Systemic cheating threatens quality of U.S. education

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By Dr. Julianne Malveaux
NNPA Newswire Contributor

Education is the bedrock of a successful society. With quality education comes more opportunities to grow, increased equality, and stronger communities.

But right now, the quality of a U.S. education is under siege. As a former college president and educator, I will not stand by and watch as it happens.

As educators adapt to virtual classrooms and students are faced with academic burnout, a perfect storm is brewing for cheating and plagiarism to thrive. All the while, one company, Chegg, is encouraging the behavior and making billions. It’s time for colleges and universities to put a stop to this company, so it does not continue to grow out of control.

A $12 billion company that has grown as a direct result of exploitation and dishonesty, Chegg provides students with tools to receive near-immediate answers to tests, homework, and quiz questions, all without repercussions.

Using the platform, students are able to access test banks, find exact copies of their assessments, and check to see if an essay will be flagged for plagiarism. Most egregiously, a student can log on to Chegg in the middle of taking a test and submit a question to the “Expert Q&A” tool, which will give them an answer in the same amount of time it takes to even read one question.

The service is so widely used among students that in a 52-student Forbes interview, “aside from the half dozen students Chegg provided for Forbes to talk to, all but 4 admitted they use the site to cheat.”
It is unconscionable to think that we are sending our kids to school to learn and prepare for the real world, only to see so many of them cheat their way through.

And as with most issues in this country, we are seeing disproportionate effects on students of color and those from underprivileged backgrounds. At nearly $200 a year, not only is Chegg out of the budget for many of these students, but it also lowers the quality of education across the board by requiring less actual learning in exchange for quick and easy good grades. Unlike their white counterparts, many of these students do not have a safety net to fall back on when they lose access to quality education.

To exacerbate the inequality, many fraternities and sororities, which consist of predominately upper-middle class white students, are subsidizing Chegg for their members. One college junior put it perfectly in a statement to The Daily Pennsylvanian, “I know that not everybody is capable of paying that kind of money to be a part of an organization, and that creates these small groups of privilege, where people share different Chegg accounts and test answers, and it’s further privileging the privileged.”

Racial inequality is a virus in this country. Now it is meeting another virus in our country’s education system: cheating. All students deserve a quality education. To see a company further perpetuate racial inequality as it reduces education quality across the board is unacceptable.

Online learning has allowed our educators to safely continue teaching their students, despite the shakeup COVID-19 has caused. Even as we slowly begin to re-enter society, I am confident online learning is here to stay. But that means it is time for all academic institutions to step in and keep this cheating platform out of our classrooms, before the problem gets even worse.

Dr. Julianne Malveaux is an economist, author, media contributor, former college president and educator.