ith summer over and school in full swing, Kenneth Sahr is
finding the faltering economy is having little impact on demand for
More than 10,000 people visit his site each day, and many come
back several times a week. Page views have reached two million a
month, with demand for this site rising at an annual rate of 10
percent. And if he was not already notorious enough, late last month
Mr. Sahr embarked on a publicity campaign to attract even more
attention to his Web site.
Mr. Sahr runs schoolsucks.com, a Web site for students that for
the last five years has offered essays, book reports, term papers
and even doctoral dissertations for easy downloading. Some 5,000
pieces of homework posted directly on the site are available free,
but the site also links to other term paper sites that charge as
much as $8.95 a page. (Custom paper sites charge as much as $20 a
Since the site went into operation in 1996, Mr. Sahr has become
perhaps the most public — and in some quarters, most reviled —
symbol of the online homework industry, aggressively promoting his
venture while the educational community bemoans the growing problem
of plagiarism. One of the site's mottos is "Where the men are men
and the teachers are nervous."
Critics point to statistics that indicate plagiarism is on the
rise, abetted by Web sites like Mr. Sahr's.
One watchdog group, Plagiarism .org, has a service called
TurnItIn .com, which enables teachers to submit student papers to
check for evidence of cribbing. The group, based in Berkeley,
Calif., estimates that fully one-third of the high-school papers it
examines contain at least some material copied from Internet pages.
Donald McCabe, a professor at Rutgers University and founder of
the Center for Academic Integrity (news/quote),
says plagiarism from the Web is most rampant in high school. In a
recent survey he conducted, nearly half of high school students
admitted to having plagiarized from an online source to some extent.
Mr. Sahr said his customers ranged in age from about 12 to 25,
most of them middle-school and high-school students. Of the 10,000
visitors to his site every day on average, he said, 8,000 are from
the United States, 1,000 are Canadian and the remainder are from
other countries. Anyone can log onto schoolsucks .com and download
any of 5,000 free research papers on topics as diverse as the Magna
Carta and encephalitis, sometimes even in Hebrew or French.
Rather than plagiarism, Mr. Sahr argues, what his site really
offers students is a mixture of research and inspiration. The site
helps intimidated students "get their feet wet," he said, providing
bibliographies and research material. Besides, he insists, students
would not use his Web site to plagiarize material because it would
be too easy for teachers and professors to check the site
Mr. Sahr even offers a public-service defense of his business.
The generally poor quality of the homework available for free on his
site, he said, should send a red flag to educators that something is
seriously wrong with today's schools.
"We're the connection," Mr. Sahr said. "This is the end result of
our educational system."
Mr. Sahr said that he and his two partners, Yasha Harari and
Nimrod Carmi, did not exercise quality control. Anything and
everything gets posted, he said, except for the occasional violent
essay or anything that proselytizes for a political cause. As a
result, a student downloading an essay has no way of knowing if the
paper received an A or an F. "We tell people, `You could be
downloading garbage, and you probably are,' " Mr. Sahr said.
The Sahr site is only one of dozens of so-called digital term
paper mills. But its database of free papers is widely considered
one of the largest online, with students submitting 50 to 100 new
ones each month. Cheater .com and Cheathouse.com (which also calls
itself the "Evil House of Cheat") offer both free and for-pay
papers, while most other sites charge by the page, in addition to
The Sahr site features a dozen or so advertisers, including
for-pay term paper sites, an online gambling business and eBay (news/quote).
Mr. Sahr says the site has been profitable, in part, because it
incurs very few expenses. He said he and his partners were the sole
investors and intend to remain so.
The idea for the site came to Mr. Sahr when he was a journalism
student at Miami International University, he said, and saw
firsthand the "mediocrity" of the educational system. Mr. Sahr, who
is 30 and holds dual American and Israeli citizenship, divides his
time between Tel Aviv and Miami. The company was founded in Florida,
but is now run from Israel, where it has developed a Hebrew language
site of its own.
For Mr. Sahr and his partners, the question now is just how to
capitalize on the current popularity of their brand. They are
considering expanding the site to pick up the audience of some teen
portal sites that have gone out of business, presumably by adding
more youth-oriented material and community features.
"Students will listen to school sucks.com, more than they will
their parents," he said. "They feel free communicating