Kinsey bill would make academic fraud criminal offense in Pennsylvania

Case involving UNC basketball program shows need for criminal deterrents

HARRISBURG, March 26 – Perpetrating academic fraud, like what occurred over two decades involving no-show classes at the University of North Carolina, would be criminally punishable in Pennsylvania under a bill proposed by state Rep. Stephen Kinsey, D-Phila.

His bill, which will be introduced into the House Judiciary Committee in the coming weeks, would legally define academic fraud as a felony.

"When a college or university cheats for its students to keep scholarships or to remain competitive in an athletic arena, it is literally stealing from students and in many cases taxpayers," said Kinsey, D-Phila. "That is a crime, and it’s time we treat it as such."

Academic fraud is not currently punishable in criminal courts.

Under the proposal, a person would be charged with a third-degree felony if he or she attempted to or helped a student obtain a credit, grade or test score by fraudulent means, or changed a score, grade or credit in exchange for goods or services.

A perpetrator involving student athletes would be charged with a second-degree felony if he or she accepted goods or services for teaching a no-show class, steered a student athlete into a no-show class for the sake of athletic eligibility, attempted to or forged a grade or credit, or systematically conducted fraudulent business to ensure a student athlete’s academic eligibility.

UNC last year disclosed academic fraud, which is believed to have taken place over an 18-year period and involved up to 3,100 student athletes who were enrolled in teacherless, no-show classes. In 2014, the NCAA reported that it processed a record 22 major violations and handled roughly 5,000 secondary violations of academic fraud across the country.

"My plan offers a deterrent to what can obviously become a deeply institutionalized scheme if left unchecked," Kinsey said. "If an administrator or faculty member thinks that depriving a student from an education is worth a run at a championship or to retain scholarships, they should be punished. It’s time to stand up for a true education, fiscal responsibility and good morals."