Half of College Students Say Using AI on Schoolwork Is Cheating or Plagiarism

In a new BestColleges survey, half of college students (51%) agree that using AI tools like ChatGPT on schoolwork constitutes cheating or plagiarism. About 1 in 5 use them anyway.
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Lyss Welding is a higher education analyst and data writer for BestColleges who specializes in translating massive data sets and finding statistics that matter to students. Lyss has worked in academic research, curriculum design, and program evaluati...
Published on March 17, 2023
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Data Summary

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    43% of college students have used ChatGPT or a similar AI application.
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    Of those who have used AI tools, 50% say they have used them to help complete assignments or exams. That's 22% of all college students in our survey.
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    However, most college students (57%) do not intend to use or continue using AI to complete their schoolwork.
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    31% say their instructors, course materials, or school honor codes have explicitly prohibited AI tools.
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    Over half of college students (54%) say their instructors have not openly discussed the use of AI tools like ChatGPT.
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    6 in 10 college students (60%) report that their instructors or schools haven't specified how to use AI tools ethically or responsibly.
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    61% of college students think AI tools like ChatGPT will become the new normal.

Looking for the latest data? BestColleges reissued this survey to college students in October 2023. Check out the new findings from our AI use in college survey.

Artificial intelligence (AI) tools like ChatGPT have professors fretting over the future of higher education. Meanwhile, college students may be wondering: Can AI help on school assignments? And if it can, is it cheating?

In a new BestColleges survey of 1,000 current undergraduate and graduate students, just over half of students (51%) agree that using AI tools to complete assignments and exams counts as cheating or plagiarism. Two in ten (20%) disagree, and the rest are neutral.

Overall, 43% of college students say they have experience using AI tools like ChatGPT. Of those who have used AI, half (50%) say they've used these tools on assignments or exams. This figure amounts to 22% of all respondents in our survey, meaning 1 in 5 college students use AI to complete their schoolwork.

It's far more popular for students to use AI tools just for kicks. Nine in ten students who have tried AI tools say they've used them for personal projects, out of curiosity, or for fun.

Most college students (57%) say they do not intend to use or continue using AI to complete assignments or exams. However, close to a third (32%) do, and 11% prefer not to answer.

Among students who say they've used AI tools for schoolwork, half (50%) use these tools for some parts but complete the majority themselves. Three in ten (30%) use AI for the majority of their assignment, and 17% use AI to complete an assignment then turn it in with no edits.

Only a Third of Students Say Colleges Prohibit AI Tools Like ChatGPT

While half of college students consider using AI tools cheating, institutions are still debating if they should ban AI from the classroom. Our survey finds almost one-third of students (31%) know about rules prohibiting AI tools at their schools. However, most students aren't hearing clear communication from their schools or instructors.

Over half of college students (54%) say their instructors have not openly discussed the use of AI tools like ChatGPT. And, most college students (60%) say that neither their schools nor instructors have specified how to use AI tools ethically or responsibly.

Our survey suggests that schools are more likely to have banned AI tools than to have explained how to use them appropriately. Just one-quarter of students (25%) say their schools or instructors have specified how to use AI ethically or responsibly.

4 in 10 Students Say Using AI Defeats the Purpose of Education

The prospect of AI may be shaping students' perspectives about the value of college. Forty percent of students say that the use of AI by students defeats the purpose of education.

Many students express concern about the impact of AI on their education or future careers, but they're more concerned about the impact of AI on society at large. Twenty-seven percent of college students worry about the impact of AI on their education, and 31% are worried about the impact on their career or potential career. Meanwhile, about half of students (48%) are worried about the impact of AI on society in general.

Even so, the majority of students (63%) agree that AI can't replace human intelligence or creativity.

Students with experience using AI tools are largely uncertain whether instructors can tell their work is AI-generated. Thirty-one percent of students think AI-generated work is undetectable, one-third (33%) say it isn't, and 36% are neutral.

Less than half of these students (43%) think these tools can generate accurate and reliable results, but most (51%) think the results can at least pass as "human."

Overall, college students who use AI tools like ChatGPT consider themselves to be proficient in the new tech. Sixteen percent of students say they have very high proficiency in AI tools, 29% say they have high proficiency, and 33% percent consider themselves in the middle of the scale. Only 22% rate their skills poorly.

Regardless of whether they use AI currently, most college students agree that AI is here to stay. Six in ten (61%) say AI tools like ChatGPT will become the new normal. So, it's time for higher education to face the generative pre-trained music.


This survey was conducted from March 6-13, 2023, and was fielded by Pure Spectrum. Survey participants included 1,000 respondents nationwide who were currently enrolled in an on-campus, online, or hybrid undergraduate or graduate degree program. Respondents were 16-61 years of age, with the majority (94%) ages 16-32, and currently pursuing an associate, bachelor's, master's, doctoral, or professional degree. The respondents for the survey were screened by various quality checks, including systems like Relevant ID, and responses were manually reviewed to ensure consistency and accuracy.