Essay mill use a serious problem in colleges

A study released by the Chronicle of Higher Education two weeks ago revealed an alarming rise in the use of online essay-mills by college students. These Web sites are becoming increasingly sophisticated, offering original essays — for any prompt on any topic — for a price and making them invisible to plagiarism-detection software.

It’s who has been using these Web sites that is the most alarming concern, however.

According to the study, an anonymous customer claiming to be a Ph.D. student in aerospace engineering at MIT placed an order for a 200-page dissertation. His request suggested that the emphasis could be on “static and dynamic stability of aircraft controls.”

Mickey Tomar, a senior majoring in philosophy and religion at James Madison University, paid $100 for a paper on the parables of Jesus Christ for his New Testament class. Tomar told the Chronicle, “Like most people in college, you don’t have time to do research on some of these things.”

It’s a worrying sign that future religious scholars and aircraft engineers from MIT are cheating rather than learning what they need to know for their chosen professions. Many people wouldn’t want to go on an airplane built by someone who cheated their way to a degree.

These college students may graduate undereducated and find themselves struggling in a work place where they cannot resort to cheating.

The current USF policy on academic dishonesty states that buying a research paper may result in an F for the course and expulsion from the University.

In addition, these papers can cost as much as $42.99 per page, depending on difficulty and due dates. There is also no guarantee of quality. Many of the paper-writing companies are secretive organizations using fake addresses and phone numbers. They are usually located in foreign countries like Ukraine, and much of the writing is done in places like Manila or Nigeria by workers paid a few dollars an hour with “no college degree and limited English skills,” according to the Chronicle.

Professors and colleges must now take extra steps to deal with this growing brand of cheating. Thomas Lancaster, a professor at Birmingham City University in England, told the Chronicle he questions his students on their assignments to ensure they are doing the research.

Though testing students on projects would take up some of a professors’ time, it would be worth it, because every day people are finding new ways
to cheat.