A University of Windsor law student is calling for legislation against essay writing companies that allow students to pay someone else to do their homework.

The companies known as "essay mills" allow students to pay someone else to write their essays, complete assignments and online exams.

"They are morally wrong of course, but they're not illegal," said Maya Kanani, a second year law student at the University of Windsor.

Kanani is working with the International Center for Academic Integrity (ICAI), a body made up of universities across the world, including the University of Windsor, to combat cheating and plagiarism.

"Universities can punish their students but not necessarily the organizations, so we need legislation or some kind of strategy to deal with the essay mills," she said.

'Very difficult to catch'

Students pay anywhere from a few hundred dollars for an academic paper to a few thousand dollars for a PhD dissertation, according to Tricia Bertram Gallant, an outreach coordinator with the ICAI.

"It's very difficult to catch," she said.

'These essay mills are akin to ponzi schemes. They're akin to cops taking bribes to look the other way. They're akin to politicians getting favours for doing things for external interests' - Tricia Bertram Gallant, coordinator, International Center for Academic Integrity

While a website like Turnitin.com can detect plagiarism by comparing essays against each other, an essay mill creates a brand new, custom paper that's untraceable.

"It really needs to be more of a public outcry. These essay mills are akin to ponzi schemes. They're akin to cops taking bribes to look the other way. They're akin to politicians getting favours for doing things for external interests," she said.

For students like Kanani, essay mills not only enable cheaters and devalue degrees, but defraud taxpayers who help subsidize universities.

She said the next step is to come up with a global strategy to defend against the practice.