You want to go to Tokyo, so you hit up Google Flights and do some research. Tickets are around $800, but you close your browser window and decide to look again later. A couple of months pass, and those same flights are now $1,200. What gives? It’s called price discrimination, and colleges use the same strategy to sell…
Broke Canadian university students are turning to sugar daddies to offset their costs, according to SeekingArrangement, a dating site that facilitates relationships between sugar babies and sugar daddies.
By the time the average Canadian university student graduates, he or she is saddled with an average of $26,819 in debt—often going on to become jobless or underemployed, i.e. the new economic reality.
But 2016 data from SeekingArrangement shows the number of Canadian university students signing up for a sugar daddy has risen to 206,800, up from 150,000 in 2015, a 37% increase. All but 11, 238 are women. (There are 631,678 Canadian users overall, 65 percent of whom are female.)
The website operates by pairing up young people with sugar daddies or mommies—"successful men and women who know what they want." The couples then set out their expectations, which often include an allowance given to the sugar baby. For Canadian students, 39 percent of the average $2,700 monthly allowance goes toward tuition, while 30 percent goes to rent, and 21 percent to books.
"Some see this as a controversial solution. But, instead of waiting for the government to take action, these students are taking matters into their own hands," SeekingArrangement founder Brandon Wade said in a press release.
In terms of new sign-ups, the fastest growing Canadian schools of 2016 were the University of Alberta (138), Ryerson (135), and University of Ottawa (132), while enrollment is highest at University of Toronto (683), Ryerson (577), and University of Guelph (554). The top three sugar baby majors are nursing, business, and performing arts.
Students who join with their school email are considered part of "Sugar Baby University" and are given a "free premium membership."
According to Statistics Canada, undergraduate students paid an average of $5,959 in tuition in 2014/2015, up from $5,767 the year prior. Those numbers are highest in Ontario, where undergrad students pay about $7,539 annually. Women account for 60 percent of Canadian undergrad degree holders.
While it's easy to see the appeal of having a sugar daddy, the relationships don't always go as planned.
Jenna (not her real name), 29, told VICE she became a sugar baby in 2015 to help pay her bills. At the time, she was working as a production assistant for a fashion designer in New York City—her rent in a shared house was $1052.88 CAD a month while her cellphone bill was about $150.
"I could cover my rent and maybe phone bill but couldn't really pay for anything else," she said.
The first daddy she came across, who said he'd previously paid for a woman's college tuition, offered her a weekly salary.
"I was into that kind of arrangement," she said, "but I just couldn't do it… He was in his 50s and did not work out or anything nor was he attractive."
Soon after though, she settled on a 48-year-old real estate developer, who paid her rent, meals, and took her on a trip to Vieques, Puerto Rico where they stayed at Hix Island House, the same luxury retreat Lady Gaga reportedly visited. He also spent more than $1,000 in sex toys for the two of them and lingerie. In the six months they were together, Jenna estimates her sugar daddy spent around $25,000 on her. In exchange, she said she would have sex with him four to five times a week—usually dominating him.
"You are getting money in exchange for sex," she said. "That's the definition of prostitution."
But things went south because Jenna said her sugar daddy was in denial about the nature of their relationship, and wanted her to act like a "real girlfriend."
"He'd get jealous and he was controlling," she said. "Whenever I wasn't with him he'd constantly blow up my phone calling and texting me asking me so many questions about what I was doing at that moment. I felt interrogated."
However, she noted that she doesn't believe all sugar daddies are like that, and even said she almost went with a friend to meet a different client, who was offering them "$1,000 to do coke and suck his dick."
"You can make a lot of money and some girls just love the attention and lifestyle," she said.
SeekingArrangement spokeswoman Alexis Germany said prostitution is strictly against the site's rules.
"Prostitution is strictly transactional where someone is paid for sexual services, whereas a Sugar Baby is in a relationship with their Sugar Daddy. Oftentimes, arrangements evolve into romantic relationships, and even marriage," she said.
Doug Hoyes, co-founder of Hoyes Michalos personal insolvency firm, told VICE 60 percent of people who go bankrupt due to student loans are women, and that women tend to owe more money than men.
He recommended students entering university think carefully about whether or not they're going to have a job by the time they graduate.
"If there isn't going to be a job or it's going to be a job that won't allow you to pay back your loan, maybe you're better off going to school part time," he said.
So, maybe avoid these degrees.
Follow Manisha Krishnan on Twitter.
New York governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday announced a plan to make tuition at state colleges and universities free for families earning less than $125,000 a year, a sign that the recent surge in student debt remains a politically potent issue even after the defeat of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
"This society should say, 'We're going to pay for college because you need college to be successful.' And New York State is going to do something about it," Cuomo said.
Cuomo made the announcement at LaGuardia Community College in the New York City borough of Queens, where he appeared with Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Sanders made free college tuition a cornerstone of his failed bid for the Democratic presidential nomination last year. And some of Sanders's free tuition policy was ultimately adopted by the party's eventual nominee, Hillary Clinton.
The Cuomo plan would offer free tuition at two-year community colleges, and four-year colleges and universities operated by the State University of New York and City University of New York systems. While splashy, it still is just a plan and will require a vote by the state Legislature.
For politicians eager to make a connection with younger voters, the student issue is a clear winner. Rates of student debt have risen rapidly in the aftermath of the Great Recession. Besides mortgage debt, student debt is now the largest category of consumer debt in the country, with nearly $1.3 trillion in loans outstanding.
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If tuition isn’t high enough, college students have a laundry list of college-related expenses they have to pay for. Especially during your first semester, those expenses can catch you by surprise. Another one to add to the list: digital access codes.