Some Canadian university and college students are paying their way through school with the help of a website featuring "sugar daddies" willing to help pay their bills and loans in exchange for dates.
Seeking Arrangement touts itself as "Canada's No. 1 sugar daddy dating website" and claims to have 130,000 Canadian members who declare themselves as students or graduates trying to pay off their post-secondary debts.
- Meet a graduate with Canada's average debt load
- Youth unemployment: By the numbers
- Online dating assistants are ghostwriting Tinder profiles
- Seeking Arrangement founder defends the art of sugar dating
The website involves "sugar babies" making agreements with interested older "sugar daddies" or "sugar mommies."
'It's just nice to be treated to something different and to feel like you're a princess.' - 'Kelly,' Winnipeg college student
An estimated 6,200 of the site's student members are from Manitoba, including a 23-year-old Winnipeg college student who says it linked her with a married man in his 40s who gives her $300 every time they go on a date.
They meet once a week or once every two weeks, she said, adding that some of their dates have been private but many are in public.
"There's places we can go that, like, a 24-year-old guy can't afford," she said in an interview.
"It's just nice to be treated to something different and to feel like you're a princess."
CBC News has agreed to identify the woman as Kelly — not her real name — and not show her face.
Kelly said she was asked by Seeking Arrangement if she wanted to talk to CBC News about her experience, but she said she was not offered any remuneration by the company.
She said she agreed to be interviewed because she believes the website is a good option for other students who are struggling financially.
"I pay for my tuition myself. I took out a student line of credit. My mom is not able to help me at all. My dad helps sometimes, but he also isn't really able to help me," she explained.
"I worked really hard this summer — like, two jobs. I was working like 8:30 to 4:30 and then I was working five to midnight all summer, so that I could save up money for school."
'Wasn't going to sugar-coat it'
Kelly said she learned about the website on the American TV show Dr. Phil, but she didn't think much about it until her boyfriend — a man close to her own age — broke up with her in February.
Forced to start over financially while juggling schoolwork, she went to the website and created a profile.
'Young women really do have to question what these men are about.' - Marian Morry, University of Manitoba
As part of her profile, she had to include a photograph of herself and state her expectations, including how much financial support she'd want from a prospective partner.
"I put down that I was looking for somebody that I could have fun with … somebody that I could find a connection with, but also somebody who is also able to help me out a little bit when I needed it," she said.
"[I] wasn't going to sugar-coat it. I'm not going to be like, 'Oh, I'm looking for fun and nothing.' It's like I'm on this because I need a little bit of support. And the guys on there know that, too, and they want to help you."
Kelly said she listed her monetary expectations as "negotiable."
Other students on Seeking Arrangement have requested amounts ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 from their sugar daddies, in exchange for other mutually agreed-upon expectations.
"Most sugar babies are very optimistic in their lists of what kind of allowances and things they want. Most of the guys on the site aren't going to be forking over $3,000 a month to a sugar baby," Brook Urick, a spokesperson for Seeking Arrangement and its sister websites, told CBC News.
"But there are the girls that, you know, need to pay for college, and they meet someone on the site who's willing to sponsor them and finance that, and they're graduating debt-free."
Urick said the website has far more people seeking financial support than members wanting to provide support. The average age of someone seeking a "sugar daddy" is 26, she added.
The company offers free premium memberships to members who can prove they are a student, while a "sugar daddy" pays a standard membership of about $60 a month, she added.
Manitoba professor shocked
Marian Morry, a psychology professor at the University of Manitoba, said she was shocked to learn some students at the university are seeking sugar daddies.
"The fact that these are men claiming they have lots of money and willing to pay for a date — young women really do have to question what these men are about," she said.
- Why are so many of Canada's young people out of work?
- Gen Y struggles in expensive housing, rental market
- What will university cost in 2017?
Urick said Seeking Arrangement is about "mutually beneficial" relationships.
It's difficult to accurately determine how many students on Seeking Arrangement come from Manitoba's three largest post-secondary institutions.
Figures provided by the website show that of the 6,200 student members from Manitoba, a small number use current email addresses from the following schools:
- University of Manitoba: 142.
- Red River College: 97.
- University of Winnipeg: 24.
"Basically it's about meeting one another's needs. So the guys on the site are generous, successful businessmen and they don't want to be texting for 24 hours a day and messaging back and forth forever. They just want to have a nice dinner with a nice girl and make it happen quickly," Urick said.
At the same time, she said, "Everyone's always thinking it's some kind of, like, 'pay for play' exchange, and that's definitely not the case. These are romantic relationships, and people are getting involved on an emotional level."
When asked if sex is an expectation during her dates, Kelly replied, "It's not an expectation. It's all about having a connection."
Kelly said she has not told her parents about the website.