Why are university students signing on with Cleveland escort agencies? Sounds like a familiar phrase but the stories behind it are not as simple. Six words that hide the pain, frustration, helplessness, and utter desperation, and yet that is the reality of many university students leading a double life as a 'Sugar Baby' which is another word for Escort. You would think that the very stigma associated with the word 'escort' and 'sex worker' would be enough to turn normal people off, much more so, a university student but the truth is, more and more students are turning to this line of work, not to get spending money, as many people mistakenly believe, but to fund their education. Most of these students would never even think of entering this profession if they had sufficient means to pay for their skyrocketing tuition fees. In 2004 a study called the Student Sex Work Project had revealed the ages of the girls selling sexual favors to help them for their college fees and living costs, they were as young as 18 and 19. Five years later, the Student Money Survey 2019 by Save the Student revealed that almost 4% of the 3300 surveyed students had turned to escort work including sugar dating, trading sexual favors, offering adult services, and exchanging erotic selfies for cash to fund their courses. Most students sign up for popular websites like Seeking Arrangement or Golds Girlies, alongside Tinder that offers instant escorting opportunities to cash-strapped students.

So, why are Ohio students turning to escort work when they can do part-time work? Most universities place stringent restrictions on part-time work – some cap part-time work hours, others forbid it during term time, leaving desperate students no choice but to sign on with escort agencies that exploit this weakness. They are embarrassed to have to perform such services, most lead a double life as escorts in Cleveland, but they have no choice if they want to continue their education. This dismal situation begs the question, "what about financial support?" Well, the whole reason students turn to such a line of work, at the cost of their dignity and embarrassment is because of the lack of adequate financial support, because the student funding offers are not enough to cover the increasing expenses. The National Student Money Survey, also by Save the Student shows that more and more students are struggling to make ends meet as living and education costs go up.

Are escorts in Cleveland unique in the fact that more and more students are turning to sex work? The picture shifts when we move away from Europe. In Asian countries like India, Japan, South Korea, China, etc higher education costs are usually borne by families supported by education loans from banks or government and institution-granted scholarships for students from low-income families. In Asia, while student escort work is not unheard of, the numbers are extremely low, either due to the funding options or the cultural taboos surrounding it. That is not say that parents in the US, UK, and EU countries do not support their children's education, but while high-earning parents are able to give their kids a comfortable university life, the story is very different for low-income families or struggling single-parent families where the parental contribution is not a choice, it's a question of affordability. This leaves many students embarrassed to ask their parents for tuition money.

Is being a sugar baby a more respectable position than an escort? But while being a temporary sugar baby is a quick way to get money to pay tuition and living costs, luck is not always on the side of students. In June 2019, a student named Mackenzie Lueck, age 23 and working as a sugar baby, was found dead in Utah. Despite these incidents, sites like Seeking Arrangement which calls itself "the leading Sugar Daddy dating site where over 3 million members fuel mutually beneficial relationships on their terms," continue to flourish and will do so as long as the state of higher education in countries like the UK, US and EU remain unchanged. It is not just steep university costs, the institutions themselves are not helpful towards low-income students. Many universities do have a hardship bursary, but financial advisors usually turn down requests for help, instead advising some students to give up on their studies. At the same time, they force students to sign contracts limiting part-time work, forcing them, in desperation to turn to other means of income, namely escort services. Here is a story from one such student:

Where do escorts in Cleveland advertise now that backpage escorts are no longer available? Clare, from a low-income family, took out a postgraduate student loan of $10,400 to fund her year-long master's course costing $6000. The remaining $4400 would go into covering the $350 monthly rent, bills, food, and other miscellaneous costs. However, she had an accident during a summer camp volunteering drive in the US which led her to spend $1300 in medical costs. When she reached out to her university for help after the accident, she was turned down and asked to give up her studies. She tried to work in a shop, but it paid only $8.15 an hour and she had been forced to sign a contract by the university capping part-time work at 8 hours. This left her no option to pay the rent and bills that were due. Asking her family for money was out of the question as they could not afford it. That is when she was introduced to Backpage.com and from then on she would turn to the site for help with her financial situation as it offered her a choice of earning $260 an hour as opposed to the $8.15 an hour in the shop. Clare is not alone, her situation is mirrored by hundreds of students across the US and EU who feel that this is the only affordable option to fund their education. Clare sums up the situation in these words, "The fact that I felt I was left with no alternative, with my university offering zero financial help when I turned to them, is a sad and damning representation of higher education now."

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