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How ChatGPT Is Putting College Ghost Writers Out of Work

The Walrus: The custom essay-writing business is worth billions. Will AI bring it to an end? “…Paying third parties to complete your coursework is called contract cheating. While it seemingly represents a breach of academic integrity, it is technically legal in Canada—and data suggests it’s become prevalent across post-secondary institutions. According to academic ghostwriters like Ross, their work is fair game in a world where post-secondary institutions are failing their students with false promises of prestige following the completion of their degrees. “Colleges are basically businesses,” he says. “People look at what we do as a ‘no-no’ in a moral sense, but they don’t really question the ethics of what the school system is doing to a lot of the students, making these promises to them.” Amid reports of growing financial pressures and mental health challenges, these services have become a lifeline for some, says Ross. A line on his website echoes this sentiment: “You shouldn’t be spending your best years stressed out over assignments that have nothing to do with your career goals.” Ross’s business, however, is facing a threat: artificial intelligence. Since ChatGPT launched last year, the popular chatbot has opened up a convenient new pathway for students who need to submit essays, while bringing the issue of cheating into sharper focus for schools. For decades, custom essay-writing services have gone largely unchallenged—but could ChatGPT and tougher anti-cheating measures finally put them in peril? Statistics on the scope of the contract-cheating industry in Canada are sparse, but the global market for custom essay-writing companies is estimated to be worth up to $21 billion (US). A 2006 study by the University of Central England suggested that Canada was among the top four countries where students engage in contract cheating. A more recent study, from January 2020, estimates that over 70,000 post-secondary students in Canada were likely taking part in contract cheating at least once per year. That represents about 3.5 percent of the country’s post-secondary students. Reliance on these services appears to have worsened during the pandemic as learning went online. A study by Alberta-based MacEwan University found that, during 2019/20, contract cheating increased nearly tenfold, due, at least in part, to the impact of the pandemic on students. These incidents are also taking place against a broader rise in academic-integrity breaches aided by technology such as ChatGPT…”

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