With application numbers rising, admissions teams are stretched thin, making carving out the time to identify how and where fraud is happening—as well as figuring out how to solve it— virtually impossible. Realizing this struggle since we began working with colleges and universities four years ago, the team at Kira Talent set out to solve the problem and facilitated the largest research initiative around admissions fraud to date.
After speaking with admissions directors about how fraud affects their programs, and talking to students about how fraud affects them and why they think their peers cheat, we asked fifty business schools to share details about the inner-workings of their admissions process for 2016’s Kira Fraud Report. The results were startling—pointing to a general lack of preparedness and awareness for preventing and detecting application fraud among schools.
Here’s what we found:
Colleges have not established a consistent definition of ‘application fraud’
In order to solve a problem, you first must understand it. With only one in four schools having a clearly defined policy on what “fraud” looks like in the admissions process, it’s clear that most colleges and universities don’t recognize the problem.
Academic dishonesty is not tolerated in college classrooms and programs, but concerns about cheating has not trickled down into most schools’ admissions processes. Despite the lack of clearly defined policies to prevent admissions fraud in schools, an overwhelming 84 percent of admissions professionals agree that plagiarism in application components like essays, resumes, and personal statements, is a problem facing higher education today.
Additionally, many schools are unclear about where they stand on students hiring admissions consultants to help them apply to top schools. As experts in the field, consultants have a direct link to admissions teams and therefore, know exactly what schools want to see in applications. 50 percent of admissions teams believe that students who work with admissions consultants and coaches have an unfair advantage over their peers, leaving the issue ripe for debate in many admissions offices.
There are four main areas where schools fail to prevent and detect fraud
- Educational content
Only 12 percent of schools offer educational content (like webinars or blog posts on plagiarism, fair use and intellectual property) for potential applicants who wish to learn more about what constitutes fraud. Likewise, only 10 percent of schools ask applicants to read and accept an agreement not to submit plagiarized or fraudulent materials in their application. Without a disclaimer or transparent educational material in front of them, applicants have nothing to stop and remind them of the consequences of committing fraud or plagiarizing when applying to schools.
- Plagiarism detection software
Software that detects plagiarism is used nationwide in college classrooms, yet it is far less common during the admissions stage. Of the schools surveyed, 96 percent require applicants to submit written application components, but only 17 percent run applications through plagiarism detection software.
- Verifying applicant identity
Interviews are an excellent way of verifying applicants’ communication skills during the admissions process, which is why 92 percent of schools polled conduct them. However, only one in four schools consistently verify the identity of their applicants before the interview begins.
- Tracking and recording fraud
Less than 20 percent of schools have any kind of tracking in place to record instances of fraud, which suggests that an overwhelming majority are handling fraud on a case-by-case basis. Maintaining a record of fraud and how it’s resolved is essential in understanding how and when it happens in your school’s specific process. The record also provides excellent training materials for reviewers and new hires offering real cases for future admissions seasons.
Schools need to consider this issue as they plan for the future
88 percent of admissions professionals polled believe that application fraud could be a problem at other schools, yet only half think it could happen at their school. Why?
“It will never happen to me.”
This general feeling of denial among schools that fraud can’t infiltrate their admissions process, along with a comfort in the status quo, leaves admissions teams feeling complacent with their current processes.
If you aren’t looking for fraud, you’ll never detect it—so why implement an anti-fraud process? Admissions fraud deteriorates classroom caliber, student success, and the quality of your alumni network. Admissions teams are responsible to recruit and accept classroom-ready students. However, by accepting students without a fraud detection process of any kind, schools risk admitting students who don’t have the competence, capabilities, or communication skills needed to succeed in your program—which hurts both the student and the school in the short and long-term.
Ultimately, colleges and universities must consider how preventing and detecting admissions fraud is not only impacting their unique cohort, but the world as well. As students who plagiarized during the application process and throughout college graduate and move into the real world, alumni employability rates, salaries, and satisfaction could be negatively affected. The best way to prevent such a trend is by ensuring that colleges are able to identify and admit students that have the proper skills to land and keep good jobs once they receive their degrees.