Buying a 2400: The SAT Cheating Scandal

In the never-ending quest to get into America’s top colleges, some students have turned to a more insidious approach: cheating on the SAT and ACT. “Prosecutors said 15 high school students hired five other people for anywhere from $500 to $3,600 each to take the SAT or ACT for them,” reports Fox News. At least twenty current or former students from Great Neck, New York, a suburb of New York City, have been implicated in the scandal. While prosecutors suspect that forty students were involved in the cheating, the statute of limitations has expired for some of these students.

After rumors of cheating arose at Great Neck North High School, administrators investigated the reports by looking at students who took the tests at a different school and whose academic record greatly differed from their test scores.  In late September, Nassau County prosecutors arrested Sam Eshaghoff, a 2010 graduate of Great Neck North High School, who allegedly took tests for six current Great Neck students. Since then, the case has expanded to two public schools and three private schools in the area. Prosecutors have charged the test takers with scheming to defraud, falsifying business records, and criminal impersonation.

With more pressure than ever to get the highest test scores as possible to be more competitive for college admissions, it is not surprising that cheating has occurred. In fact, it would be astonishing if more instances of this type of cheating do not arise as the investigation continues. Affluent families already spend thousands or tens of thousands of dollars each year on private SAT tutoring so the idea that wealthy students would pay others to take the SAT for them is not unreasonable.

Although the College Board has hired former FBI director Louis J. Freeh to investigate security issues with the test, the organization faces a monumental task. In 2010, 1,547,990 students took the SAT. Since many of the cheaters used fake IDs to pose as other students, effectively verifying the identities of so many people could be nearly impossible. There needs to be a more stringent process of authentication in order to uphold the legitimacy of the standardized test.

While colleges look for students with high marks in math, reading, and writing, perhaps they should look for a fourth category: integrity.

Will Duncan