Students join controversial sugar daddy dating site in their droves – as founder says soaring British university fees are to blame
18:26 GMT, 24 April 2012
Female students are flocking to 'sugar daddy' dating sites to meet rich older boyfriends as they struggle with debts which will average 53,000 for those starting degrees this year.
Faced with 9,000 annual tuition fees, increasing numbers of girls are using the sites to form relationships with rich older men who they hope will fund their studies.
Dating site SeekingArrangement.com has released figures showing the 20 British universities with the highest number of students joining the controversial site – and the numbers of girls who have signed up in the last year.
Author and journalist Helen Croydon used the controversial dating site to find sugar daddies to date. 'If you are attracted to older men and looking for companionship with someone who has money, do it,' she says
Top is Nottingham University with 61 sign-ups, followed by the University of Kent (57) and London School of Economics (51).
Cambridge University – recently voted the best university in the world – came fourth with 46 students signing up to the dating website.
And it is not only students who are foregoing men their own age for a life of dependency.
Many SeekingArrangement members are recent graduates who feel trapped by debt and are struggling to find work.
All too often, the only work available for some is unpaid 'internships' which can last for as long as six months with no promise of paid work at the end.
Typical of these highly educated 'sugar babes' is Tina*, 22, who left university in London last summer with a degree in film studies and debts of 32,000.
Determined to forge a career in film, the only work she could get was as an unpaid runner.
Pretty and blonde but unable to draw on any significant financial support from her parents, she joined SeekingArrangement in the hope of meeting a rich sugar daddy.
She said: 'I was up to my eyes in debt
and had no chance of paying any of it back in the short term while I
tried to make it in film.
SeekingArrangement.com has seen a major influx of students joining – and even offers such new members special benefits
'A friend from college had joined one of these sites and encouraged me to give it a go because she knew that I had always been attracted to older men.
'I was extremely reluctant at first but then I thought I would give it a go.'
Tina, slim and 5ft 11 inches tall, was pleasantly surprised at the response.
'I did a bit of modelling for fashion magazines in my first two years at university, so I was confident that I would find the right sugar daddy. I wasn't disappointed,' she explained.
Tina went on six dates before finding a 'sugar daddy' she was keen to date.
'I wasn't going to sleep with anyone I didn't like or fancy – that was a clear rule right from the start,' she explained.
'I met a range of men who on the whole were charming, funny and great company. One of the guys was married and that wasn't an option for me.
'A couple were attractive but there was no real spark there for either of us. We went to dinner but didn't take it any further.
'It took me about a month to find the man I was looking for – basically, someone I would have dated anyway, regardless of meeting him on a sugar daddy site.
Founder of SeekingArrangement businessman Brandon Wade says soaring university fees are behind the rise in student members. 'We've had a huge influx of beautiful, highly educated young women,' he said
'He was in his late forties and making several million a year working for one of the big hedge funds. He drove a Bentley, and took me to some amazing places including a perfect weekend at Raymond Blanc's Manoir Aux Quat'Saisons.
'We went to Paris and stayed at the Hotel de Crillon which has to be seen to be believed – it the most perfect place in the world.
'At New Year he took me to the Regina Hotel Baglioni in Rome.
'I remember seeing in 2012 drinking champagne in front of the Trevi fountain and thinking, “This is the life.”'
'We entered into what the site calls a mutually beneficial arrangement. We were boyfriend and girlfriend but I was paid 2,500 a month, which was more than enough to cover my bills while I pursued my career in film.
'We saw each other for six months while I acquired the skills which enabled me to get a full-time job.
'In the end, it fizzled out and we split up amicably but I have no regrets about going on the site.'
spoke out as figures from the Push university guide showed that
students starting college this autumn will finish their degree with
debts, on average, of 53,400 – double the figure for 2011 of 26,100.
The sharp rise is due to the impact of tuition fees which can be as much as 9,000 a year.
Helen Croydon is the author of Sugar Daddy Diaries – a confessional memoir about her time dating older men.
Author and journalist Helen, 34, was on SeekingArrangement for 18 months and dated scores of older men.
She said she was aware that lots of students were meeting men on the site.
'It is an easy way for well-educated, attractive girls to make money,' she said.
'It's an easy way for well-educated, attractive girls to make money'
'Lots of students are now doing it – and obviously tuition fees and the fact that it is so hard for graduates to find well paid work after leaving university are driving lots of women to these sites.
'What I would say to them quite clearly is: don't do this if you are just looking for money.
'Do it if you are attracted to older men and are looking for companionship with someone who has money. If money is your only motivation you may be disappointed.
'It is degrading if money is all you are interested in. You need to want some adventure and fulfillment from it.
'I dated scores of men on the site but only a few of these led to relationships.'
Helen studied Japanese at Sheffield University and pursued a career in accountancy before switching careers to work as a TV producer and author.
She spent years dating mega-successful rich men and attending so-called luxury sex parties as research for her book, published last year.
The SeekingArrangement site is clearly more than happy with the influx of student signups. New members who are also students are upgraded by the site to a premium account, and they are given a 'college sugar babe' stamp on their profile.
Members with these stamps get three times more responses than regular female members of the site.
U.S.-based SeekingArrangement owner Brandon Wade said: 'Over the past few years, the number of college students using our site has exploded.'
He said 35 per cent of the site's 50,000 UK members were students – and the numbers are growing all the time.
'Your new tuition fees have been great for business,' he said. 'We've had a huge influx of beautiful, highly educated young women.
'The high levels of graduate unemployment has meant a lot of beautiful women are joining us after finishing their studies.
'They are forced to take internships or jobs which are very badly paid as they start out on careers.
'They need a generous sugar daddy to help them through this time. They get taken to places they could never afford in a million years – and receive financial help through what can be a difficult time in anyone's career.'
Brandon Wade was behind the launch of the 'sugar daddy' dating phenomenon in 2006 in the States.
It has grown so quickly that he has become a multi-millionaire on the back of several dating sites which cater for older men keen to date younger 'trophy' wives.
For his part, Wade has no complaints about the burgeoning interest in his sites.
The U.S. entrepreneur is currently expanding his operation on an international level, and is set to celebrate his launch into Europe with a party at The Gore Hotel in London on May 20.
*Name has been changed
UNIVERSITY RANKING # SIGNUPS
1. The University of Nottingham 61
2. University of Kent 57
3. London School of Economics 51
4. University of Cambridge 46
5. University of Southampton 43
6. Oxford Brookes University 40
7. University of St Andrews 36
8. Glasgow Caledonian University 34
9. University College London 33
10. Brunel University, London 32
11. University of East London 30
12. Goldsmiths, University of London 29
13. University of Exeter 27
14. Birkbeck, University of London 26
15. University of Surrey 24
16. University of Leeds 23
17. City University London 21
18. London South Bank University 19
19. University of Westminister 18
20. Queen's University Belfast 18