Tricks for Tuition

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of .. a dinner companion? According to this recent CBC News article, rich men and women are available to take young students out to dinner. That’s right, students can dine like royalty and get paid for it too. No kidding.

According to the article, over 100,000 Canadian students have registered on the sugar daddy website Seeking Arrangements. Students, known as sugar babies, get matched up with older, moneyed sugar daddies or sugar mommies for an exchange of what is described as “mutually agreed-upon expectations.”

A spokesperson for the website denies their service is about sex. However, this Huffington Post article from 2011 is more explicit about the reality of sugar baby arrangements like those provided through Seeking Arrangements and similar websites. As one student sugar baby in the Huffington Post article comments, “if this isn’t what prostitution is called, I don’t know what is.”

The young lady in the CBC article says her sugar daddy, who is married, pays her $300 every time they go out on a date. “Kelly” says she was forced into this sugar daddy arrangement by the cost of her education. She sugar-coats her unorthodox student financing by claiming It’s about making a “connection.” Kelly notes that her sugar daddy can take her places that boys her age can’t. He makes her feel like a “princess.” If that makes it okay, why use a pseudonym?

One aspect that student sugar baby Kelly didn’t comment on is personal values. We all have them and surely Kelly does too. It’s interesting how flexible personal values can get when one wants something to be just a bit easier. Kelly’s values may be different from mine and I suspect they are different from her parents? too, since she admits she hasn’t told them about her arrangement. College-student prostitution is nothing new and the standard justification for taking that road is the high cost of education. Now, education is not cheap, but is there a need to cheapen oneself to acquire it?

Most university and college students seem to be getting by without selling themselves to pay their tuition. Sure it would be easier to pay down your student debt by turning $300 tricks, but is it worth it? Some may argue that a prostitute engages in a simple fee-for-service like any other worker, and that is true. So does a murderer-for-hire, a water-board operator at Guantanamo Bay, and a telemarketer. But that doesn’t make those lines of work tempting to many people.

If turning tricks is perceived as a legitimate way to pay for higher education, is higher education worth it? Although a university degree is increasingly necessary for many of today’s jobs, it can hardly be construed as a necessity of life. If someone has to sacrifice their personal values to pay for their education, maybe they need to examine whether they can afford it. Not every type of job requires a degree and not many jobs pay the sugar daddy rate.

I wonder how well the Kellys of this world are preparing themselves for life’s realities. Life is not easy and we seldom get to play princess or prince. Reality is hard work, long hours, conflicting obligations, and difficult choices. Yet there is a satisfaction in paying one’s own way without compromising one’s values. There’s no trick to paying for tuition. It takes hard work, perseverance, and the fortitude to stay true to one’s personal standards.

Barbara Lehtiniemi is a writer, photographer, and AU student. She lives on a windswept rural road in Eastern Ontario

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