An American company has claimed 254 'sugar babies' attended the University of Wollongong in 2019.
SeekingArrangement, which describes itself as the world's largest Sugar Dating site, said there were now over 185,000 Sugar Baby students in Australia.
Brandon White, the company's founder and CEO, said the site was helping those thousands of students struggling financially to meet the day-to-day expenses of university life.
"Australian students are leaving their small suburban towns only to find they have no idea how to properly provide for themselves in these big cities, Mr White said.
"Sugar Daddies mentor these students on how to manage their finances and elevate their typical uni lifestyle."
Wollongong Undergraduate Student Association (WUSA) president Alec Hall said the fact students were resorting to this type of site reflected the economic reality of students at the moment.
"This is especially the case at Wollongong and UOW, " Mr Hall said.
"I think a lot of students realise once they get to university that our timetables and our schedules don't really allow the conventional part-time and casual jobs for them anymore.
"So, I think this is understandable that this happens.
"I think if individual students think it is useful for them or beneficial for them to enter into this situation, I think they should be allowed to."
Sharon Clayton, Federal Member for Newcastle, though expressed her concerns to the Newcastle Herald.
"It's absolutely unconscionable for any company's business model to be built on the exploitation of young, and often vulnerable, university students. The gross power inequities in these so-called arrangements are appalling, as is referring to students as 'sugar babies'. Any pretence this is about student wellbeing instead of the shameless pursuit of profit is nonsense," Ms Clayton said.
Mr Hall agreed in part.
"If what they are doing is for a profit nature, I think in some ways they are attempting to exploit some students," he said.
National Union Students (NUS) national president Molly Willmott told the Mercury student poverty was growing.
"Ultimately it is a person's choice how they make money but I think there is a lot of pressures for young people, especially university students....and these financial pressures mean that this [activity] is becoming a larger thing," she said.
"There is a lot of issues like student poverty that becomes more of an issue and opens the door to exploitation."
Miss Willmott said raising Newstart and Youth Allowance to a liveable rate that people can be supported financially if they can't find work, could help students.
"Stopping casualisation of the workforce so students have job security and are able to make money can also help this situation," she said.
"We also need to look at the culture of universities as profit machines now, that's why these issues come up.
"If someone chooses to do it [be a sugar baby] it is up to them but if we can address the other factors around it, it might help."
Mr Hall said wage theft was another major issue, particularly in the Illawarra.
'I think most UOW students experience wage theft in some form," he said.
"And I agree there are more burdens on university students these days. But while I think UOW should look at how they run our university, at the end of the day university can only do so much in their own sphere of influence.
"Essentially to prevent students needing to go into things like this, we need greater societal change."
UOW was the 12th ranked Australian university for the number of 'sugar babies' attending in 2019, according to SeekingArrangement.
- University of Melbourne 554
- Griffith University 514
- University of Sydney 478
- Macquarie University 438
- RMIT University 410
- Deakin University 398
- University of Queensland 380
- University of Technology Sydney 342
- University of Newcastle 326
- Education Queensland 266
- Curtin University 260
- University of Wollongong 254
- Swinburne University 244
- University of the Sunshine Coast 194
- Australian National University 184.