Quick Takes: Cheating by Professionals, Degree of Influence, Kickbacks Admitted, Sallie Mae's Strategy, Engineering Push in California, Cheating Scandal Shrinks Bowl Roster, Ivies vs. Oxbridge, Testing Chaos in Korea, It's Not All Work at the MLA

December 28, 2007
  • Sales of test questions and other cheating on licensing and professional exams are skyrocketing, according to an investigation in The Boston Globe. While most of the article is about professional exams, the Globe also noted a recent effort to block the sale of questions on the GMAT exam used by M.B.A. programs. According to the Globe, GMAT's sponsors have sued a Web site operator in Ohio alleged to have pieced together a copy of the GMAT, and charging $30 per download. Court records showed he had made at least $317,000 since 2004. The Graduate Management Admission Council confirmed to Inside Higher Ed that it filed a copyright infringement suit in June 2007 in a federal district court against the outfit, which could not be reached for comment. Dave Wilson, president of the council, said in a statement: "GMAC vigorously protects its intellectual property rights in order to protect the integrity of the GMAT exam. When necessary, this includes filing civil lawsuits against those who copy and distribute GMAT materials without GMAC's permission or who claim to be distributing secure test questions from past exams."
  • West Virginia University revised academic records that showed a politically connected executive had never earned an M.B.A. to suggest that she had earned the degree, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. The degree in question is for Heather Bresch, the chief operating officer of a drug company and the daughter of West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin. The paper reported that when it originally asked about her degree, the university said she never finished the program, but then changed its tune to say that record-keeping errors were corrected and that she had earned the degree. But both professors and classmates suggested to the Post-Gazette that the university's story wasn't plausible and some remember Bresch leaving the program without a degree.
  • A software executive who founded an Alabama company called the Access Group admitted in state court on Wednesday that he gave more than $270,000 to Roy Johnson, the former chancellor of Alabama's community college system, and to Johnson's family and friends, in return for help in winning college contracts, The Birmingham News reported. Winston Hayes, the executive, faces potentially long prison terms for the counts of bribery and money laundering to which had admitted guilt. His company won $14 million in contracts under the scheme.
  • Sallie Mae has announced plans for a $2.5 billion stock offering, seeking to regain financial momentum and deal with its obligations in the wake of a collapsed deal by investors to buy the student-loan giant, The Wall Street Journal reported.
  • Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a California Republican, on Wednesday proposed a series of programs designed to produce an additional 20,000-24,000 engineers in the state over the next decade. Among the ideas: expanded engineering preparation in elementary and secondary schools, new apprenticeship programs in community colleges, and special programs at public universities to help veterans with some engineering training in the military earn degrees.
  • Florida State University is expected to field a football team missing 35 players at the Music City Bowl Monday, some number of whom are part of an investigation into possible cheating, the Associated Press reported. Florida State's president, T.K. Wetherell, issued a statement in which he expressed regret over the situation but also argued that the number of athletes did not reflect a widespread problem. "The violations focused on a poorly structured online course, lack of attention to detail by a faculty member, and insufficient oversight by the athletic department of one rogue tutor -- all coming together to result in a 'contaminated' class," he said.
  • Attracted by generous financial aid packages, an increasing number of top British students are applying to Ivy League institutions for their undergraduate education, The Times of London reported.
  • South Korea's university admissions process is experiencing chaos and criticism, following an announcement that a key standardized test had two correct answers, even though it was intended to have only one correct answer and was originally graded that way, Yonhap News reported. Scoring on the Scholastic Ability Test is done in a way that a single change in the number of questions correctly answered could have a significant impact on whether an applicant is admitted to some universities. The flawed multiple-choice question, in the physics portion of the test, was based on the assumption (unstated) that a given gas was made up of monatomic molecules. However, testing officials admitted that another answer would be correct if a student assumed that the gas was made up of polyatomic molecules and there was nothing in the question to make that assumption incorrect.
  • Hook-ups at the Modern Language Association meeting are legendary -- and, many say, frequently belong in the study of fiction. Whether this Craigslist posting is serious or parody, we don't know (we haven't heard back, although clearly the person posting wasn't seeking a journalistic question about his intentions). But the posting, spotted by a source who asked not to be credited for the find, has prompted some hallway jokes at the meeting. If you want to read a pick-up proposal involving tweed, bondage, Alexander Pope and eBay, the link is worth following.
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