Dec. 4, 2020

What does ‘pay to pass’ mean and why does it matter to you?

There have been a number of recent reports of companies hiring UCalgary students and then pressuring them to violate university policy. Some of the policy violations include these ‘pay to pass’ tutoring companies, wanting students to provide class materials to them, booking on-campus study spaces they can use to recruit more students, and having students give them their course email contact list so the tutoring company can advertise their business to their classmates.
Pay to pass
What does ‘pay to pass’ mean and why does it matter to you?

Have you been asked to do any of these things by a third-party company? If so, you may have been contacted to work for a ‘pay to pass’ tutoring company.

Unethical tutoring practices on campus

While many tutoring companies are ethical, some are not. These are three of the main issues related to ‘pay to pass’ tutoring services:

  1. They misrepresent themselves as being officially affiliated with universities

An example of this is by asking the students they hire to email their classmates from their UCalgary accounts in order to advertise the company’s services

  1. They misuse university resources

For instance, they do this by asking students to book on-campus study spaces (such as in the TFDL) which the company uses for commercial purposes

  1. They solicit students to engage in academically unethical behaviour

One of the many examples of this is convincing students to give the company their instructor’s lecture notes and course materials. Did you know that course materials are generally the intellectual property of the instructor? Selling, sharing or distributing course material owned by instructors without their permission violates intellectual property rights.

Always read the fine print

The agreements some tutoring companies have students sign stipulates that it’s the student’s responsibility to understand the academic integrity requirements at their institution. Simply put, the tutoring company won’t tell you if what they’re asking you to do conforms with your university policy. And if the company does ask you to do something that’s shady (or outright prohibited), it’s up to you to know the rules of your institution. Remember - integrity matters all the time, in every decision you make.

Examples of policy violations

Some tutoring companies ask their student employees to violate a number of university policies. While this by no means offers a comprehensive list, here are a few of the policy violations tutoring companies may ask students to engage in:

  • Providing class materials to a third-party
  • Booking space in a student’s name on behalf of a third-party for commercial use (such as conducting job interviews or hosting seminars)
  • Using your university-issued email account to contact classmates on behalf of a third-party to promote a company’s services

These violations can put you at risk of serious consequences, including possible suspension or even expulsion from university.

On-campus resources you can access for free

Many of the class materials sold by ‘pay to pass’ companies are available for free through your D2L account. Simply log in and see what you have available in your account.

One of the on-campus supports you can participate in is the Peer Assisted Study Sessions (PASS) program. The free sessions are hosted by a PASS leader who has already achieved a high grade in the course they’re facilitating, and they also receive support from the instructor who is teaching the course.

In addition to the PASS program, the Student Success Centre offers writing support, and specialized support for international and graduate students. They also have academic development specialists on staff who are available to help you develop study skills and make a long-term academic plan.