Sunday, September 8, 2019
Today's New York Times features an article reporting on the growing problem of internet based services that ghostwrite student academic papers for a fee. The NYT reports that many of these services are based overseas, primarily in Kenya, India, and Ukraine, where educated workers far outnumber good jobs leading some to choose a career ghostwriting school papers for American college students. A 2005 study referenced in the story notes that approximately 7% of college students admit to turning in a paper for academic credit "written by someone else." And these "papers for hire" can be hard to detect in terms of cheating since they are original works and thus won't be flagged by anti-plagiarism software like Turnitin (thought that company has just rolled out a new product to deal with this phenomenon called Authorship Investigate). A quick Google search of "help writing law school assignments" turned up several hits though some were aimed at helping students with law school admission essays or undergraduates in legal studies programs.
Here's the article:
Tuition was due. The rent was, too. So Mary Mbugua, a university student in Nyeri, Kenya, went out in search of a job. At first, she tried selling insurance policies, but that only paid on commission and she never sold one. Then she sat behind the reception desk at a hotel, but it ran into financial trouble.
Finally, a friend offered to help her break into “academic writing,” a lucrative industry in Kenya that involves doing school assignments online for college students in the United States, Britain and Australia. Ms. Mbugua felt conflicted.
“This is cheating,” she said. “But do you have a choice? We have to make money. We have to make a living.”
Since federal prosecutors charged a group of rich parents and coaches this year in a sprawling fraud and bribery scheme, the advantages that wealthy American students enjoy in college admissions have been scrutinized. Less attention has been paid to the tricks some well-off students use to skate by once they are enrolled.
Cheating in college is nothing new, but the internet now makes it possible on a global, industrial scale. Sleek websites — with names like Ace-MyHomework and EssayShark — have sprung up that allow people in developing countries to bid on and complete American homework assignments.
Although such businesses have existed for more than a decade, experts say demand has grown in recent years as the sites have become more sophisticated, with customer service hotlines and money-back guarantees. The result? Millions of essays ordered annually in a vast, worldwide industry that provides enough income for some writers to make it a full-time job.
. . . .
“It’s a huge problem,” said Tricia Bertram Gallant, director of the academic integrity office at the University of California, San Diego.“If we don’t do anything about it, we will turn every accredited university into a diploma mill.”
When such websites first emerged over a decade ago, they featured veiled references to tutoring and editing services, said Dr. Bertram Gallant, who also is a board member of the International Center for Academic Integrity, which has worked to highlight the danger of contract cheating. Now the sites are blatant.
“You can relax knowing that our reliable, expert writers will produce you a top quality and 100% plagiarism free essay that is written just for you, while you take care of the more interesting aspects of student life,” reads the pitch from Academized, which charges about $15 a page for a college freshman’s essay due in two weeks and $42 a page for an essay due in three hours.
“No matter what kind of academic paper you need, it is simple and secure to hire an essay writer for a price you can afford,” promises EssayShark.com. “Save more time for yourself.”
. . . .
Contract cheating is illegal in 17 states, but punishment tends to be light and enforcement rare. Experts said that no federal law in the United States, or in Kenya, forbids the purchase or sale of academic papers, although questions remain about whether the industry complies with tax laws.
“Because American institutions haven’t been whacked over the head like Australian schools were, it’s easier to pretend that it’s not happening,” said Bill Loller, vice president of product management for Turnitin, a company that develops software to detect plagiarism. “But it’s absolutely happening.”
Mr. Loller said he had worked with some colleges that have students who have never shown up for class or completed a single assignment. “They’ve contracted it all out,” he said.
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