Cram Shop

A-Plus makes the money even if students don't make the grade

"The reason I have to do it is because someone has stolen my work and perverted the system," Copeland says.

But Ahmed describes his style as more utopian than Enron-esque. He likens A-Plus to the Princeton Review and Kaplan tutoring programs. Saying America is a place where "everybody helps everybody out," Ahmed claims his intent is only to help students.

Those who bring him the tests don't receive cash, but they do get discounted rates from A-Plus. If some profs don't allow their tests to be taken out of the classroom, then how could Ahmed get those exams if they weren't pilfered?

Professor Copeland says A-Plus perverts the system.
Professor Copeland says A-Plus perverts the system.

"This is a good question," he says. "Am I the one to ask, 'Did you steal this from somebody?' I'm no one to judge anybody. I don't play God."

He says that even Best Buy shoppers can't be 100 percent sure they're not bringing home a stolen TV. But if somehow God signaled to Ahmed that a test was indeed stolen, he says, he would not buy it.

Ahmed says he was a UH tutor in the early to mid-'90s, when he and other tutors turned their talents into a commercial enterprise. They rented conference rooms in the on-campus Hilton and conducted their own after-hours sessions for students. That led to the creation of A-Plus, which expanded to Lubbock last summer to help Texas Tech students.

While UH officials shun A-Plus, there is a connection of sorts between them. The university's Center for Mexican-American Studies pays Ahmed's brother Saquib, a chemistry teacher at Milby High School, to tutor their students. He conducts his $8-an-hour sessions at A-Plus, although UH pays him directly, rather than through the company.

Rebecca Trevino, manager of the center's Urban Experiences Program, says the tutoring sessions pay off -- students who attend Saquib's reviews tend to perform well on tests.

Brotherton is hoping the same will hold true for her this time around. She doesn't consider what she's doing cheating, and she doesn't believe Ahmed is exploiting her.

So she'll continue to pay her $30, hoping that eventually it will pay off. And if she has an inquiry about one of the questions she's trying to memorize, well, that's her tough luck.

"I don't know if I would really…rely on them knowing [the material], because they're not in the class," she says. "So pretty much you're on your own."

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