HOUSTON -- The price of a college education is high. So it's not surprising students are finding nontraditional ways to pay their tuition. Some have become what are known as "Sugar Babies" to make financial ends meet.
Twenty-three-year old Kennedy is a nursing student in Houston and a single mom. She doesn't want to reveal her identity for fear people will find out.
"I'm a Sugar Baby," she said. "Over $15,000. Yeah, I've had Sugar Daddies pay my car notes, pay my rent."
She posted this profile to SeekingArrangement.com. It's one of many so-called "dating" websites that typically links wealthy men with young women, looking not for love, but for financial support.
Kennedy said she has met four men online, provided companionship and conversation, but nothing beyond that.
"It's not a bad thing, it's not about sex. It's about so much more than that. It can be any relationship that you want," Kennedy said.
"Some Sugar Babies I've met have gotten jobs, got into grad school, even started their own businesses with the help of their Sugar Daddies. I would beg to differ that they are in any way vulnerable. They're empowered," SeekingArrangement.com Spokeswoman Angela Jacob Bermudo said.
The company says the average Sugar Baby receives about $3,000 in monthly allowances, though Bermudo stresses that it's not "exchange of services for money."
"We don't allow prostitution. That is illegal," she said.
But many, like legal analyst Joel Androphy, still raise a brow.
"Is this legal? It's legal if there is no sex involved. Nobody is going to believe there is no sex involved. But something is only criminal if you get caught," Androphy said.
According to the website, in 2014, the University of Texas had 425 new student sign-ups -- the most of any college nationwide. Locally, the University of Houston had 65 new sign-ups. But here's the caution.
Therapists Micki Grimland worries about the psychological impact.
"The reason people would be looking to hookup in a Sugar Baby kind of attachment is against the design of connection. The human condition is built for attachment," Grimland said.
But those signing up, like Kennedy, say it's strictly business.
"If I'm getting paid for a conversation, then well on that's great," she said.
Below is the company's list of fastest-growing Sugar Baby schools and the number of new sign-ups from each campus in 2014:
1 University of Texas - 425
2 Arizona State University - 403
3 New York University - 398
4 Kent State University - 387
5 Georgia State University - 376
6 University of Central Florida - 290
7 Indiana University - 240
8 University of Alabama - 210
9 Temple University - 204
10 University of California, Los Angeles - 199
11 Columbia University - 187
12 University of Michigan - 186
13 University of Florida - 181
14 University of Minnesota - 179
15 Boston University - 178
16 Tulane University - 172
17 Penn State University - 163
18 Virginia Commonwealth University - 160
19 Louisiana State University - 159
20 Florida State University - 158
More students using website to find 'Sugar Daddy' to make ends meet
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