Overseas cheating overwhelms students with guilt

by Iovanna Borjas

An anonymous University of Tampa student was so stressed she thought she would pass out in her bed. The effects of coffee and the blueish light of her MacBook were the only things keeping her up. It was 2 a.m. and she had just finished a very important assignment for her accounting class. Now, she had to either study for her macroeconomics final or start her sociology essay. She decided in that moment, just like she had many times before, she’d reach out to her usual contact so he could write the sociology essay for her. Rita, whose real name will be kept in anonymity, ended up paying him $15 for the final four-page essay.

“I felt guilty; I always do,” said the anonymous student. “But at the end of the day, this is the only way I can survive the semester.”

Contract cheating is something some college students have been doing for a long time. However, there is a new business model that helps students cheat by cheaper and easier means. Thousands of miles away from Rita, her writer was writing that essay for her. Paying someone overseas to write academic essays is allowing students to cheat more than they used to before.

“I think I met him through Twitter,” said the anonymous student. “A friend of mine had already used his services and she told me to DM him that day.”

Cheating, a common habit among both college and high school students, has been increasing with the advancements in technology. In The Guardian article, “More university students are cheating – but it’s not because they’re lazy,” the writer explained they carried out a study that showed there was a 40% increase in the number of students caught cheating, with at least 3,721 cases between 2016 and 2017 at Russell Group universities. These numbers only reflect the people who got caught. 

Joseph Letter, director of Academic Writing at UT, said that cheating is a complicated topic that has gotten harder to define because of the invention of newer internet technologies.

“It has gotten more difficult to prosecute these cases,” said Letter, “Students can plausibly say that that is their work.”

Letter blames cultural and economic ideologies for the increase of students cheating in college. He referred to a New York Times article on the topic, “Cheating, Inc.: How Writing Papers for American College Students Has Become a Lucrative Profession Overseas,” to explain his idea.

“The commenters [of the article] were very cynical and sarcastic about education,” said Letter. “I find that disturbing; I don’t think that is the purpose of your education at all.”

Letter explained that this, along with financial problems students might deal with because of the increasing costs of college tuitions, push them to do whatever it takes to pass their classes. 

Another anonymous student at UT, said he has cheated this way only once, but that he would do it again if he had to. 

“I have so many friends who are from other countries and they are always posting stuff about their friends back home looking to write essays for students here,” said the anonymous student. “I didn’t feel any guilt at all, sometimes you got to do what you got to do.”

This is, after all, a new growing enterprise overseas. People make money out of them and, in some cases, depend heavily on the money they make by writing these assignments. Isabel, a 20-year-old Venezuelan college student who still lives, unlike many of her friends, in her home country, writes essays for people all over the world to spend the money on her college career. She asked The Minaret to publish only part of her name so she could speak freely about the topic.

Isabel was shocked when the student told her he would pay her $15 for a one-page essay.

“I usually get paid about four or five dollars per page; this is the average rate people get paid here in Venezuela for writing college essays,” said Isabel. “But I didn’t tell him that because I really needed the money for an incoming trip I had with my debate team.”

Isabel recognizes that this is ethically wrong and that she would never ask someone to write an essay for her. However, she doesn’t regret one bit of it.

“I don’t feel guilty because I am helping people and they are helping me,” said Isabel. “I think most people could just do it themselves, but this [contract cheating] is something that happens a lot and I am grateful to make the money I need.”

Iovanna Borjas can be reached at iovanna.borjas@theminaretonline.com

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