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Are more Canadian students becoming ‘sugar babies’ to pay for university education?

More university students are seeking sugar daddies, says the founder of a dating website. (Thinkstock)Tuition is expensive. But are rising education costs really to blame for young students looking to connect with wealthy benefactors eager to pay for a relationship — or are these "mutually beneficial arrangements" just a quick-fix solution to acquiring a more luxurious lifestyle?

Brandon Wade, the founder of morally-grey site SeekingArrangement.com, claims that Canadian university students are looking for "sugar daddies."

"It's something that’s a whole lot more rational and materialistic, at least in the very beginning," Wade says. "One party has to be generous and willing to pamper and spoil — we call that the 'sugar daddy' — and on the other side, somebody who wants to be spoiled and pampered in return for, I guess, being pretty."

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In 2012, 183 students at Ryerson University in Toronto signed up on his site, making it the fastest-growing sugar baby school in Canada. The University of Ottawa and Univeristy of Toronto followed, with 179 and 156 new members, respectively.

The site connects men and women looking for "mutually beneficial relationships." Sugar daddies — or sugar mommies, although there are significantly fewer of them — offer money or gifts "in return for friendship and companionship," the site explains.

The definition of companionship is strategically unclear.

"The details of any arrangements, including whether sex is on the table, are entirely up to the people involved," SeekingArrangement.com spokesman Leroy Velasquez writes in an email to Postmedia News.

"The money could go to college tuition, it could go to paying rent or it could just be used for travelling or buying gifts and shopping," Wade says.

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Wade claims that when his site launched in 2006, 30 per cent of his clients were students. That percentage has since risen to 50.

"Tuition rates have gone up…much faster than the rate of inflation or the cost of living adjustments," Wade says, adding that TV programming like Millionaire Matchmaker and The Bachelor glamourize the idea of finding a wealthy and successful partner.

"The idea of having a sugar daddy is still somewhat of a fantasy to a lot of women," says Jennifer Gwynn, a spokesperson for SeekingArrangement.com. "A lot of women I’ve talked to think it’s a fairy-tale, they don’t think it’s a real thing that people are doing."

For a sugar daddy to join the site, he must make at least $250,000 annually. The average monthly allowance for sugar babies is around $3,000 a month, Beacon News reports.

"It's difficult to take out student loans when you aren't sure when, or if, you will be able to pay them back. By seeking a mutually beneficial relationship while attending college, students will be more likely to find success later in life," Wade says in a statement.

The sugar baby-sugar daddy relationship isn't just financially beneficial, Gwynn claims.

"Young women who become sugar babies can benefit from the company of a wealthy man by receiving business mentoring, networking opportunities, music lessons, exposure to cultural events, and world travel."

"It's a way to find relationships that are win-win," claims Wade. "All relationships that are successful are mutually beneficial at the end of the day."

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Karen Wendling, a philosophy professor at the University of Guelph, doubts that students signing up to be sugar babies are simply looking for help with their tuition.

"I would be surprised if most of them would be satisfied with just tuition," she tells the Guelph Mercury. "My understanding of women who go after sugar daddies is they want more, and they like a nice lifestyle. So they are going after men who have a nice lifestyle. And for some men, they want someone who is young and looks good on their arm. And probably in most cases they want sex."

Even though both parties are entering into a relationship with clear motives, there are still dangers linked to such arrangements.

"Whenever you get money involved it sets expectations," Wendling warns. "There are dangers of abuse on both sides. There are dangers to the younger people that they will get abused, that they will get raped, coerced or blackmailed later on. There are dangers to the sugar daddies that they will get defrauded or have money stolen from them. There are dangers on both sides that they will get crushed emotionally."

Her advice to potential sugar babies?

"Be careful, try not to get hurt and try not to hurt anybody else."

Is this just another sad sign of the times for Canadian students? Or can there be real benefits to a sugar baby-sugar daddy relationship?   

Watch the video below from last spring about Montreal students protesting a hike in tuition costs.

 

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