The U.S. college admissions scandal, where wealthy elites paid to circumvent an arbitrary entrance scoring system at some privileged schools by gaming it, has already led to lawsuits because the value of a degree from USC, Stanford, Yale and others involved has been devalued, students and their lawyers claim.

That may be a good time for a new law specifically targeted at Essay Mills, the inappropriate activities of companies who offer to write student assignments for a fee. As many as one in seven students are using essay-mills but it is a headache for policymakers, who prefer sweeping rules, to know the difference between cheats and companies providing legitimate study guidance.

Some research showed that contract cheating services protect themselves by using terms and conditions that keep the risk of 'intent' to cheat with the student, despite those services offering to write assignments to exact specifications. New laws have been proposed law to address these limitations, using the principle of 'strict liability', which places the 'intent' onto the providers of the services. Similar principles are used in cases like car insurance, where intent is irrelevant and violators are prosecuted for being uninsured even if they simply forgot to renew.

There are also proposals to draft an updated definition of contract cheating, to counteract legal loopholes that might otherwise be exploited by essay mills. Such services would be automatically liable unless they positively demonstrate that they have taken all necessary steps to ensure students do not submit essays as their own, rather than the prosecution having to establish liability on the part of the cheating service.

Universities are not off the hook for blame. The recent scandal showed that if a doctor signs off on a claim that a student has a disability they get bonus points because the university wants to check off a diversity box. Others provide fake documentation they are in extracurricular activities. They will need to do more than pay lip service to the education of educators about academic integrity and demand accountability from within.