southern University. This university in Louisiana was rocked by scandal in March of 2003 when it was discovered that an assistant registrar had changed grades for 541 students and had been doing so since 1995. The assistant registrar had been charging students hundreds of dollars to change their grades in about 2,500 illegal transactions. The story broke when a young woman presented herself as a graduate of the school, but the school could find no record of her earning a degree. It was later determined that several students "earned" fake Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees and teaching certifications.
  2. Fuqua School of Business. Duke’s Fuqua School of Business discovered that 34 of the first-year students in the Master of Business program collaborated on a take-home exam. The professor of the class had also noticed similarities on assignments that had been turned in earlier that semester. Nine students were expelled, 15 were suspended for a year and failed the class, nine more failed the class, and the remaining student earned a failing grade on an assignment. The scandal brought notoriety to the fact that cheating in business school is extremely common and left many wondering about the future of business with leaders at the helm who have few qualms about cheating.
  3. Florida State University. Several football players at Florida State were implicated in a cheating scandal in late 2007. Two tutors who worked with the players were accused of giving the players the answers to online tests. 25 players admitted to receiving assistance on a music class test. One of the tutors also supposedly completed quizzes and typed papers for players. The other tutor admitted he had been providing answers for the online tests since the fall semester in 2006. It was later determined that 61 athletes from all Florida State athletics (including the 25 football players) were involved in the cheating scandal. The wins that happened during those two years are still being contested and will likely be stripped from the school.
  4. University of Minnesota. In another athletic department cheating scandal, the day before the University of Minnesota Gophers were going to play in the NCAA tournament, a story broke in which a former basketball office manager claimed she had written over 400 papers for over 20 basketball players over several years. Four players were suspended and the team lost the game in the tournament. It was later discovered that the coach Clem Haskins paid $3,000 to the office manager for her paper-writing services. Coach Haskins resigned. Ironically, he was originally hired to clean up the team, which had been involved in a sexual assault scandal.
  5. University of Virginia. It seems that most cheating scandals happen at the undergraduate level (except at Duke’s business school, of course), but the scandal at University of Virginia revolved around first-year economics graduate students. A student discovered an answer key online to the questions assigned from a text book in a core class. This student shared the discovery and a large number of the approximately 30 students used the information to complete their assignments. Because the incident occurred during the summer, the committee that deals with student cheating was not in session, providing an opportunity for some students to leave the school without punishment.
  6. West Virginia University. The highly publicized case of Heather Bresch may be one of the most scandalous incidents of cheating. Bresch was the COO of Mylan Inc. and is the daughter of the governor of West Virginia. It was determined in 2008 that she did not actually earn the MBA that was awarded to her by WVU. Apparently Bresch was 22 hours short of earning the degree and had claimed credit for it for years. When she was appointed COO, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette made a call to the university to verify the MBA. What followed was a series of cover-ups that eventually resulted in the resignation of both the Provost and the business school dean.
  7. Diablo Valley College. Over 70 students at Diablo Valley College (both current and former students at the time of the scandal) were found to have paid student employees up to $600 to change their grades. Officials determined that about 400 grades were changed over seven years. After the news of the cheating broke, the story became even more scandalous when it was discovered that some students had actually exchanged sex for grade changes.
  8. Los Angeles Trade Technical College. Approximately 30 students from three community colleges were investigated when registrars began to notice a trend of transcripts from students that had transferred from Los Angeles Trade Technical College. The transcripts had all As and Bs on them, but the students were earning Ds and Fs at the new schools. When officials began investigating, they discovered that the students had all faked their transcripts for admission to the community colleges. The technical college was not implicated in any wrong-doing as it was later determined that the whole scam had been done by students.
  9. Virginia Commonwealth University. This university has the dubious distinction of being involved in two scandals within two months. First, the New York Times broke a story on the a contract between Philip-Morris and the university that would not allow the university to publish or even talk about any research they were doing for the tobacco giant. Then, an anonymous tipster, working under the name "Harry Potter," sent letters to several journalists and the VCU board stating that the former police chief, who claimed a Bachelor’s degree from VCU, did not actually complete a specific degree requirement. After an investigation, it was determined that while the former police chief had earned 6 credits at VCU, it was short from the required 30 credits he should have earned in order to receive the degree. Once the scandal broke, the administrators at the school decided not to rescind the degree–to the surprise of many.
  10. Indiana University School of Dentistry. In 2007, several second-year students, almost half the class, were charged with cheating on an exam. Apparently one or more students hacked into password-protected files to gain access to information on an exam. They then shared this information with others. One of the students tipped off the professor, resulting in a two-month investigation. After nine students were dismissed, six were suspended, and 21 got letters of reprimand, the students appealed. All the dismissals were overturned, 24 students were suspended, and 18 received letters of reprimand.

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