Sandy (not real name) graduated from law school debt-free this spring, thanks to a modern twist on an age-old arrangement. During her first year, she faced tuition and expenses that ran nearly $50,000, even after a scholarship.
- So she decided to check out a dating website that connected women looking for financial help with men willing to provide it, in exchange for companionship and sex - a 'sugar daddy' relationship as they are known.Now, almost three years and several sugar daddies later, Sandy is set to graduate from Villanova University free and clear, while some of her peers are burdened with six-digit debts.
As the cost of tuition and rent rises, so does the apparent popularity of such sites among students.
But are they really providing financial relief, or signing women up for something more exploitative and dangerous than debt?
Sandy believes such sites are a 'great resource' for young women, but others say these arrangements smack of prostitution and take advantage of women in a vulnerable situation.
But the sugar daddy sites are relatively new, and she says not entirely upfront about what they are really about.
These arrangements are more vague than prostitution - there is an expectation of material benefit but it is not always specified and sex is not guaranteed.
Sandy says she sifted through many potential suitors before finding one she clicked with. She says she considers her sugar daddy one of her best friends and that they care deeply for each other.
'The people who have a stigma, or associate a negative connotation with it, don't understand how it works,' she says.
'It benefits me in many ways - we have a healthy relationship, we travel together, I'm able to enjoy the city more,' said the New York graduate student.
Still, she said, it is a job.
'It does kind of rub me the wrong way that some people don't see it as sex work,' she said.