There comes a time in every student’s life when money is tight. We’ve all survived on our housemate’s leftovers and borrowed off our parents, but what are today’s students really willing to do to ensure they can match the rising cost of higher education? A recent revelation showed how extreme the situation for many female students really is.
A website known as Sponsor A Scholar has recently been exposed as an escort service that matches poor students and wealthy businessmen together for a sexual transaction. Girls using this service can earn up to £15,000 a year in exchange for a minimum of two six hour ‘meetings’ every term. Each girl must meet with an ‘assessor’ to discuss the process and also fill out a ‘questionnaire’ of what she is able and willing to provide for her sponsor. This information is then used for a ‘practical assessment’, in which the girl must prove to the ‘assessor’ the level of intimacy she is willing to provide. As shady as it sounds, the site has matched 1,400 women aged 17-24 to have their studies funded by wealthy executives. So why is this the option so many female students are now taking?
The average cost of university is now around £9,000 a year, which has already discouraged many A-Level students away from university. Those continuing however, are facing higher educational costs with no increased help from student finance companies, leaving them running up overdrafts and working extensive part-time jobs to make extra money. Although many female students claim Sponsor A Scholar is clearly a step too far, some believe it is their last resort to fund their studies.
Sponsor A Scholar claims to offer ‘up to 100% of your Tuition Fees’ in return for private ‘meetings’ which must take place either in hotel rooms or private flats. The website itself, which now shows the message ‘Sorry website unavailable for maintenance’, states that ‘Because of the considerable sums of money our sponsors are offering in scholarship, they tell us that they have expectations of a high level of sexual intimacy with their chosen student’. This is of course tested prior to the woman’s ‘meeting’ with her sponsor, as the ‘assessor’ requires some free action too. This reveals the truly dangerous nature of these meetings, as young girls are expected to perform highly inappropriate sexual acts on older men in order to fund their studies. In addition to this, an undercover reporter for The Independent asked her ‘assessor’ if the sponsors took regular sexual health checks, to which he told her that although the website ‘invite[s] them to do that’ some of them choose not to. This means that aside from the dangers of meeting a stranger, alone; young girls are also now at risk of contracting Sexually Transmitted Infections.
The website says that it charges its male sponsors a joining fee of £100 and takes 3% commission from the total ‘sponsorship’ money. However when a male undercover reporter approached the site he was told there was a waiting list and he would be contacted at some point in the new year. Yet when the female undercover reporter approached the site, the meeting was arranged immediately. The ‘assessor’ encouraged the reporter to accompany him back to his flat to start the ‘practical assessment’ immediately, and warned her that if she didn’t he wouldn’t be able to see her again until late in December, suggesting there was an urgency for her to complete her assessments that night.
It’s hard to decide what’s more distressing: the fact that young female students feel they must sell themselves to earn an education; or the existence of dangerous websites and agencies willing to exploit these students by any means. It seems ridiculous that this problem should be occurring in an age where education should (and once was) free and accessible to everyone. The insane and highly unattainable costs are clearly affecting students in a new, extremely concerning way that certainly needs to be addressed, before prostitution becomes the new Uni job.