New book reveals everything you need to know about college student contract fraud
“Fraud is an epidemic in higher education. i should know I spent a decade spreading the disease. In 2009, I was making over $60,000 a year preparing papers for students. I was an academic ghostwriter, a professional con artist, a research mercenary with a bad case of spiritual burnout.”
“My life has been an endless conveyor belt of essays, exams, theses and even dissertations. i was fast I was resourceful. I was productive.”
This is the opening to Dave Tomar‘s The Complete Guide to Contract Fraud in Higher Education which will almost certainly soon be recognized as the definitive book on contract fraud, the practice of college students hiring others to write their academic papers for them.
For almost a decade, Tomar worked as a highly successful ghostwriter, hired by students to write their essays, term papers, theses, master’s theses, and – yes – even their doctoral theses.
In 2010, Tomar drew attention to himself, using the alias Ed Dante to concede in a much-cited Explosive article in which Chronicle of Higher Education that he was a well-paid ghostwriter, “an education outlaw,” working at an online company that churned out the papers solicited by cheating students. During his heyday, Tomar wrote more than 20 different assignments a day.
These revelations earned him the title “Shadow Scholar,” a name the media enthusiastically clung to. Along with his newfound fame, Tomar was met with widespread skepticism, criticism, and hostility from college administrators and faculty, many of whom simply refused to believe their students cheated or that they would not be able to support the few who did did it to discover.
Now, in his new book, 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, over the past few years, Tomar has trusted fraud detection companies such as turninwho behaves 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.
It’s an interesting development for Tomar, who admits that in ghostwriting he was acting out his rebellion and hostility towards his own negative, unsatisfying experiences in college. “For a good chunk of my ghostwriting career, I had a personal ax to sharpen against higher education, and I used that ax to sharpen my pen.”
“I never felt guilty back then,” he told me in a recent phone interview. “I’ve never made a secret of what I did for a living, and people were usually more intrigued than repelled when they found out I was a ghostwriter. At the time, I was fine with cheating on universities to pay off my hefty student loans.”
But over the years, Tomar said, his attitude began to change, beginning with his self-outing in the Timeline. “I came to realize that I expected more of myself. There was a void in what I was doing and I decided I couldn’t do it forever, even if the pay was good and even if I learned a lot of interesting information along the way.”
Stunned by the widespread attention and the extreme reactions of the timeline Article provoked, Tomar, who is currently the editor-in-chief of academic influence, eventually decided to write his new book as a reference tool for educators, offering “everything I know” about contract fraud. He says he wants to use it to promote an understanding of fraud from a practical, constructive perspective so that it can be successfully confronted and ultimately reduced.
Tomar believes the main reason students choose to cheat is a sense of “academic desperation,” a feeling that they are overwhelmed and ill-prepared to succeed in the academic tasks assigned to them.
Among the traits he found most frequently in his clientele, Tomar points to poor command of English, insufficient understanding of the subject, overwhelmed by workload, mental health problems, academic indifference, procrastination, laziness, and parental, social, or internal pressures to succeed.
These individual problems are exacerbated by higher education practices, such as B. Colleges’ failure to train students to write effectively, writing assignments that are boring and repetitive, a lack of adequate support and services for struggling students, overworked evaluators, unmotivated professors, and much more the rising cost of higher education, which only up the ante for students who feel they must pass their courses – whether through honest study or illegal schemes.
Tomar believes that solving the epidemic of fraud in higher education requires that we look at it less as an ethical blunder and more as an educational problem, an illicit transaction fueled by many interrelated factors.
“To combat the impact of contract fraud services, we need to think of such services less as ethical violators and more as economic actors. To understand why these services are successful and why they pose a threat to higher education, we need to honestly reflect on the connection between structural failures, skyrocketing costs and student attitudes at the academy.”
Tomar offers a range of proposals for preventing contract fraud, organized under what he calls the 4 D’s: Design, Deterrence, Detection, Diagnosis. While he suggests several techniques under each heading, his primary focus is consistently to reduce student cheating by drawing on good educational practices aimed at helping students develop the academic skills they need and from whom many know they miss.
As examples, he recommends more composition lessons in middle school and high school; more writing in college classes; greater use of a multi-draft writing process in courses; stronger, more caring relationships between students and teachers; more personalized course content; expanded use of ungraded assignments; and increased support services for students, especially those with mental health problems or language barriers.
Grounded in a genuine concern for the pressures college students face, an open appreciation of the contribution of higher education to the problem, and a thoughtful perspective on college instruction, this eye-opening book grabs your attention and never leaves Come on.
It’s a great read for anyone interested in the problem of fraud. But it’s a must-read for those still inclined to deny how widespread and serious college cheating has become.