Sugar daddies are becoming the student alternative to the Bank of Mum and Dad

There has been a 40 per cent increase in female students signing up to sugar daddy websites in the past year

 With tuition fees now standing at £9,000 a year and maintenance loans barely covering most student’s rents, it falls to the Bank of Mum and Dad to pick up the financial slack. With the average maintenance loan at £480 a month and the average student spending an average of £745 a month, including rent, 71 per cent rely on their parents to pay the difference. But what if your parents can’t afford to help you?

The system for means tested maintenance loans is problematic – too much focus is put on incentives for ‘low income families’ so that everyone gets an opportunity for an education. The students who qualify for the maximum loan are usually the ones who end up better financially than those who are from higher income families. The middle bracket families are put in the same band as those who earn over £50k a year – meaning parents with little disposable income must struggle to pay their children through university. Statistics show that one in 10 students will drop out in their first year due to financial hardship.

Leah, a student who went to the University of Greenwich was forced to drop out due to money troubles:

“With prices in London extortionate anyway, being a student there was not easy. After completing my first year I started to think seriously about how I could continue on such little money. A house we looked at for second year wanted two and a half month’s rent in advance, around £2500. My parents could not afford to help me out with two other kids to look after, and instead of enjoying my student life I was constantly worrying. Most of my flatmates were either international students, and so got extra funding, or had wealthy parents. I just couldn’t compete with them. So at the end of my first year, I left.”

65 per cent of students have part time jobs, but studies show that students who work more than 12 hours a week whilst at university put their education at risk. So, what’s the alternative?

‘Sugar daddy’ websites are on the rise amongst students – Seeking Arrangements reported a 40 per cent rise of young women signing up to their website in the past year, and they claim over a third of their users are students. According to the website’s home page, Seeking Arrangements aims to set up “beautiful, successful people” for a “mutually beneficial relationship”.  In 2015 it was reported that the average ‘sugar daddy’ earned over £170,000 per year. So, is this the way forward for students?

It is easy to see how having a minimum of £30,000 in debt worries students about going to university, especially with the lack of job certainty after graduation. Seeking Arrangements and other ‘sugar daddy’ websites mean that students can afford to live without the use of overdrafts and credit cards.

A student ‘sugar baby’ from Manchester talks about the financial hardships of university and how Seeking Arrangements prevented her from having to drop out of university:

“I am given the lowest maintenance loan, which is £3,820.00 per academic year. However, rent is £4,784.04 for a 12 month let, meaning that I don’t have enough money to pay rent, and nothing left to live on. My mum is a single parent with two other children, and cannot give me any money to help. Having a part time job was helpful, but still couldn’t provide me with the extra £1000+ I needed for rent alone. I couldn’t physically afford to have an education. That’s when I started going on Seeking Arrangements.”

The student, who wants to remain anonymous, began meeting men around Manchester. Although this may sound sleazy, she explains how it is different to how most people might imagine.

“Usually we would agree a fee for the ‘date’ beforehand, and sometimes they would arrange a taxi to come and pick me up from the house. We’d meet at a bar or restaurant and just talk. Any men on the website that wanted anything sexual would more often than not be very upfront about it, and so I wouldn’t meet them. The first time I met someone he gave me £250 for two hours of my time, then I went home. Suddenly, my financial worries were disappearing.”

In addition, with the minimum wage as little as £5.55 for 18-20 year olds, it is easy to see how this alternative is much more attractive as it requires little effort.

From an outsider’s point of view, having a ‘sugar daddy’ can be seen as being no more than being a glorified escort, and some may call it ‘soft prostitution’. But when looking at the financial burdens students face, especially those from middle-bracket income families, are we really right to condemn these young women when they are given little alternative?