Anxious to get ahead in today's forbidding labor market, college students have begun cheating on a heretofore unknown scale.
The illicit paper-writing trade used to be confined to a handful of suppliers. Now there are dozens of paper mills targeting different geographic markets or specializing in specific academic disciplines. And the trade is growing more lucrative by the semester.
Unemployedprofessors.com fulfilled more than 4,500 contracts from 2013 to 2016, producing gross revenues of nearly $3 million. The company took 23% off the top as its fee for managing the online hiring hall. That translates into roughly $750,000, or $250,000 per year. The site has a single owner who claimed the lion’s share of those revenues – and probably never paid taxes on them.
And it’s not just undergraduate term papers anymore, but graduate master’s theses, PhD proposals and even entire PhD dissertations. And some ghost-writers obtain students’ pass-codes to complete their weekly class assignments, plus their mid-term exams and finals. In the Brave New World of online degrees and “distance- learning” some students are learning not just to avoid paper-writing — but to skip out on most of their course work, too.
Is this what the “free market” in ideas has finally come to? Students feel besieged and disillusioned by today’s labor market; they are afraid of chronic indebtedness that will bury them for years. They want a degree, and they’re increasingly hell-bent on getting one “by any means necessary.”
And with a glut of poorly-paid teachers, and out of work graduate students, there is a growing supply of would-be academic renegades, desperate to make a living, and all-too-willing to suspend their ethical qualms about letting others benefit from their work.
How long can this last? The value of a university degree — as a measure of a college student’s intellectual abilities — is already hotly debated. But not knowing if a students earned that degree on on his or her own merits only makes that skepticism deeper.
Over time, ghost-writing on this scale could corrode academia for years, even decades to come. And with so many schools still in denial or unwilling or unable to act, the practice could well continue unabated for just as long.