Oct 232011
 
Authors: Andrew Carrera

Students searching for ways to fund their college education in the face of mounting financial hardship have found their answer in “sugar daddies” and “sugar mommas” –– and they’re doing it online.

A website called SeekingArrangements.com has received national attention for setting up what it calls “mutually beneficial” relationships, typically between young women and old men, or “sugar babies” and “sugar daddies.”

“At least 35 percent of the sugar baby membership sign up as a way to pay off tuition or college debt,” said Stephan Smith, director of press relations for the website. “Since 2008, we’ve seen a very significant rise in the sign-ups of members who mention college or tuition in their profiles, or who are registering with their school email addresses.”

Signing up with an “@edu” address gets your membership upgraded, he added.

According to Education Sector, an education policy think-tank, the price of attaining the same degree has steadily increased over the years. In 2006–2007, students borrowed $13,334 for every credential earned. That amount rose to $14,560 in 2007–2008, a 9 percent increase. In 2008–2009 it rose another 24 percent to $18,102, read the group’s report.

Student loan debt will exceed $1 trillion in all this year. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York stated that Americans now owe more on student loans than on credit cards.

In the meantime, SeekingArrangements.com continues to see a significant increase in membership, according to Smith.

“I attribute it to the economy, certainly,” he said.

Aside from financial hardship, Smith said what drives people to the website are changing attitudes toward relationships and how they’re formed. Even if the economy improved, he’d still expect to
see an increase in membership at the website because “the core of the trend is more long term.”

“It’s a steady shift in how people view relationships in a post-generic world,” he said. “People are keen on the concept of a mutually beneficial relationship.”

“The website allows people to have a glimpse of what people expect in an arrangement before they move forward,” Smith added. “Parents aren’t arranging our relationships for us, but we as individuals are going to be using more of that style of configuring our relationships.”

Others, however, aren’t keen on the “sugar babies” and “sugar daddies” dynamic. While Kathy Sisneros, director of CSU’s Women and Gender Advocacy Center, couldn’t speak directly about the website, she said the reason that the type of relationship SeekingArrangements.com perpetuates is acceptable is “because it’s a patriarchal society.”

“It’s a male-dominated society,” she said. “It’s a reflection of that. It’s the reason why some accept it.”

She added that, this reality is shifting and changing, but “not enough.”

“The system of culturalization that we live in… I don’t think it’s going anywhere anytime soon,” she said.

Senior Reporter Andrew Carrera can be reached at news@collegian.com.

1 million

The number of registered users at SeekingArrangements.com.

35 percent

The percentage of members at SeekingArrangements.com who are on the website to help pay tuition and college debt.

35.7 percent

The percentage increase between 2006-2009 in the amount students borrowed to earn an academic credential.

$1 trillion

The total dollar amount of American student loan debt.

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