A report by The New York Times explores the essay-for-hire industry that tasks English speakers in developing countries with writing essays for American college students.
Millions of essays are produced in countries including Kenya, India, and Ukraine every year to be turned in by American college students.
Mary Mbugua, a university student in Nyeri, Kenya, told the Times that she began writing papers for a more solid source of income, though she recognizes it is "cheating."
"This is cheating," she told the Times. "But do you have a choice? We have to make money. We have to make a living."
The report notes that successful essay writers in Kenya can earn as much as $2,000 a month, which is about $300 more than the national per capita annual income. However, Mbugua told the Times she "always had somehow a guilty conscience" and questions the quality of education that incorporates the essays.
"People say the education system in the US, UK, and other countries is on a top notch," she said but added that she "wouldn't say those students are better than us," because "we have studied. We have done the assignments."
Contract cheating from essay mills is a growing global phenomenon
Contract cheating has seen a global rise in recent years, and research has suggested that as many as one in six students, or an estimated 31 million, has engaged in the practice.
Business Insider's Hayley Peterson previously reported that the network of companies peddling completed school work has a potentially far greater reach than the recent US college-admissions scandal.
The companies that provide work for purchase are widely referred to as "essay mills." They claim to offer original, "plagiarism-free" essays, term papers, dissertations, speeches, and other assignments for payments of as little as $13 per page.
Lawmakers in the US and globally have recently started cracking down on contract-cheating services as their usage has proliferated. Though the practice is technically illegal in 17 states, cheating is hard to detect and the law rarely enforced.
Similar legislation has been floated in New Zealand, Australia, and Ireland, but it's unclear how effective the laws can be.