It may not be the most conventional way to pay for university, but in 2016 hundreds of students across Canada signed up to find "sugar daddies" to raise the funds they need to get them through post-secondary education.
Matchmaking website Seekingarrangement.com released figures last week that show more and more Canadian students are signing up for its service, which matches student "sugar babies" to wealthy benefactors who are willing to provide money and gifts in exchange for paid dates and other agreements.
The University of Alberta led the way with new sign-ups in 2016, with 138 new students logging on — bringing the school's total to 422 students signed up, the seventh highest of all Canadian schools.
A screengrab of the Seeking Arrangement website.
Ryerson University and the University of Ottawa rounded out the top three, with 135 and 132 new sign-ups in 2016, respectively. But the University of Toronto still boasts the largest number of total students participating, with 683 students taking advantage of the service at the beginning of this year.
"We are in the middle of a serious crisis," said Seeking Arrangement's founder Brandon Wade in a statement.
"Students know they must acquire a degree if they hope to look forward to higher salaries, but how can they achieve that if these institutions continue to raise prices?"
As tuition and other school costs rise, student loans in Canada have been growing larger, and the average student debt is estimated to have passed the $25,000 mark.
In November, the government announced that no graduate will have to pay back their Canada Student Loan until they are earning at least $25,000 a year.
The president of the University of Alberta's Students' Union says it's troubling, although not surprising, that so many students are signing up for a controversial service that could potentially involve the expectation of sexual relationships while still in school.
"When you’re a student, you’re definitely more vulnerable and you’re getting involved with someone who might be a bit more established in their life and career, and (the student) might be negatively impacted," Fahim Rahman told Postmedia News.
"I’m concerned about power dynamics in relationships like this."
Seeking Arrangement says on its website that 8.2 per cent of all student sugar babies are from Canada.
In the past two years, the number of students using the service worldwide has exploded from 1.4 million to 2.5 million.
According to the site, a sugar baby typically earns a $2,700 monthly "allowance" from their sugar daddy, pretty much covering the cost of school — but many sugar babies make more than that, depending on the arrangement.
Whether or not sex is involved is up to the individuals concerned.
To hear the motivations of one sugar baby, watch the video above.
Here are the 20 fastest-growing schools for sugar babies in Canada: