January 29, 2015 at 9:01 AM, updated January 29, 2015 at 3:55 PM
NEW BRUNSWICK – While millionaires are increasingly in short supply in the Garden State, demand for wealthy benefactors among Rutgers University students is on the upswing. Or so says the company behind the dating website designed to bring the two together.
In 2014, the number of Rutgers University students who joined seekingarrangement.com, whose backers tout it as the world’s largest “Sugar Daddy” dating site, rose by 32 percent, according to data released by the website.
Founded in 2006, the online dating website offers cash-strapped college students the chance to enter into what the company’s press kit says are “mutually beneficial” arrangements with more financially secure persons. Students are attracted to the website by the average $3,000 in monthly “allowances” provided by their matches.
A total of 317 Rutgers students have registered profiles with seekingarrangement.com, a spokesperson for the site said. How many of those are active users is unclear. The number represents less than one percent of the university’s total population of enrolled students, which stands at 40,720 for the 2014-2015 school year.
Still, with last year’s growth, Rutgers has shot into the top-50 on the website’s annual ranking of fastest growing “Sugar Baby Schools,” which was released by the website last week.
The rising cost of tuition at Rutgers and universities nationwide, and the lack of congressional action on the issue of student debt, has led to a 42 percent increase in college student signups, according to SeekingArrangement CEO Brandon Wade.
Last July, the Rutgers’ board of governors voted unanimously to hike undergraduate tuition and fees 2.3 percent on the state university’s New Brunswick campus. Students attending the main campus in New Brunswick and Piscataway who live in New Jersey are paying $13,813 in tuition and fees for the 2014-2015 school year.
Calls for comment to the university were not immediately returned.
“While other countries seek to create opportunity and provide a better start for students by abolishing tuition fees or lowering them to reasonable amounts, Congress continues to ignore the problem,” Wade said. “The average debt is more than what most of these new graduates make in a year.”
The sheer amount of loan debt being carried by students may help explain why some students in the Garden State are turning to alternative funding methods to offset the cost of a higher education, says Barbara O’Neill, a Rutgers professor of financial resource management.
“People are anxious,” she says. “It’s like a sword hanging over them. If young adults don’t have the wherewithal to make payments on debt, it’s going to affect all of their decisions moving forward.”
New Jersey ranks in the top-10 in terms of highest amount of loan debt owed by higher education students. Higher education students who graduated from New Jersey institutions in 2013 owe an average of $28,109 in loan repayments, according to a study by the Project on Student Debt.
And many of those students are going into default. Recent studies by the U.S. Department of Education analyze the default rate of students in a three-year student cohort per each fiscal year. Of the 82,185 New Jersey students who had in fiscal year 2011 received a federal student loan, 8,741 defaulted within two years of the start of their repayment period.
That puts the the default rate for students attending four-year colleges in New Jersey at 10.6 percent, according to the most recently released numbers.
The national student loan default rate stands at 13.7 percent.
Vernal Coleman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @vernalcoleman. Find NJ.com on Facebook.