Brain for Hire: The internet makes academic cheating a lot easier
For many years, Dave Tomar was that bane that universities always claim to be doing something about but can’t (or never will) do—an essay writer for hire.
Wait. Shouldn’t the internet end cheating? The search engine reveals everything, right?…
no Continue reading. in the The Complete Guide to Contract Fraud in Higher Education (Academic Influence, 2022) explains Tomar, long-time freelance writer and now plagiarism expert: Yes, this happened on Google because the default search engine in 2000 and the usual copy-paste and essay-mill methods stopped working. But…
Scammers and their enablers just need to get more creative. Where there used to be only online repositories for essays and the people who curated them, demand now generated a growing workforce of service providers. And I was part of that first wave. (p. 6)
In short, a brain for hire. The essays and theses that Tomar, obviously a gifted author, wrote on all kinds of topics remained invisible to classic AI detection methods because they were really original. But they were not written by the student being evaluated. He estimates that he wrote about 5,000 pages of work, for which he paid about $60,000 a year.
It’s really hard to tell how many students are hiring bright minds online. Estimates range across the map. Tomar believes that 40% have cheated in this way at least once (p. 22). But we can be sure of two things: there are more than many who will admit this, and contrary to early expectations, the internet has made it a lot easier. Online, hundreds of companies are matching a student who has the money with a writer who has the background and the brains.
But there’s another factor driving the ongoing trend, says Tomar. His student clients weren’t just lazy sorority boys and airheads whose wealthy folks wanted them to graduate before they got married. Many clients have been and still are truly desperate – educationally underqualified for the courses they are taking but financially swamped by student loans.
Education underqualified? According to Pew Research (2017), the United States lags behind many technologically advanced countries in high school academic performance: For example, if we compare the United States to demographically similar Canada, science scores are 496 vs. 598, math scores are 470 vs 516 and reading 497 to 527. There are a number of complex reasons for this, but when students go to university many do not have the academic basis to complete the coursework.
In the meantime, many have accumulated large debts:
In the class of 2020, 55% of undergraduate graduates took out student loans and graduated with an average of $28,400 in federal and personal debt. And 14% of parents with students in the Class of 2019 — the most recent data available — took out an average of $37,200 in Federal Parent PLUS loans. – Student Loan Hero
You can’t afford it Not to graduate no matter who writes the papers, says Tomar. If they are the customers for the online essay writing services, “crack down” in isolation probably won’t do much good.
Michael T. Nietzel, former president of Missouri State University, commented on the new book below Forbes:
Tomar flouts the entire contract fraud industry in a highly interesting, often perversely amusing, account of online fraud. He’s the outlaw who just left. In fact, in recent years, Tomar has consulted fraud detection companies like Turnitin and acted somewhat like the reformed card counter hired by casinos to warn them how professional gamblers are hailing them.
Part confessional, part disclosure, part manual, this book is a must-read for anyone wanting to learn the ins and outs of ghostwriting, the size of the industry, the reasons why students cheat, what cheating reveals, the flaws in higher education, and how the problem should be understood and best addressed.
Michael T Nietzel“New book reveals everything you need to know about contract fraud by college students” forbes (July 1, 2022, subscription required)
This isn’t the first time Tomar has gone public about the brain-for-hire deal. In 2010, under the pseudonym “Ed Dante”, he offered to explain himself Higher Education Chronicle: The “man who writes your students’ homework tells his story.” His article, the Shadow Scholar, was something of a publishing event – reportedly the most annotated article in the history of that publication. He wrote an earlier book about it (Bloomsbury, 2012). After leaving this profession, he worked freelance for various publications. Today he is Editor-in-Chief at Academic Influence.
Next: What would Tomar think would help reduce the level of fraud?
You might also like to read: Science detectives catch authors using AI tools for plagiarism. Strange terms like “fake consciousness” instead of “artificial intelligence” popped up in computer science journals and sparked an investigation. Both the researchers and publisher Elsevier found that automatic back-translation to conceal plagiarism was the likely source of the strange phrases.