Typing other people's papers is a big business for some Harvard students.
A survey of Harvard students who type papers shows that their rates range from 65 to 80 cents a page, about 50 cents less than rates charged by professional agencies in Harvard Square.
Arthur Powell '76 has been typing papers since his freshman year in high school, but he did not take the business seriously until he got to Harvard. "I started typing assignments for my classmates in typing class in high school, and they would pay me in return," Powell said Tuesday.
During freshman year, Powell typed papers for friends, who would pay him by treating him to pizza or hamburger. But as he started getting more business from referrals by the Student Employment Office (SEO), Powell began to take it more seriously.
Powell now spends about six hours a week typing other people's papers, and takes in from 75 to 80 cents per page, with his rates depending on the quality of the handwriting and the amount of editing needed. Since Powell can produce about six pages per hour, he is pulling in a hefty amount of money.
Martha Gagliano '78 has received many referrals from the SEO, but lately she has had to turn down a lot of them because she does not have the time.
She charges 75 cents for a double-spaced page and $1 for a single-spaced page, and does not make any price distinction for messy handwriting.
Marsha Wheatly '78 started typing other students' papers last year. She has had much business lately, primarily from referrals by the SEO. She said Monday she types mostly English and Expository Writing papers, and most of her clients are freshmen.
"I charged 50 cents a page two years ago, but that was too low," Felicia Marcus '77, who gave up typing papersfor others two years ago, said Monday. "Many of the papers were poorly written and grammatically incorrect. I had to call people to make editorial changes in their papers," she said.
Marcus said she often submitted to the pleas of despondent paper writers who had deadlines and had no one to type their papers. Marcus found herself doing all of her typing after midnight, because "that's the only thing I could do then."
Harvard's corps of student typists agree that non-typists and people who have better things to do than type are their prime clients. Philip Sloan '76, Powell's roommate, patronizes Powell because he said he can only type one page per hour. "If someone else types my papers, I have more time to get high or play hoops," Sloan said Tuesday.
A sample of typists who put up notices around the Square taken this week revealed that the "professional" rates range from 60 cents to $1.25 per page. Most of the typists said they used IBM Selectric typewriters. Thomas Armstong, a student at Lesley College, said he finds a Selectric is usually a necessity in the business.
Although business has grown in the past year, most of the trade comes from graduate students, independent writers and some businesses. Armstrong, who has been typing for four years, said Monday he likes to type dissertations. "I don't like to do anything under 25 pages," Armstrong said.
Businesses are turning to typing agencies as a money-saving alternative to hiring another secretary, Connie Procaccini, part owner of the Mulberry Typing Studios in Cambridge, said Monday. "We've picked up more steady customers," Procaccini said.
Steady business clients now comprise about 25 per cent of Mulberry's business. Before they amounted to an insignificant portion of the total business, Procaccini said.
Some typists have raised their prices within the last six months but there has not been a steady trend of increases. Tom Armstrong has raised his prices from 60 cents to 75 cents within the past year, while Mulberry Typing has not changed its standard $1-per-page rate during its one-and-a-half year existence.
One typist, who declined to give her name, said she had to lower her prices from 80 cents per page to 65 cents because she was not getting enough business.
Some typists charge higher rates for overnight rush service. One typist, who declined to give her name, said she charged $2 per page or $10 an hour for overnight service.
Rates can get very steep if the copy is not "clean," typists claim. Typists said they charge between $3 and $5.60 an hour if they cannot read the copy or have to do a lot of editing