19

I attend a small liberal arts college in the US. Through the cross-registration program, we are permitted to take classes at a large state university at no extra cost to us. However, we are only allowed to enroll in one course at a time; the system will not allow us to take two during the same semester.

Next semester, I am interested in taking two courses at the university. The will both be very small; certainly under 15 students each. Both professors have told me I cannot attend their class without being officially enrolled (I asked both individually). I have been considering attending both classes and asking both professors to fill out the cross-registration form that would allow me to enroll in their class, but only turning in one professor's form. From my previous experience at this university, the registration takes 4-6 weeks to come through, but professors, of course, let you attend class before that happens, so they may forget about awaiting the registration during that time. Even if they ended up finding out that I never turned it in, I would still have received a month of instruction before that happens, which I find valuable.

I am curious about the ethical concerns about this from the standpoint of the professors. Obviously by being there I am giving them more work, but they are not paid according to the number of students attending their classes. On the other hand, I know that class enrollment is really important to directors of departments and higher-ups in the university, so they are doing the work of teaching me without getting the benefit of one more student in their enrollment numbers. And from a personal standpoint, I would feel absolutely terrible about developing a good relationship with a professor and having them find out I lied to them.

I am not asking to be told what to do (it's probably not a very good idea), I would just like to know if there are any other concerns with lying to get into this course that I am not considering.

edit/update: Wow, I was not expecting to get so many responses. I'm not going to respond to comments and answers individually but I appreciate all your feedback, even though a few of you are a bit rude. I definitely will not be attempting to take both courses. Unfortunately, the program doesn't allow audits, so I am going to choose one of the two courses and stick with it. Thanks again for sharing all of your perspectives.

  • 16
    State universities often allow people to take courses, even if they are not in a degree program at the university, by paying tuition on a per-course or per-credit basis. Have you considered doing something like this to take the second course? If the instruction is so valuable to you, maybe it's worth paying for... – Nate Eldredge Dec 9 '19 at 3:01
  • 47
    "Even if they ended up finding out that I never turned it in..." They obviously will. If nothing else, when they go to submit grades at the end of the semester, they will discover they can't submit a grade for you because you are not on the course roster. So besides being unethical, it's also dumb, because you are all but guaranteed to be caught and (as StrongBad says) punished. – Nate Eldredge Dec 9 '19 at 3:05
  • 27
    Can you clarify what exactly you want to know? To me your question reads something along the lines of “I am interested in the ethics of lying to get something I want but am not entitled to get honestly. Discuss.” That’s too vague for me to bother trying to answer, and besides that you obviously understand perfectly well that your idea is unethical and that you will probably get into trouble if you get caught, so it’s not clear to me what more needs to be said. Anyway, if you clarify the question I‘ll see if I have any other thoughts to suggest. – Dan Romik Dec 9 '19 at 3:54
  • 25
    The concern about lying should be that it would make you a liar. Isn't that enough? – Scott Seidman Dec 9 '19 at 15:14
  • 12
    Since your approach won't give you a proper grade (since you didn't register), you may as well just ask for permission to audit one of the courses. If necessary, the professor can decline to grade your assignments, reducing the burden of this request. I'll note that colleges will often be especially accommodating of students who are primarily seeking understanding (i.e., rather than seeking certification/transcript). – Brian Dec 9 '19 at 15:54

13 Answers 13

87

If I found out I was intentionally deceived by a student after telling them they could not take my class, I would alert my dean (I would go beyond the department chair) that said student was violating the rules and spirit of the exchange program. At a minimum I would expect that student to no longer be able to take advantage of the exchange and have their grade withheld from the other class. I would hope the home university would also punish this student for academic misconduct.

|improve this answer|||||
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – eykanal Dec 12 '19 at 16:02
66

Another point to consider is that cross-registration programs like this exist only by mutual agreement between the two institutions. If the large university starts to feel that the program is being abused by tricks like yours, or is otherwise more trouble than it's worth, they could pull out. This would deprive your fellow Small College students of this educational benefit, and it would be (at least partly) your fault.

|improve this answer|||||
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – cag51 Dec 13 '19 at 2:36
31

Easy answer: it's clearly unethical. Moreover it violates school policy and can lead to disciplinary action when discovered.

