Academic Dishonesty: An Exploratory Study Examining Whether Insurance Students Are Different from Other College Students

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ABSTRACT

This exploratory study compares academic dishonesty scores for insurance students in one insurance program to those for other college students using survey data from business and nonbusiness students at two universities. Academic dishonesty was measured using a modified version of a scale developed by McCabe and Trevino, with a higher score indicating greater academic dishonesty. The average score on total academic dishonesty was significantly higher for insurance students than for other business students and lower, but not significantly so, than the scores for nonbusiness students. Regression analysis indicates that a significant predictor of academic dishonesty for both insurance students and other business students is the perceived relevance of the work to the student's major coursework. There were some differences, however, in the other significant predictors for insurance students versus other business students. Specifically, year in school was significant only for insurance majors, while membership in a Greek social organization and a belief that there was a low risk of getting caught were significant only for other business majors. Furthermore, the significant predictors of academic dishonesty were different for insurance students and nonbusiness students. Overall, the results indicate that insurance students are more likely to engage in academically dishonest behavior than other business students, and the motivation for academic dishonesty differs for insurance students and other students (both nonbusiness and other business). This suggests a need for insurance educators to address academic dishonesty using an approach that is somewhat different than that used for other students.

Many in the educational system are concerned with the problem of academic dishonesty and the rate at which it is increasing (McCabe and Trevino, 1997; Park, 2003). The estimate of how many students cheat ranges dramatically. McCabe and Trevino (1997, p. 379) offer a range from 13 percent to as high as 95 percent, and Park (2003) states it as at least 50 percent of students. In the business literature, Kidwell et al. (2003) and Chapman et al. (2004) found that 75 percent of students reported cheating. Their findings are similar to the 63 percent found by Nonis and Swift (1998). Finally, there is concern that academic dishonesty is increasing due to changes in technology that make it easier for students to cheat (Born, 2003; Park, 2003).

This issue is critical for business schools as it seems to mirror the growing concerns of ethical problems in the business community (Chapman et al., 2004; Kidwell et al., 2003; Stancavage, 2007). There is concern that students who perceive that people in the business community act unethically may also feel the need to act unethically in order to advance in their business careers (Lawson, 2004). Research also indicates that those who cheat in college are more likely to cheat on the job (Swift and Nonis, 1998). "Ethical behavior lapses in business may be presaged by ethical lapses of students (cheating) who plan to make business their career" (Alimon et al., 2000, p. 411). Thus, there is a relationship between students' ethical behavior in the classroom and their attitude toward ethical behavior in the business world (Lawson, 2004). This suggests an increased need for business schools to address academic dishonesty because what students learn as acceptable behavior in the classroom impacts their expectation of what is acceptable professionally.

In the insurance field Specifically, there have been discussions of both ethical concerns and approaches to addressing them (see, e.g., Cooper, 1998; Cooper and Frank, 2002; Cooper and Frank, 2005). These ethical challenges impact both the property-liability and life insurance businesses (Cooper and Frank, 2002), are attracting political and legal attention (Ruquet, 2007), and impact insurance professionals' reputations, businesses, and professional relationships (Hamburger, 2007). …

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