When Paul Roberts dials into the Internet each day, he is greeted by e-mail from students thanking him for his free online archive of term papers.
"It's great to be so appreciated," says the 16-year-old founder of "Cheat.com," a Web site whose motto is "download your workload." The site signs up 80 to 100 members and gets about 13,000 hits daily, he says.
Term-paper "mills" are nothing new - but their growth has exploded on the Internet. More than 50 such sites have appeared on the Web this year alone, allowing students ever more options for retrieving a paper, slapping their name on it, and printing it.
But while some students love the promise of freedom from tedious research - or relief from multiple term-paper deadlines - educators are treating the phenomenon as a call to arms.
"I am very concerned about a surge of unintentional cheating," says Donald McCabe, a professor at Rutgers University School of Management in New Brunswick, N.J., and founder of the Center for Academic Integrity. "We are raising a generation of students who think anything that's on the Internet is free, and they can do that rather than go to original sources."
In the latest salvo against the trend, Boston University (BU) has filed a federal lawsuit against eight Internet term-paper companies in seven states - the first such suit in the country. It alleges that the online services "devalue" the university's degree programs.
Sites such as the "Evil House of Cheat" and "Cheat.com" offer their wares free and were not sued by BU. But the school is going after sites such as "Term Paper Warehouse," "The Paper Store," and "High Performance Papers," which charge fees ranging from $6.50 for off-the-shelf reports to more than $20 per page for customized research. These companies don't disclose their financial results, but indicate that business is expanding.