You might try politely to arrange an exception to the policy. Check with the professors to make sure that would be acceptable to them. (It will be if what they are doing, correctly, is following the rules. It might not be if they think for some reason that you should not be taking both courses.) With the professors' willingness in hand, talk to your academic advisor, or someone in student services who might know how to ask for a waiver.

|improve this answer|||||
  • Easy answer, and easily wrong one: It is clearly ethical. Regardless of what school policy is. – einpoklum Dec 11 '19 at 19:38
12

Do you want to take it for credit, or just audit (no credit, and possibly no transcript)? Is it appropriate to attend a class one is not registered for? - depends on the country and whether the univ is public or private. Based on what I've been told about US public universities, members of the general public have the right to audit a class (at a public university; as long as they're not disruptive and know the prerequisites, e.g. linear algebra). So please restate your question and delete all the references to 'lying' - which would suggest lying about your credentials for admission, or transcript, or nationality or visa status, which would indeed be a much more serious thing.

Based on what you wrote, you're merely asking to audit one extra course, not take it for-credit. "Both professors have told me I cannot attend their class without being officially enrolled" So? Possibly they misunderstood and thought you meant "take it for-credit"; because in the US, "take a course" generally means "take for-credit" vs "audit a course" means "audit". Maybe the professors have never had an audit student before and are unfamiliar. Maybe the whole college has never had an audit student. So: do your homework, ask around.

Go check the regulations about auditing, whether it's allowed, find out how to apply (there may or may not be a form and a deadline, or maybe email permssion is enough; also whether it appears on your transcript (showing 'Audit')), and henceforth use the word "audit" instead of "take". You may well need to check with the dept secretary, also the dean of external students, the student union. All this sidebar about 'deception' and 'misconduct' is a red herring. Your title needs restating.

EDIT: after I wrote my answer, OP subsequently posted that they are simply trying to attend the course without paying at all, that that the course doesn't allow audits, and yes intentionally lying about having registered. Kindly don't beat up on me for the sake of the OP. This answer is still a useful resource for people who do want to follow the rules.

|improve this answer|||||
  • 2
    At any university in the US I am familiar with, "auditing" is not just showing up for class, it means registering for that class as an auditing attendee and includes paying for the class. Both enrolled and non-enrolled students can potentially register, and there is typically a reduced rate (often quite reasonable) if the course is not taken as part of a degree program. – Bryan Krause Dec 9 '19 at 20:14
  • 3
    @BryanKrause: yes, me too, my point is that it's well-established for over a century that some process for 'auditing' is legally allowed, at least at US public universities. I told the OP to check the regulations (with college, not just the professors, who apparently haven't heard the word 'audit'). The fee for auditing may be nominal and is generally much lower than the regular tuition fee. All the sidebars about 'lying', 'misconduct' and 'expulsion' are making an off-topic mess out of this question and its answers. It's not like OP claiming they have a medical degree or BSCS or whatever. – smci Dec 9 '19 at 20:20
  • 1
    Do you have a source for this about having a right to audit classes at public universities? At most universities I have seen, the policy is very strictly "with instructor approval." – Morgan Rodgers Dec 10 '19 at 19:38
  • 1
    @smci I mean, I know what auditing is. I have never heard of any legal right to it. All of these links seem to say the policies are highly university specific, and almost all say they require explicit instructor approval (and paying for the class). Harvard is not a public university, but in the case of Harvard law they explicitly require the auditor to be associated with the university. – Morgan Rodgers Dec 11 '19 at 1:38
  • 2
    As the OP does NOT have instructor approval, and seems to be trying to avoid paying for the course, I'm not sure your answer applies to their situation. – Morgan Rodgers Dec 11 '19 at 1:45
8

I strongly recommend that you write back to both professors and explain your situation and that you are really interested to learn from them and ask whether there is a way for you to sit in for their classes, even if you don't get any grades or feedback on homework. All it takes is for one of those professors to agree, and you have a legal, ethical and officially approved solution! In the unlikely case that both professors refuse to help you, you can still write into your university administration and ask for special permission to officially audit one of the courses (so you do not violate the one-course-per-semester rule).

|improve this answer|||||
  • Students taking unpopular classes are pretty much certain to really want to learn what's being taught, wouldn't you say? ... Still, not a bad suggestion; it might work. +1. – einpoklum Dec 11 '19 at 19:36
  • 1
    @einpoklum: Unpopular classes, yea. But even popular classes... I knew some students who were from arts majors who wanted to take core mathematics classes out of interest, and I cannot think of any other reasonable reason than "they want to learn what's being taught there". =) – user21820 Dec 12 '19 at 1:54
0

Obviously by being there I am giving them more work, but they are not paid according to the number of students attending their classes. On the other hand, I know that class enrollment is really important to directors of departments and higher-ups in the university, so they are doing the work of teaching me without getting the benefit of one more student in their enrollment numbers.

