Adams State University takes steps to address academic fraud

(01-15-2015)

Adams State University President David Svaldi announced the university is freezing new enrollments in its print-based correspondence courses, pending external review of the student verification process.

The measure was taken in response to a Chronicle of Higher Education report of fraudulent activities by an individual who admitted he completed assignments and exams and bribed test proctors on behalf of student-athletes. He said he helped college athletes meet NCAA eligibility by attaining transfer credit from Adams State and other institutions over the last 14 years.

"Although we have revised distance education policies in recent years to prevent cheating, this additional review will help us further assure academic integrity," Svaldi said. "We will implement state-of-the-art recommendations that preserve and guarantee academic integrity and will discontinue any delivery method or course that is weak in that regard."

Adams State University President David Svaldi

The university is discontinuing its Math 155 course, mentioned in the Chronicle article by officials at Mt. San Antonio College and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. It was offered only online as part of a two-course sequence geared to elementary school teachers.

Students currently enrolled in correspondence courses will be permitted to complete them, and the courses will continue to be available to students enrolled through the Colorado Department of Corrections.

"We have confirmed with NCAA officials that no Adams State coaches or athletes, past or present, were involved in these illegal activities," Svaldi said.

He said the university plans to work with its accrediting agency, the Higher Learning Commission, and to engage external evaluators to review its policies and processes.

Adams State's Extended Studies program provides distance education online, via correspondence, and through face-to-face courses presented off campus. During the 2013-14 academic year, the program logged approximately 7,800 distance education enrollments.

"Distance education is very valuable to students in isolated, rural areas, to those who lack internet access, and to adult students working to further their education while juggling work and family responsibilities," Svaldi added. "The vast majority of these students are honest and conscientious. Unfortunately, they will suffer from the actions of a small subset that has exploited these services to commit academic fraud."

Located in the small, southern Colorado city of Alamosa, Adams State University was founded in 1921 specifically to educate teachers for rural communities. It has evolved into a comprehensive university that offers a range of undergraduate disciplines, as well as selected master's and doctoral-level programs. Throughout its history, Adams State has been crucial to enhancing the area's educational opportunity, economic development, and cultural enrichment. It continues a historic commitment to under-served populations, including underrepresented minorities, first-generation, and low-income students.

By Julie Waechter