Student for Hire
The Chronicle of Higher Education ran a fascinating article by a guy who claims to write academic papers for struggling and/or lazy college students, and make a very decent living at it, clearing more than $65,000 a year. Granted, the whole article could be a complete fabrication — it’s hard to tell when you are dealing with someone who is a professional liar by his own admission — but it sounds completely plausible. From my teaching experience, I can confidently say that even the best students are tempted to cheat, so it stands to reason there would be a market to aid in that process. The article is the best thing I’ve read all week, and therefore worth reading in its entirety, but this section jumped out at me:
It is late in the semester when the business student contacts me, a time when I typically juggle deadlines and push out 20 to 40 pages a day. I had written a short research proposal for her a few weeks before, suggesting a project that connected a surge of unethical business practices to the patterns of trade liberalization. The proposal was approved, and now I had six days to complete the assignment. This was not quite a rush order, which we get top dollar to write. This assignment would be priced at a standard $2,000, half of which goes in my pocket.
A few hours after I had agreed to write the paper, I received the following e-mail: “sending sorces for ur to use thanx.”
I did not reply immediately. One hour later, I received another message:
“did u get the sorce I send
please where you are now?
Desprit to pass spring projict”
Not only was this student going to be a constant thorn in my side, but she also communicated in haiku, each less decipherable than the one before it. I let her know that I was giving her work the utmost attention, that I had received her sources, and that I would be in touch if I had any questions. Then I put it aside.
From my experience, three demographic groups seek out my services: the English-as-second-language student; the hopelessly deficient student; and the lazy rich kid.
For the last, colleges are a perfect launching ground—they are built to reward the rich and to forgive them their laziness. Let’s be honest: The successful among us are not always the best and the brightest, and certainly not the most ethical. My favorite customers are those with an unlimited supply of money and no shortage of instructions on how they would like to see their work executed. While the deficient student will generally not know how to ask for what he wants until he doesn’t get it, the lazy rich student will know exactly what he wants. He is poised for a life of paying others and telling them what to do. Indeed, he is acquiring all the skills he needs to stay on top.
As for the first two types of students—the ESL and the hopelessly deficient—colleges are utterly failing them. Students who come to American universities from other countries find that their efforts to learn a new language are confounded not only by cultural difficulties but also by the pressures of grading. The focus on evaluation rather than education means that those who haven’t mastered English must do so quickly or suffer the consequences. My service provides a particularly quick way to “master” English. And those who are hopelessly deficient—a euphemism, I admit—struggle with communication in general.
The problem of the lazy rich kid has been around since universities have existed. Many of the early universities existed for the sole purpose of giving the second sons of nobility a place to drink and just enough instruction that none of the peasants or gentry would later realize they were actually terrible barristers and priests. The problem is likely intractable without massive monitoring costs, which would likely outweigh the benefits.
The other two groups are more tragic. Some of the brightest students at American universities come from abroad, and if they are not properly educated, the world could miss out on some major innovations and breakthroughs. If this is indeed a persistent problem, colleges would be well-advised to invest more in English-as-a-second-language instruction if they want to continue attracting high-caliber students from across the globe.
Finally, the “hopelessly deficient” probably should not be in college in the first place. That sounds harsh, and in some ways it is, but if someone struggles with basic communication to that extent, there is little of meaning that they can get from the college experience — at least, nothing that they can’t get by hanging out in a lot of bars during their early 20s. Furthermore, even if these students pass through college with the help of paid cheaters, they will likely be incapable of performing most of the jobs that require a college degree. It would be better for them to pursue some other career path earlier before wasting several years and untold amounts of money — including support from their colleges and the government — preparing for tasks they cannot fulfill.
I also found the fields most likely to use this service (again, this is at best anecdotal) disheartening, but not terribly surprising: nursing students, seminarians, and … prospective teachers:
I’d say education is the worst. I’ve written papers for students in elementary-education programs, special-education majors, and ESL-training courses. I’ve written lesson plans for aspiring high-school teachers, and I’ve synthesized reports from notes that customers have taken during classroom observations. I’ve written essays for those studying to become school administrators, and I’ve completed theses for those on course to become principals. In the enormous conspiracy that is student cheating, the frontline intelligence community is infiltrated by double agents. (Future educators of America, I know who you are.)
I could comment much further on that, but I should probably let it speak for itself.