Why Do College Students Cheat

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Journal of Business Ethics Forthcoming

WHY DO COLLEGE STUDENTS CHEAT?
Mark G. Simkin Accounting & Information Systems University of Nevada, Reno simkin@unr.edu Alexander McLeod Accounting & Information Systems University of Nevada, Reno amcleod@unr.edu ABSTRACT. More is known about the pervasiveness of college cheating than reasons why students cheat. This paper reports the results of a study that applied the theory of reasoned action and partial least squares methodology to analyze the responses of 144 students to a survey on cheating behavior. Approximately 60% of the business students and 64% of the non-business students admitted to such behavior. Among cheaters, a “desire to get ahead” was the most important motivating factor—a surprising result given the comprehensive set of factors tested in the study. Among non-cheaters, the presence of a “moral anchor” such as an ethical professor was most important. The paper also includes a set of important caveats that might limit this work and suggests some avenues for further study. Key Words: cheating, ethical behavior, student dishonesty, student misconduct Introduction On April 27, 2007, the Dean of the Fuqua College of Business at Duke University announced that 24 students—nearly 10 percent of the graduating class of 2008—had been caught cheating on a final exam (Conlin, 2007). A year later, the school was still dealing with the fallout from the incident, which included expelling the guilty students, readmitting and counseling the suspended ones, and dealing with the national attention garnered by the event (Damast, 2008). A large body of research suggests that the student cheating uncovered at Duke is not an isolated event, but rather a microcosm of a pervasive and growing part of worldwide university activity. However, while a large number of individuals and organizations express concern for such trends, less is known about what to do about it or, more importantly, how to reverse it. The purpose of our

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