John Warner, writing at Inside Higher Education, comments on a story from The Chronicle of Higher Education about the money to be made in what CHE calls the "new cheating economy." Warner notes that if he went to work for one of the research assistance (wink wink) firms, he could make more money that he's making teaching a course as an adjunct professor.
Warner's writing a blog post rather than a structured article, but he points towards probably one of the biggest factors in this weird topsy-turvy situation: The morphing of a college degree from a signal that the holder has developed some basic elements of a learned character into a credential for employment. Cheating undercuts the whole purpose of the former, but it makes perfect sense for the latter. Because you can't cheat your way into wisdom but you can certainly cut corners to obtain a credential.
Can a person fake understanding Plato? Not with anyone who understands Plato, I'm pretty sure (and that's a subset of individuals that doesn't include me anymore; it's been too long since I had to read him). Handing in a bought paper for a class on Plato won't make up the gap. But if that same person is being hired by, say, a financial firm, is it likely that they'll ever run into a situation where they would need to back up the ideas their hired ghostwriter put in that paper? Nope, all the HR department cares about is whether or not there's a piece of paper somewhere that says diploma on it.
I'm writing not sure of what a solution to this issue would look like. And part of that, I freely admit, is that I've got no good answer for someone who might ask me why they shouldn't cut some corners when the point of the degree is checking off a box on an application instead of developing an understanding of the world we live in and how we might want to live in it.