An average of 126 Irish students are signing up every month to an international “sugar daddy” service to pay their way through college.
Over 3,000 mostly female undergraduates have joined
SeekingArrangement.com over the past two years in a bid to find a wealthy older man to pay their tuition fees, clear their student debts and pay them thousands of euros a month in exchange for a secretive, no-strings-attached fling.
Figures just released by the U.S.-based online dating website reveal 9,024 Irish college students are now members of the service, up from 6,000 less than two years ago.
But it's not just hard-up students who are being matched up with middle-aged millionaires, as a total of 23,700 so-called “sugar babies” have now signed up from Ireland -- an increase of 8,700 over the past two years and almost five times the estimated 5,000 membership just
five years ago.
The controversial service, which specializes in pairing off attractive young 20-somethings with men often three times their age, has been criticized in the past as a seedy playground for ageing adulterers.
But the service's chiefs insist that despite the huge age gap, relationships that are formed are mutually beneficial.
And in the case of an Irish student, who receives an average monthly allowance of nearly $2,000 in return for companionship, they claim it could mean the difference between completing college or being forced to drop out.
Further analysis of the figures reveals that of the total sugar baby membership from Ireland, 3,607 of those are male, both gay and straight, who are paired up with respectively with gay sugar daddies or so-called “sugar mamas.”
A typical arrangement with a young Irish female student is likely to involve her being flown over to a luxury apartment in the U.S. for a weekend by her loaded partner, where she is showered with gifts and hospitality, before returning home back to college.
The agency's chiefs have also noted the number of sugar daddies from Ireland is also on the rise, up from 6,100 in 2014 to 8,300 by last month, a trend partly attributed to the economic recovery.
Spokeswoman Angela Bermudo said the average profile of an Irish sugar daddy is a 45-year-old, earning an average of over $300,000. Nearly one in four Irish sugar daddies are married, while most are registered in Dublin, followed by Limerick, Cork, Galway and Waterford.
"Women are unfairly labeled gold diggers if they are vocal about wanting to pair up with a successful partner. The upfront nature of our arrangements -- being able to lay out exactly the type of person and relationship you want, without fear of judgment or stigma from potential partners -- is empowering,” Bermudo says.
“If men are allowed to vocalize what qualities they want in a partner, say being educated and beautiful, then women should be encouraged to do the same for whichever qualities they value.
"Fees at Irish universities are the second highest in Europe, which produces yet another hurdle for potential graduates. With the average Irish sugar baby receiving nearly $2,000 in monthly allowances and assistance, the allure of the lifestyle continues to attract students.
"Ireland is a fast-growing market for SeekingArrangement and shows a promising growth rate. Currently, the country ranks 10th for overall membership globally."
Read more: Student choir’s mesmerizing rendition of ancient Irish song (VIDEOS)