They are not paid according to the number of students attending their classes, but they are also paid to grade work ONLY by enrolled students. It would be wrong for you to turn in any work for a professor to grade if you are not enrolled (often professors are explicitly barred by contract from grading un-enrolled work).

While you may "get away" (for a bit) with sitting in the lectures, you would not be able to have your work assessed and therefore would not really be getting the benefits of the course. There's no really good reason to do this, especially considering...

And from a personal standpoint, I would feel absolutely terrible about developing a good relationship with a professor and having them find out I lied to them.

There's no "even if" here. The professor will find out, and they will know something fishy is going on. The outcome of that will depend on the dispositions of that person, but don't hold the illusion that they won't find out about it and that they won't realize you put them in a difficult position.

|improve this answer|||||
  • 3
    "you would not be able to have your work assessed and therefore would not really be getting the benefits of the course" it is not obvious to me that one cannot get the benefits of a course if one does not get examined/assessed. In many cases, the lectures themselves are valuable for learning the content. Of course, it depends strongly on the type and content of the course. – wimi Dec 10 '19 at 8:16
0

Because this is a program that lets you take ONE class at no extra cost, it is possible this could be considered fraud. If various authorities in the various institutions wanted to push it, you could find yourself charged with fraud in the amount of the tuition for the class you falsely entered. That could, again if they wanted to push it hard enough, lead to a criminal conviction. The penalties for that would depend on the amount of the tuition.

|improve this answer|||||
0

Institutions, departments, and individual lecturers differ on their attitudes towards people attending lectures without having enrolled at the institution and/or for the specific lecture-course. In general, there are three categories of person:

  1. students enrolled at the institution and enrolled on the specific lecture-course;

  2. students enrolled at the institution but not on the specific lecture-course; and

  3. other.

(whether the OP counts as §2 or §3 is a matter for debate, but I am assuming that §3 would apply)

For seminars and highly interactive teaching, attendance may be restricted to §1.

For lectures (as opposed to seminars or highly interactive teaching), many institutions have a policy of allowing §1 and §2 as a matter of entitlement. As for §3, it varies enormously: some institutions explicitly permit anyone (including the general public) to attend lectures (whether the lecturer likes it or not), whilst others may be more restrictive.

Where institutions do not provide entitlement to §3 to attend lectures, it may still be possible. Many lecturers are actually quite permissive, even if institutional policies may oblige them to say that §3 are not permitted (because university managements want to protect their enrolment income). So, if you are in §3, go to the lectures, but ensure you:

  • sit at the back;
  • do not draw attention to yourself (e.g.: by asking off-topic questions);
  • do not record the lecture (because it would be copyright infringement and a violation of privacy -- students should feel comfortable asking questions, and lecturers should feel able to speak candidly, without worrying that a comment may be taken out of context and published all over the www); and
  • do not expect any individual feedback from the lecturer.

Some lecturers would expect you to obtain permission in advance, but many lecturers would not be bothered at all (when I give lectures, I do not even bother checking whether everyone in the room is in §1 or §2; to be honest, I am flattered when there are people wanting to come to my lectures just out of interest in the subject, rather than because they want "credits").

|improve this answer|||||
0

(I'll leave aside the obvious ethics concerns of lying and possibly fraud, and the consequences as others have explained that already)

 Next semester, I am interested in taking two courses at the university.

we are only allowed to enroll in one course at a time

Is at least one of those courses run regularly? I.e. could you take it a semester or a year later? => that would be the obvious, ethical and otherwise correct solution.

If this is not possible, e.g.

  • because the courses are one-off offers, or
  • you already know that your schedule at your "home college" later on will not permit you to attend the course

I'd talk to administration (of the exchange program) whether under these specific circumstances you may be allowed you to enroll for both courses now, and in turn not enroll in any course via the exchange program in the next semester.

In my experience (which is not in the US academic system, though), being friendly, open and honest often gets one a very long way.

|improve this answer|||||
-2

Larger institution will support Masters and PhD students by offering part-time employment (known as Tutors or Teaching Assistants) to assist the Professors who deliver the lectures. These students are likely to grade assignments and mark exams. By lying to get into a course you are increasing the workload of these students without compensation. They will have less time for their own studies. As your actions can penalise other students lying would be unethical.

|improve this answer|||||
-2

Dulce et decorum est pro educatione mentiri.

Both professors have told me I cannot attend their class without being officially enrolled (I asked both individually)... I am curious about the ethical concerns about this from the standpoint of the professors.

Your concern is well-placed: It is quite unethical for the Professors to refuse to let you sit their class if you're not enrolled, when you are not actually preventing any other students from doing the same.

