Widespread Cheating Alleged In Tulane Double-Degree Program

The campus of Francisco Marroquin University in Guatemala City, Guatemala. FMU photo


A major problem with the program, Hodgson says, is its condensed structure. It includes a couple of trips to New Orleans for “semester” courses in three and a half days. Tulane Ph.D. students also come down to Guatemala City to teach courses over two weekends. “That’s really where I said, ‘Forget this. I’m not going to learn a full semester in three and a half days.’ The whole thing was just a mess. Hodgson recalls a Tulane professor saying at the conclusion of one three-day class, “It’s a take-home exam and it’s due in two weeks, and you can only work on it alone and with the materials, I’ve given you in class.” But, he adds, “of course I just thought this was a joke. You know that everyone’s going to work on this as a group project, basically.” Meanwhile, students who opt to study at UFM’s satellite campus in Panamá only attend classes on weekends. “Almost every single class they give in Panamá is just weekends, two weekends a month or whatever,” Hodgson says. “There’s not even a night-time class, just weekend classes.” Those students joined the Guatemala cohort in traveling to Tulane, making for a total group of about 50. Hodgson says he was the only non-Hispanic student in the group.

“I had started one other course at Tulane but pulled out, because I just thought it was the three- to four-day problem, and I just thought, ‘I’m not going to learn the whole thing in four days, so I’m going to find another way to resolve this.’ And all they do is they get together in groups and resolve it. They just go and do a group assignment, that’s how they get through the program.”

When he sought assistance with classes, he ran into silence, interrupted only by inconsistent messages. “I would email back and forth with the professors and get them to come and meet with me, so I could get some support outside, but it was fleeting. There was one assistant to a professor who would come and sit in on the classes but he didn’t have office hours, and there were no discussion sections. He declined to help me outside class.

“I had hoped to resolve the situation by moving to Tulane in New Orleans for at least an education. However, after their unwillingness to resolve my concerns I want nothing to do with either university. It’s just sad because I dropped a bunch of my cash on this. Basically, I wasted two years of my life, basically inadvertently, and it really delayed my own entrance into another MBA program or a master’s program. And it just underlines the negative stereotype that many people have, that many business schools are a scam. That’s, unfortunately, the case, in this instance.”

The campus of Francisco Marroquin University in Guatemala City, Guatemala. FMU photo


So what did he do? Because of the cheating, Hodgson immediately began looking at getting out of the program. He expected any degree he received to be worthless because “I didn’t expect anyone else to take it seriously.” He began planning his applications to other programs.

After six months he left, not even bothering to find out how he scored on exams. He applied to schools in Canada, Switzerland, and the United States, including the University of Montreal, St. Gallen University, and Southern Methodist University. Initially, he thought he would be confined to Master of Finance programs for financial reasons. “I had no idea that scholarship money was available, and I had written off U.S. MBA programs because I’d always seen the $120-130,000 price tag and just said, ‘Well, forget that, I’m not paying that much.’

But when he started actually applying to programs in the spring of 2018, some American programs started offering full-tuition scholarships. “This is not what I expected.”

“I was close to going to SMU and paying $50k for their Master of Science in Finance, but I just thought, ‘Just hold off.’ Instead, I spent basically a year in Guatemala resolving my next applications and preparing for the GMAT. And it paid off.” Hodgson scored a 730 on the GMAT and Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business was one of three schools to offer him a full-tuition scholarship; he will start his MBA there in the fall.

“Guatemala was just wasted time,” he says. “If I had known that I would have gone through this, I would have definitely just applied to American schools a year or two earlier.”

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