TODAY   |  May 30, 2013

Rossen Reports: Underground world of college cheating

In a new survey, 63 percent of college students admit to cheating, and these days it’s easier than ever. Students are now paying strangers for customized papers, fooling even the best professors. NBC’s Jeff Rossen reports on the ghostwriters helping students cheat.

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>>> we're back now at 7:41. and this morning on "rossen reports," the underground world of college cheating. today national investigative correspondent jeff rossen and his team went undercover to show us how it works.

>> we are right in the middle of finals season, a lot of kids taking their finals. and in a new survey, 63% of college kids admit to cheating. and these days it's easier than ever. no more plagiarizing or downloading old papers off the internet. now kids are paying strangers for customized papers, fooling even the best professors. who are these ghostwriters? this morning, we're pulling back the curtain with our hidden cameras rolling.

>> reporter: this is taylor , your typical college student , overwhelmed with school work . and she has a new paper due next week.

>> how are you?

>> good, how are you?

>> that's why she's hiring these complete strangers.

>> how are you?

>> to write the paper for her.

>> how does this whole thing work? i'm nervous doing this.

>> i write it for you.

>> what these guys don't know, taylor , not her real name is no college student .

>> good afternoon, "today" show.

>> she's a "today" show staffer helping us expose how easy it is to cheat in school without getting caught.

>> look at what we found online, dozens of ads offering custom papers at competitive rates. one- stop shopping for any cheater. so who are these people helping your kids skate through school? to find out, we set up a scenario teaming up with this english professor. she gave our fake student taylor an assignment.

>> the assignment was to write a five to six page paper on little women .

>> a pretty straightforward assignment.

>> yes.

>> and then we responded to two different ads hiring these faceless ghostwriters to write our paper. our fake student taylor sets up meetings with each of them at a local diner.

>> how are you?

>> good, how are you?

>> that's alex , his term paper ad promises a quick turn around and years of experience.

>> i usually get people like a "b."

>> not bad, but check out this next writer, pete . his ad brags above average grade guaranteed while you sleep through class.

>> has any student gotten caught?

>> no, because i do it originally written.

>> reporter: alex says he can write any paper for any class.

>> any class?

>> i wrote like an entire final paper for someone about this network system.

>> oh, my gosh.

>> i had to teach myself how to do that and then write the paper on it.

>> alex charges $140. pete 's price, $90. and with that, they're off to write our papers. one week later --

>> what do you have for me?

>> we meet again to get our papers and give them the cash. but this time, when they leave --

>> hi, alex , jeff rossen from nbc news.

>> i'm outside with some questions.

>> she gave you the book, you read it, wrote the paper for her. isn't that cheating?

>> that's her business.

>> he says he tells students the paper should be used as a guide not handed in verbatim.

>> you're not breaking the law here. isn't this a question of ethics?

>> i do find the ethical concern in it, but that's why i advise people, they have to make their own decisions.

>> you make no apologies for this?

>> no.

>> alex is happy to stick around and talk. pete , not so much.

>> i've got to go.

>> this is your online ad . party on the weekend, paper done monday morning, get well above average grade guaranteed while you sleep through class.

>> okay.

>> isn't that pretty blatant.

>> that's not me, actually.

>> it is you. we responded to the ad. can you stay and talk to us for a moment. we want to talk to you about the paper. ethics aside, we wondered, were their papers any good? we have our professor read them both. she gives alex a "c" minus, pete gets a "b."

>> so they passed?

>> yes, they passed.

>> would you have suspected either of these papers of cheating?

>> no.

>> what can you do to stop this?

>> i can teach my butt off and make my students want to write me an amazing paper.

>> she can teach her butt off. now, some schools are using antiplagiarism software, others have installed cameras in exam rooms, but educators say it's tough to catch these cheaters and counting on the students themselves to do the right thing.

>> it's an unbelievable story. thank