Chinese students at U. of Iowa accused of online cheating

Updated: 2016-05-25 10:00

By HEZI JIANG in New York(

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More than 30 Chinese students at the University of Iowa have been accused of cheating on an online exam and could face expulsion.

The revelations came after ProctorU, a national proctoring service that provides identity verification for the university's online courses, alerted the school that at least 30 students enrolled in online courses may have attempted to cheat by having others take their exams.

The cases were discovered through discrepancies in IDs provided by the test-takers in one or more exams, and in some cases, in multiple courses, university spokeswoman Jeneane Beck wrote in an e-mail to China Daily.

"The university takes the issue very seriously and is reviewing the matter carefully. If it is determined a student has cheated, the university will take appropriate disciplinary action, which may include expulsion or suspension," Beck wrote.

The topic has become a hot one on various internet platforms, including Zhihu — China's equivalent of Quora.

"As an international student who consistently receives email ads from exam imposters and homework ghost-writers, I'm so glad the school is taking action," said Li Xun.

"Good Job, University of Iowa," said a user, who said he was an undergraduate student at the university and wanted to remain anonymous because some of his friends were involved in the cheating.

"Some cheating operations were unbelievable," the student said. "They put the ads on poster boards, in cafeterias and even outside the international student office."

The university has welcomed international students the past few years, and a majority of them are from China. In a CNN report last year, the reporter described Iowa City as "a town where bubble tea shops outnumber Starbucks".

"State funding is going out the door," says Sarah Gardial, dean of the Iowa Business School, where an in-state undergraduate student pays $9,519 for an academic year while an international student pays $29,659.

"The funding model actually encourages us to take a higher percentage (of international students). That's why we started down that path."

More than 2,500 Chinese students were enrolled at the university in fall 2015, and more than 2,000 are pursuing undergraduate degrees.

Chinese students pay an estimated $70 million a year in tuition to the University of Iowa and pump an estimated $100 million into the local economy, said the CNN report.

Some argue that such door-opening lowered the qualifications of incoming students, many of whom do not have the language skills needed in class and seek shortcuts to good grades.

The University of Iowa Chinese Students and Scholars Association issued a statement asking the public not to "label all Chinese international students with plagiarisms".

"Most of us worked very hard in this foreign country that's thousands of miles from home. Holding onto the graduation certificate, only we know how many all-nighters have we pulled through," wrote the organization.