A far deeper question is this: Why aren't the students who use these services crafting their own essays to begin with? Some may simply be short on time and juggling competing commitments. As the cost of college continues to escalate, more and more students need to hold down part-time or even full-time jobs. Some are balancing school with marriage, parenthood, and other family responsibilities. The sales pitch of the essay-writing services reassures students that they are learning what they need to know and merely "lack the time needed to get it down on paper."
But more disturbingly, some students may question the very value of writing term papers. After all, they may ask, how many contemporary jobs really require such archaic forms of writing? And what is the point of doing research and formulating an argument when reams of information on virtually any topic are available at the click of a button on the Internet? Some may even doubt the relevance of the whole college experience.
Here is where the real problem lies. The idea of paying someone else to do your work for you has become increasingly commonplace in our broader culture, even in the realm of writing. It is well known that many actors, athletes, politicians, and businesspeople have contracted with uncredited ghostwriters to produce their memoirs for them. There is no law against it.
At the same time, higher education has been transformed into an industry, another sphere of economic activity where goods and services are bought and sold. By this logic, a student who pays a fair market price for it has earned whatever grade it brings. In fact, many institutions of higher education market not the challenges provided by their course of study, but the ease with which busy students can complete it in the midst of other daily responsibilities. The shrewd shopper, it seems, invests the least time and effort necessary to get the goods.
But when students outsource their essays to third-party services, they are devaluing the very degree programs they pursue. They are making a mockery of the very idea of education by putting its trappings - assignments, grades, and degrees - ahead of real learning.. They're cheating their instructors, who issue grades on the presumption that they represent a student's actual work. They are also cheating their classmates who do invest the time and effort necessary to earn their own grades.
But ultimately, students who use essay-writing services are cheating no one more than themselves. They are depriving themselves of the opportunity to ask, "What new insights and perspectives might I gain in the process of writing this paper?" instead of "How can I check this box and get my credential?"
Some might argue that even students who use essay services are forced to learn something in order to graduate. After all, when they sit down to take exams, those who have absorbed nothing at all will be exposed. That may be true in a traditional classroom, but these days, more and more degree programs are moving online -- and in response, more and more Internet-based test-taking services have sprung up. One version of "Take-my-exam.com" called AllHomework.net boasts, "Just let us know what the exam is about and we will find the right expert who will log in on your behalf, finish the exam within the time limit and get you a guaranteed grade for the exam itself."