Whack ‘student make money quick’ or the like into Google, and the countless articles that spring up will make it clear that many students are indeed searching out ways to make extra cash whilst studying. However, these are more than just Del boy-esque ‘get rich quick schemes’: they’re a very real indication of the ﬁnancial pressures students face with the cost of university.
When I say “the cost of university”, I’m not really talking about tuition. That ever-elusive £9000 a year never actually graces our bank accounts, and besides, the cost of attending university hasn’t changed in ﬁve years now (which, I don’t know about you, makes me feel old). It is living expenses — meeting the costs of steep rent, stacks of textbooks, a religious commitment to Cheesy Tuesdays and the copious amounts of coﬀee needed thereafter — where students struggle.
Indeed, the cost of living in some cities — London being an obvious example, but ‘Exetah’ too — is comparatively high
anyway. Without turning this into some frenzied anti-Tory rant, it can hardly be said that Cameron’s scrapping of maintenance grants has helped. University life is less aﬀordable than ever before, so it’s no surprise that many of us have to tighten our belts whilst some are forced to resort to more desperate measures to fund their studies.
It was revealed in the latest edition of Exeposé that some 400 Exeter students are registered ‘sugar babies’, pursuing “mutually beneﬁcial relationships” through the website Seeking Arrangment. That’s a sharp increase from the 122 students from the University reported to use the site just two years ago, but when wealthy benefactors are able to oﬀer their ‘sugar babies’ a couple of thousand pounds a month, is this trend really so surprising?
Whilst there are plenty of less controversial ways for a student to supplement their loan, from part-time jobs to paid online surveys, few of these promise to be quite so lucrative. That’s not to assume that all students that do become ‘sugar babies’ are unwillingly driven to it out of desperation. However, you can’t help but feel that it’s no longer the case that students just want to earn a little on the side and add to the money they already have. The increasingly extreme measures that students resort to in exchange for greater sums of cash seems to suggest a need for money; for enough money to keep up with the ever-increasing cost of living as a student.
Yes, university is expensive for everyone, but for some it has become unaffordable. Under the current government, that’s not about to change. It’d be perfectly easy to say “don’t go if you can’t aﬀord it”, but then what would that do for social mobility? Conclusion: the system is pretty crap. And, cynical as it sounds, although it’s upsetting to hear about the extremities that some are driven to, we shouldn’t be surprised. Unfortunately, students are just doing what they have to do.