College students across the Western world are outsourcing their homework to academics in Kenya, and some writers are only getting paid pennies. 

Students in Britain, Australia and the United States are cheating so much that essay writing has become a lucrative business, according to an exposé by The New York Times.

Kenyan college graduates are leaving their institutions without job prospects, and many of them have turned to essay writing to support themselves, but for most, the work isn’t lucrative.

Some of them work for as little as $1 per hour during a 12-hour shift, even if the student purchased the paper for $50, according to The Daily Mail. Despite the paltry pay, the essay-writing business is a more than $100 million industry.

Mary Mbugua only made $320 during her most profitable month, but in a country where 41% of the population doesn’t have running water, it’s good money.

“This is cheating,” she told The Times. “But do you have a choice? We have to make money. We have to make a living.”

 The students acquire the papers by going to auction websites and bidding on available writers. Once they’re linked with a writer they give specific details about the assignment. The writer completes the work and sends it back to the student.

Meanwhile, some people have made millions by obtaining contracts for writers and taking a significant portion of the proceeds.

James Waitutu Karuri employs about 80 people and even created a payment platform after PayPal started cracking down.

“Like most people, I started my essay writing business while I was at the university,” he recalled. “Over time I began to employ other people to do the work and my business snowballed from there. I remember clearly when I made my first million, I felt a great sense of achievement, like all my hard work was paying off.”

Roynorris Ndiritu went to college to become a civil engineer but couldn’t find work.

“You can even get the highest level of education, and still, you might not get that job,” he said.

He claims writing essays can bring in about $2,000 a month while Kenya’s per capita annual income is $1,700.

University officials and lawmakers are doing their best to stop the essay-writing industry. Since the arrangements are so secretive, they face an uphill battle.

“It’s a huge problem,” said Tricia Bertram Gallant, academic integrity office director at the University of California, San Diego. “If we don’t do anything about it, we will turn every accredited university into a diploma mill.”

The practice is banned in 17 states, but the laws are rarely enforced and punishments are light.

Turnitin provides software to detect plagiarism despite the rising essay-writing industry.

“Because American institutions haven’t been whacked over the head like Australian schools were, it’s easier to pretend that it’s not happening,” Turnitin Vice President of Product Management Bill Loller said.