Teaching the public is a duty of the academic - and registration, enrollment or payment are wholly secondary considerations. To deny someone schooling is unacceptable. Shame on them. They would certainly have no moral standing to impeach your ethics in this situation. (Of course, that's not to say that they wouldn't).

|improve this answer|||||
  • This does not answer the OP's question. – Aventinus Dec 11 '19 at 19:57
  • @Aventinus: I believe it does, but - edited slightly to clarify how. – einpoklum Dec 11 '19 at 20:02
  • 1
    You can have whatever opinions you like regarding the ethics of capitalism, but we live in the real world. Who would pay for a college education if they knew they could just attend and demand one for free? If you think university education is a basic right, you should be championing the cause politically, not encouraging strangers to lie to their professors. – Chris Dec 12 '19 at 6:49
  • @Chris: 1. In many countries, university education is gratis anyway. 2. In most (?) other countries, you can always attend classes for free - and yet somehow there is no dearth of students registering. So, it is you who needs to champion the cause of throwing people out of class because they haven't paid. Good luck with that though. – einpoklum Dec 12 '19 at 8:10
  • @einpoklum-reinstateMonica What is true in "many" or "most" countries is irrelevant- OP makes it very clear that they are in the US, where university education is not gratis, and there is no standard at universities to allow anybody to attend classes for free. – Chris Dec 12 '19 at 9:18
-3

Enroll in the state college and take whatever classes you want. (Kinda joking)

It’s your education: if you think both classes will help achieve your goal, then do whatever is in your best interest.

I’ll give an example from my time in school. I wanted to go into the cyber security field, but the college I lived around didn’t offer that degree - only computer science. I took most of the intro computer science classes till I was far enough along to start taking elective classes. I took all the classes I could think of that would pertain to cyber security. After I had a lot of knowledge under my belt from taking the elective classes I started applying for cyber security jobs. Once I got a job I dropped out of school altogether and only finishing about half of the computer science degree. I worked at that job for about a year then I started taking online classes to finish my computer science degree (at a different school, I might add). I finished my BS in Computer Science while I’m still working in the cyber field. So I now have almost 3 years experience and a BS in computer science vs most people that come out of school only taking the classes they were told to take with no experience in any field and only a degree which everyone else has also.

The point is that the school doesn’t have you in mind, they have your money in mind. If you know what you want to do when you get out of school, then hack the system to your benefit and don’t worry about the school. It’s your time and money; always have your self in mind first.

|improve this answer|||||
-7

If the class is limited to 15 students then there are going to be 15 chairs in the room that is alloted for the class. If you don't turn in your form you are going to show up for class and make someone have to stand. It is going to be known that you are a cheat.

Edit:

For as many down votes as I am getting some people should explain their reasoning.

The universities and colleges I have been at are broke down into schools and then into majors/departments. Each school has control over a certain number of buildings that they then allot to each department. Each building is not the soul use of the department. There are common areas, janitorial, maintenance, etc. Of what is left over, about 1/4 is usually dedicated to the specific department in the form of class labs, and upper level course classes seating ~25 students. 1/4 are larger classes that seat ~35-50 student. This 1/4 has to be shared with all other departments across all the schools as needed. 1/2 of the space is dedicated to each of the professors labs.

There is a certain amount of space set aside by each school for the base classes that everyone has to take. These are rooms that can hold 75 to +100. Think Cal1, Physics 1,

All of the classes that ares 50 or less seats have a cap set at the seat count level. I have never seen the cap set at a seat count level less than the seats available. Rarely are we able to move a class to a larger place. At most, if we see demand, we can add classes to be held in the smaller rooms at times they are not being used. It is cheap to have salaried professors teach another class, grad students teach, or add Grad/Undergrad TAs.

I have had many times when seat have to be brought into a class when there is a special speaker during a class and there is demand that we allow more students in for that one time.

Again, for those commenting and down voting. It would be nice for a more factual elaboration.

|improve this answer|||||
  • 5
    They will be found out, but not because of the number of chairs in the room... – daisy Dec 9 '19 at 16:57
  • 4
    Number of seats? In a university? Does someone rearange the seats between rooms in the breaks? – Mayou36 Dec 9 '19 at 16:59
  • 3
    @Mayou36 That would explain where all the money is going – Azor Ahai Dec 9 '19 at 17:16
  • 2
    @NDEthos What are you talking about? The limiting factor is almost never the number of physical chairs. If the class gets close to being that crowded, they get moved to a larger classroom. – Greg Schmit Dec 9 '19 at 21:09
  • 1
    @NDEthos I have never once seen a class be completely filled so that 0 seats are available. They don't do that. – user64742 Dec 11 '19 at 1:14

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.