The probe was triggered by the resignation of instructor Belinda Frost from the program at the Cedar City, Utah, school, designed to help international students, many from Saudi Arabia, prepare for college-level work. Frost estimated 20 percent of the writing assignments she graded contained unattributed material from sources common on the Internet.
The clues included unusual choices of adjectives or American slang a Saudi student would not likely know, Frost said, adding suspected cheaters often laundered plagiarized passages through the Internet service Google Translate.
She said she routinely failed the students in question and reported the instances of cheating to supervisors, but saw the students escaping discipline, advancing to the next level of instruction and even enrolled as full-time undergraduates.
The incident that forced her to leave the school, she said, was a grade of B-plus, given by another teacher, on a paper nearly entirely cribbed from an entry in the Internet encyclopedia Wikipedia, calling it "indicative of the lack of standards in our program" in her letter of resignation.
Mark Atkinson, dean of continuing and professional studies, is preparing a report on the alleged plagiarism, as well as an analysis of the qualifications of the program's teachers, The Salt Lake Tribune reported Monday.
Frost noted about 200 students are in the English as a Second Language program, mostly Saudi citizens whose educations are paid for by their government, bringing in a revenue stream to the university of up to $20,000 per student.