Debt is increasingly limiting students’ options post-graduation, especially as the recession dries up funding for expensive law, medical and graduate degrees and youth unemployment reaches staggering levels around the world. And it seems to be driving some students to desperate measures. British medical student Jodi Dixon, who is studying at the University of Birmingham, says that the rising costs of higher education are causing some of her peers to contemplate prostitution.
Dixon cites a study of 300 British college students, 10% of whom said they know a student who had worked as a prostitute or escort in 2010, an increase from just 6% in 2006. In the UK, the act of prostitution itself is not illegal, although related activities (including soliciting sex) are. According to Dixon, the English Collective of Prostitutes says that it has experienced a spike in the number of students considering prostitution. This is undoubtedly related to the costs of medical school, but also speaks to the scarcity of part-time jobs that students might, in the past, have used to supplement their income.
The same phenomenon seems to exist, at least to some extent, in the U.S. Last summer, a Care2 blogger wrote about the website SeekingArrangement.com, which matches young adults with wealthy suitors. The site offers a discount for new members who sign up with a .edu email address. For increasingly financially vulnerable students, this could seem like the only way to pay for their education.
Debates about the morality of prostitution aside, the fact that students feel that sex work is the only alternative to staggering debt is unacceptable. In the UK especially, austerity measures have kept the government from giving graduate students a helping hand, despite the fact that lifetime earnings skyrocket with a master’s degree. It makes sense to invest in higher education, but by cutting funding for public universities and providing less government aid to students, politicians are reducing students’ options to the point where prostitution seems like a viable way to earn much-needed extra cash.
Or, in the words of a female massage parlor owner in Leeds, “In my day, people went to university in order to avoid this kind of life, but now they lead this kind of life in order to go to university.”