Payment for Papers

Contract Cheating on Campus

by Katie Hall

 

“It was close to $400 for just a draft,” said Amy, a Brisbane-based university student who wrote essays for cash, known as contract cheating.

Contract cheating came into public knowledge in 2014 when Fairfax Media exposed the ghost-writing service, MyMaster Group, where university students were paid to write essays and sit exams on other student’s behalf.

Although tertiary education institutions have tightened the systems to prevent contract cheating, the industry is still very much alive.

A quick internet search revealed a number of Australian-based essay services. Australiawritings.com offers a 825-word essay for $131.28, returning in three hours. Australianessay.com will write a 1,100 word essay for $150.09, with a 24 hour turnaround.

Amy and George live, study and work in Brisbane, Queensland. They have entered and left the dangerous world of ghostwriting essays for students who are complicit to pay for their time and services.

George was introduced to the lucrative market by a friend, who offer to split the profits from an assignment he had been contracted to write.

“I think that is how most people start out; students who are already doing work for others in exchange for money often refer students looking to pay students to do work for their friends,”

Similarly, Amy was first asked by a friend, whose second language was English, to help with an assignment.

“He couldn’t really speak English, but he was a friend. So he asked me for help, and it was really urgent for him, so it was more like I started because he really needed help and I wanted to help him,” said Amy.

Money is the sole motivator in the ghostwriting business, and university students are a cash-strapped demographic.

“I figured that if other students didn’t want to do their work, I could profit off them,” said George.

“At the time I was happy to do it. It was extra money in my pocket that I got to spend on family and friends, and it was relatively easy to earn.”

The current rate for AuStudy is $567.70 per fortnight (less rent assistance). Writing one assignment for $400, the going rate, more than doubles a student’s weekly income.

For Amy, the financial incentive of contract cheating is a secondary benefit to helping out a friend.

“It was friendship based, except for the second time. He really wanted my help… I thought it was very risky, and I told him if you are going to make me take the risk, then pay me more money.”

Contract cheating is a way for students to supplement their ‘legitimate’ jobs and Centrelink payments, see as extra spending money for non-necessary items.

Amy and George have previously worked for students from wealthy backgrounds and higher paying jobs taking advantage of their services, including “wealthy international students” said George.

When George was asked how he balances his university schedule and writes other student’s assignments, he admitted;

“Personally, I would never place someone else’s study ahead of my own, even if I were being paid. I think that is a risk the person paying has to bear because there is no guarantee that the student doing the work will do it well or even achieve a pass for the student paying.”

To protect her time, Amy is strict about often she works for others.

“I felt like I had a line, I had a boundary. I wouldn’t want to do a whole assignment for them. I wouldn’t want to put 100 per cent in for their assignments.”

“I made sure I didn’t spend much time on it because it is just to help a friend. If they want to give me the money, they’re going to do it because it is fair… I told them around two hours to three hours.”

Amy and George view contract cheating is buying an unfair advantage.

“Especially when they achieve higher marks than those who do their own work,” said George.

“I think there also might be an incentive for students who work full-time to pay other students to do their work because of how hard it can be to juggle work and study.”

“I work so hard for my grades,” said Amy, “I think to myself; ‘that’s not fair!’ To be honest, if you don’t want to put in the effort, so what? When I have problems I don’t go looking for someone who can help me. If I get a lower grade, so be it. How bad could it be?”

Griffith University defines academic misconduct as behaviour that involves falsifying academic achievement, which includes authoring papers on another’s behalf. Punishment for academic misconduct ranges from warnings to expulsion. To curb cheating, Griffith employs Turntin, a software program that scans for plagiarism.

“There is always that risk, and I think in some particular areas of study academic misconduct can have a significant effect on a student’s prospects of obtaining a job,” said George.

“What alleviates some of that worry is the fact that it would be mutually detrimental for both the student providing the work and the student paying.”

Amy wasn’t as concerned as George with being caught, and does not plan to ghost write again.

“What would you say? If your friend needed help and they don’t understand stuff? Maybe I would be jeopardising my career but it is more important that I present myself as someone who is fit and proper. I know my mistakes, and I have to own up to it and take responsibility for it, even though maybe I was ignorant or inexperienced.”

George, too, contends that he will no longer accept money to write assignments.

“In hindsight, it seems unfair to help some students gain an unfair advantage over other students who do study hard and do their own work. That being said, there is more of an incentive for students who have expenses, such as rent to pay, which may compel them to undertake the work.”

Amy feels that in the end, the students who pay others to do their work are ultimately robbing themselves of information that is relevant to their degree.

“There is no point in doing the degree if you are going to do all those kinds of things. But I guess they come from a different world than us.”

 

*Names have been changed.