Higher education in the United States comes with a hefty price tag, and young people on a quest to rid themselves of the trillion-dollar societal scourge otherwise known as student loan debt have resorted to doing things such as robbing banks and selling sperm, eggs, and plasma to pay tuition. Some are even willing to sacrifice an organ if it'll make their debt disappear.
If none of those options sounds good, you might consider another one: becoming a sugar baby. The website SeekingArrangement, which aims to help "beautiful, successful people fuel mutually beneficial relationships" also markets itself as a solution to the national student debt crisis.
About a third of sugar babies on the site are students, and several Florida universities landed among the Top 20 schools with the most students enrolled. Florida International University ranked eighth on the list, with 1,204 student users out of a school population of about 50,000.
The University of Central Florida in Orlando ranked fifth on the list, with 1,436 students enrolled. The University of South Florida ranked 16th, with 1,084 students enrolled; and Florida State University came in 20th, with 1,046 students enrolled.
Other schools include Florida Atlantic University (699 students), University of Florida (678 students), Miami Dade College (328 students), and University of Miami (247 students).
Kimberly De La Cruz, a SeekingArrangement spokesperson, says the company compiles its data on students enrolled from the school email addresses sugar babies use to sign up for the site. The company also searches for terms and self-reported information on people's profiles to identify students who don't sign up with their school's email address.
She says the website began as a platform to connect people looking for sugar baby/daddy arrangements and nontraditional relationships. When the company noticed the student sugar baby population on the site was growing, it began tracking the data.
"It's a huge demographic of ours," De La Cruz says.
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As with any dating or social media site, SeekingArrangement has had its share of creeps hiding behind computer screens and encounters turned dangerous. De La Cruz says the website has a "strong self-reporting community" for complaints of anyone misusing the site.
It should be maddening that students must make choices between getting or sacrificing a quality education, being crushed by the weight of their debt, or making arrangements with people whose power, influence, and money could tip the balance on the relationships they form.
De La Cruz says the company understands there are "misconceptions" surrounding what the site promotes and offers, but "in the community, we know who we are." And she says the company views this form of dating as empowering for everyone involved.
"Young people are able to connect with someone who’s financially stable and not living in their mom's basement," she says. "I wouldn't look at it as they're vulnerable. I'd look at it as they're looking to elevate their dating lifestyle."