(NEW YORK) — As college costs continue their stubborn rise, and with work harder to come by during an anemic economic recovery, some students are resorting to a rather unusual measure in order to pay their college bills.
“Sugar Daddies,” wealthy older men who provide financial support to younger women in exchange for sex and companionship, have seen a rise in popularity among college students struggling to find a way to pay tuition.
College student membership on SeekingArrangement.com, a website that matches sugar daddies and sugar babies, has increased by 58 percent from December 2011 to December 2012.
“Currently, we have over 2 million members, 44 percent of which are college students,” Leroy Velasquez, public relations manager at SeekingArrangement.com, told ABC News. “It’s very difficult to retain a part time or full-time job, especially when you have an academic life. With SeekingArrangement, we offer these types of relationships.”
Asked if he thought the anemic economy was contributing the rise in sugar daddy arrangements, Velasquez said, “I think it’s directly correlated. … We are in a very recessive economy, tuition costs and costs of living have increased and people are finding alternative ways of funding a college education, in this case becoming a sugar baby.”
Deeply indebted, facing a lackluster economy, and with jobs scarce, college students and recent graduates are entering into what could be called borderline prostitution to foot their bills.
“In 2011, we saw an explosion in the number of college students seeking sugar daddies to help pay their college tuition,” said SeekingArrangement.com founder Brandon Wade in a news release. “One in every two sugar babies who joins our website today are college students.”
SeekingArrangement.com released a list of the top 20 fastest-growing “Sugar Baby” schools: Georgia State, NYU and Temple University topped the list.
According to SeekingArrangement.com, the average co-ed “sugar baby” receives approximately $3,000 a month in allowances and gifts from her sugar daddy, enough to cover tuition and living expenses at most schools.
Sugar daddy dating advocates push back forcefully against suggestions their activities amount to little more than an elaborate escort service.
“If the sugar daddy is, in fact, meeting a girl simply for sex in exchange for money, then they are using the website in violation of our terms of agreement,” SeekingArrangement.com founder and CEO Brandon Wade told ABC News’ Nightline.
“It’s really about a romantic relationship between two people,” he said. “The only difference is that the sugar daddy is very wealthy.”
So how does it work?
“Basically, a sugar daddy will message a sugar baby he is interested in and he will mention what he is looking for,” Velasquez told ABC News. “In her profile, she will ask for what she wants in terms of a monthly allowance. After a certain point, they exchange emails and phone numbers and have a dinner date.”
The two will then enter into a contract, the terms of which are decided by the parties involved, Velasquez said.
Velasquez rejected the idea that SeekingArrangement.com is, at its core, an escort service. The key difference between prostitution and a mutually beneficial relationship is the word “relationship,” he added.
“A prostitute is just conducting a black-and-white transaction that is in no way a relationship,” said Velasquez. “What we have at Seeking Arrangement is a lifestyle.”
“I do see it as a very common trend,” Velasquez said. “Since the beginning of time, it has existed. Back then you had geishas and courtesans. Today, we have sugar babies. They are exchanging their beauty for a man’s generosity.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio