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The Term Paper Mill

Fascinating article over at The Smart Set:

The term paper biz is managed by brokers who take financial risks by accepting credit card payments and psychological risks by actually talking to the clients. Most of the customers just aren't very bright. One of my brokers would even mark assignments with the code words DUMB CLIENT. That meant to use simple English; nothing's worse than a client calling back to ask a broker — most of whom had no particular academic training — what certain words in the paper meant. One time a client actually asked to talk to me personally and lamented that he just didn't "know a lot about Plah-toe." Distance learning meant that he'd never heard anyone say the name.

[...]

Term paper writing was never good money, but it was certainly fast money. For a freelancer, where any moment of slack time is unpaid time, term papers are just too tempting. Need $100 by Friday to keep the lights on? No sweat. Plenty of kids need 10 pages on Hamlet by Thursday. Finals week is a gold mine. More than once the phone rang at midnight and the broker had an assignment. Six pages by 6 a.m. — the kid needs three hours to rewrite and hand in the paper by 9 or he won't graduate. "Cool," I'd say. "A hundred bucks a page." I'd get it, too, and when I didn't get it, I slept well anyway. Even DUMB CLIENTS could figure out that they'd be better off spending $600 on the model paper instead of $2,500 to repeat a course. Back in the days when a pulse and pay stub was sufficient to qualify for a mortgage, term papers — along with gigs for dot.com-era business magazines — helped me buy my first house.

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