An interactive view of Webster University's campus.
St. Louis college students cash in as ‘sugar babies’
College is expensive. But some local women are trying to combat the cost of higher education by seeking out a “sugar daddy.” Last year, three students from Webster University signed up for the dating website Seeking Arrangement, which calls itself the world’s largest sugar daddy website.
“The only stipulation we have is you must be willing to engage in a mutually beneficial relationship,” said Leroy Velasquez, public relations manager for Info Stream Group — the company that owns Seeking Arrangement and other dating websites. “If you sign up as a sugar daddy, you must be willing to provide for someone and add value to their life.”
A sugar daddy, as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is “a well-to-do usually older man who supports or spends lavishly on a mistress, girlfriend or boyfriend.”
Along with the three from Webster, 40 students from St. Louis Community College, 22 from Saint Louis University, nine from Fontbonne University, eight from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and two students from Washington University registered for the site in 2012, said Velasquez. Topping them all is University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL). UMSL had 72 sign-ups last year, with 105 students total — ranking the school No. 33 on Seeking Arrangement’s 2012 list of Top 75 Sugar Baby Schools.
Brandon Wade founded Seeking Arrangement in 2006. Velasquez said Wade, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate and “never-been-kissed nerd,” quit his well-paying job to create the dating website.
Velasquez said Seeking Arrangement is a community for wealthy people who “can’t engage in regular relationships” because of taxing careers. These wealthy people are trying to find younger people seeking a “generous benefactor.”
“It’s more than just money,” Velasquez said. “You add value to someone else’s life. You give life experiences, culture, travel.”
Velasquez said the site has been “wildly successful” over the past seven years, with 2,000 to 3,000 new registrations worldwide every day. Though the site is open to everyone, sugar babies are most often between 18 and 26 years old. College students comprise 44 percent of sugar babies. It is open to both male and female sugar babies, seeking either a sugar daddy or sugar mommy.
Velasquez said the site works so well for people because the sugar daddies or “sugar mommies” get self-satisfaction in taking care of someone else. The sugar babies, on the other hand, benefit from financial support.
“College guys are immature and broke,” said Jane Smith, a South St. Louis resident who has used Seeking Arrangement on and off since 2011. “I was looking for something different.”
Smith was attending Stephens College in Columbia, Mo., when she signed up for Seeking Arrangement in December 2011.
“I was looking for someone who could help me out because I lost my job,” Smith said. “I like to go out and do things, and I wanted someone who would be able to take me out. … I like experiences, and I can’t really afford experiences, so I let him deliver those.”
Smith said she began talking to — and eventually dating — Dan, who owned a plane and offered to take her on a trip. While she was dating Dan, Smith said he often gave her expensive gifts and sometimes money to help pay her bills. Despite that, Smith took her profile off Seeking Arrangement in March 2012. She did not go on the trip with Dan.
“I didn’t want that to be something that defines me,” Smith said. The idea of calling an older man “daddy” did not feel right to her. She said seeing other women acting like that toward their dates “just felt gross” to her.
Smith has recently made her profile active again, after falling out of a relationship that was not established through Seeking Arrangement. She said her heart is not totally in it, though.
“We ban many accounts every day because of these reasons and we have a community that understands this,” Velasquez said. “… Why would you put yourself through a long-term relationship when you could literally go stand on the corner and prostitute yourself? This website is not just about money. The keyword is relationship.”
Smith said her experience with Dan was positive, saying he was not a “creepy old guy.” She said they shared interests and he took a lot of time getting to know her. Another experience was not the same.
“I started talking to another guy and then we went on a date,” Smith said. “It was weird. It wasn’t about getting to know me; it was all sexual for him. So I didn’t talk to that guy anymore.
“With every dating website you go to, it all depends on the person. There’s going to be a bunch of creepos and you have to weed those out before you find the good ones.”
Monthly memberships vary in price for sugar daddies/mommies. A standard membership is $59.95 monthly, but an upgraded “diamond” account is available for $179.95 monthly. The diamond account gives prioritized listing and income verification for the sugar daddy/mommy. Sugar baby accounts are free, but to verify their accounts, the sugar babies are asked to sign up with their college email address. Velasquez said some sugar babies don’t feel comfortable using their college email addresses, so student statistics may be higher than reported.
Sugar daddies/mommies also have the option to verify their accounts even further by purchasing a background check. The background check — performed by TC Logiq, an online background check company based out of Colorado Springs, Colo. — looks for “conviction of imposition of any criminal sentence, including: sex crimes, felonious assaults and battery, violent crimes and domestic violence.”
During a time when Match.com advertisements boast “one in five relationships start online,” Seeking Arrangement offers an alternative to traditional relationships. Velasquez said relationships can vary from simple financial support to serious romantic involvement.
“I was not looking for love, but I was looking for someone I could have fun with and be compatible with,” Smith said. “I wasn’t really looking for someone to love.”
InfoStream Group, Inc. operates out of Reno, Nev. According to the Nevada Secretary of State website, InfoStream Group, Inc. has 75,000 no par shares, or shares associated with an entity that have no monetary value. In the past 12 months, InfoStream Group, Inc. received four complaints with the Better Business Bureau (BBB): two for billing/collection issues and two for problems with product/service. It is not a BBB accredited business and it received a letter grade of A- on a scale of A+ to F.
Jane Smith’s name was changed in this story to protect her identity.