Last night, in his sixth State of the Union address, President Obama said he’d like it if community college could be subsidized—a way to promote universal access to higher education. He said he wants to “make sure Americans already burdened with student loans can reduce their monthly payments, so that student debt doesn’t derail anyone’s dreams.”
Climbing student debt has been a hot topic lately, and for good reason. Tuitions continue to rise across America and studies show that today’s graduates will leave the comfy fortress of academia with more debt than ever before. (That’s not hyperbole; the Wall Street Journal declared the Class of 2014 “the most indebted ever.”)
A silver-bullet solution is unlikely to come soon, but in the meantime, some web-savvy students around the country are seeking some “financial supplement” through a website called SeekingArrangement. And, it would seem, students at the University of Texas at Austin are particularly enamored with the site.
SeekingArrangement is an online dating service, but this isn’t your run-of-the-mill matchmaking site like OKCupid or Match.com. Sure, like those other companies, SeekingArrangement allows users to create a profile and browse for people they find intriguing. And yes, users can message one another and arrange dates, build romances, or do whatever they want outside of the confines of the site. But the twist of SeekingArrangement is that it separates its pool of users into two camps: the haves and the have-nots, or, in their words, Sugar Babies and Sugar Daddies/Mommas.
From the website:
SeekingArrangement delivers a new way for relationships to form and grow. Sugar Babies and Sugar Daddies or Mommas both get what they want, when they want it.
According to the site’s press kit, the average Sugar Baby—the slightly stomach-turning term for the younger counterparts in these relationships—is 26. One doesn’t have to be a student to sign up for SeekingArrangement, but Sugar Babies who sign up with a dot-edu email address do get access to premium memberships for free—asking cash-strapped students to pay to use the site would be cruel, after all. The Sugar Daddies and Mommas are described as “wealthy benefactors seeking mutually beneficial relationships with attractive members.”
A press release from January 9 shows that 425 UT-Austin students signed up for the site last year, putting the school on the top of SeekingArrangement’s list of the “Fastest Growing Sugar Baby Schools of 2015.” That’s more students than any other school, including New York University, where undergraduate students pay upwards of $20,000 a semester. That’s a lot of money, especially compared to the $5,000 in-state, or $17-19,000 out-of-state, undergrad tuition rate at UT. And yet students in Austin are heading to SeekingArrangement in hopes of finding a “wealthy benefactor” at the fastest rate in the country.
An infographic included in SeekingArrangement’s press release breaks down the site’s user base by several factors, like family income and race. Most of the Sugar Babies on the site—55 percent—come from middle class and upper middle-class families. This isn’t necessarily surprising when you consider that, according to data released by Pew Research Center, these are the same income groups that are turning more and more to student loans each year.
As SeekingArragement says on its website, “FAFSA and grants can be a nightmare — that’s if you are approved,” and, more than likely, middle and upper-middle class students are taking out loans to fill the ever-increasing gap between what their families can afford, and what it costs to go to school—even at big, public, state schools like UT.
And to avoid this debt or pay off existing loans, some people are turning to SeekingArrangement—or, as the site says, choosing to attend “Sugar Baby University, where beautiful, ambitious people graduate debt free.”