STRUGGLING students are turning to the seedier side of life to pay their steep education bills.
The National Union of Students say increased living costs and tuition fees are even forcing some youngsters to take up escort work and prostitution.
And from 2012 when universities in England will be allowed to charge up to £9,000 per year in tuition fees, almost triple the current maximum, the pressure on hard-up students will be even greater.
The NUS estimate 20 per cent of women working in lap dancing clubs are students.
And research recently published by the University of Kingston found that the number of college-goers who knew someone who had worked in the sex industry had rocketed up from three per cent ten years ago to 25 per cent.
The NUS claims were backed by pressure group the English Collective of Prostitutes.
They say that the number of calls to their helpline has doubled in the last year.
Sarah Walker represents ECOP, which campaigns for rights for sex workers. She said: “We have seen an increase year-on-year since the time that the student grants system was axed. There has definitely been a spike again since tuition fee changes were brought in.
“It is anecdotal evidence but we have definitely seen an increase.”
And she said as most students kept their work in the porn market under wraps for fear of being expelled from university, the laws needed changing to protect them.
Ms Walker said: “I remember there was a group of women working together as prostitutes who were students and if anything happened to them they were terrified to come forward.
“They were worried that they might get kicked off their course or not be able to get a good job in the future.
“The laws need changing.”
An education department spokesman insisted that the Government provide financial help for students struggling to make ends meet.
He said: “If students are really struggling financially, they need to speak directly to their tutors.”
Here we meet three students who joined the sex trade to help them pay their way through university.
Dee Gatt, 20, is studying for a dance degree at Roehampton University. She works as a lapdancer at Secrets in Hammersmith, West London, to fund her course. She said:
“I started at Secrets about a year ago. I wasn’t really nervous on the first shift as I do a lot of dancing as part of my degree. If anything I think working as a lap dancer has increased my confidence.
We wear dresses to dance in and we’re only naked if we’re doing a private dance.
“I can earn anything from £60 to £800 in a night. A shift is from 8pm to 4am and I can fit in my work around my studies.
I can do four or five shifts a week in the holidays, or none for a few weeks if I’m busy with coursework. I’d never work a night if I had a lecture the morning after.
There is no way I could afford not to do this job. My rent is £380 per month and on top of that I have to pay for my dance kit and all my other expenses.
I used to work as a waitress but that only paid £400 per month, so how could I afford to live without getting into debt?
My mum knows about my dancing and has always been supportive. I’m not in touch with my dad much, but he knows about it too.
I don’t have a boyfriend at the moment but even if I did I wouldn’t reconsider my job, as I wouldn’t want him to tell me what I could and couldn’t do.
But I’d never work as an escort. There’s no need to go down that road with the amount of money you can earn by doing this.”
Webcam artist, Emma
Emma Green, 25, first did an HND course in multi-media design at Glamorgan University, then spent another year at college in 2009 studying beauty therapy. Both times she stripped in front of webcams to pay her way. Emma, who lives with her parents in Glamorgan, says:
“I loved both courses but there were no grants, no funding, nothing. I literally had nothing to live on.
I was claiming a student loan and after a few months of trying to survive on as little as £40-a-week and getting into more and more debt I was thoroughly miserable.
A part-time job was out of the question because the work was so intense that you had little time for anything else.
That’s when a student friend told me about the webcams.
As long as you had a camera on your computer, which I had, you could join a site and basically strip for men who’d pay you to watch.
It seemed too good to be true so I tried it out and I must admit the first time I was nervous and didn’t make much money.
But after a few goes, and the initial shock of going topless and stripping down to my thong, I began to get used to it.
I’d do it for two to three hours a night about four nights a week and earned on average £200-a-week.
It doesn’t sound a lot but it got me through university and college.
When I left uni in 2010 there was no work so I’ve continued to do it.
I work for a professional company called Britain’s Got Webcams.
I earn a bit more than £200-a-week and I’m happy doing it.
I actually enjoy it.
I’ll stop doing it when I get a full-time job, but there are no jobs out there for young people.
People might look down on me for doing this and say it’s degrading but then I’m not signing on.
I’m not a burden to society.
I earn my own money and I’m getting through this recession in the best way I can without having to live off the state.”
THE 21-year-old psychology student is in her second year at Manchester University. She says:
“If my parents knew what I was doing to earn money, they would be horrified.
They are all so proud of me, and to hear the truth would break their hearts.
I prefer to say escort rather than prostitute, because somehow it doesn’t sound so bad. But there is no getting away from the fact that men pay me for sex.
It all works via the escort agency and I make at least £300 a customer — they pay the agency commission, I get cash. Most of the men are thirties upwards and nearly always married.
With me it’s no-strings sex — some of the girls do bondage and threesomes, but I think that attracts the weirdoes.
I have turned men down — one was in his sixties and I just couldn’t face it.
I never tell them I am a student. They rarely want to chat, most times I’m out of the hotel in an hour.
I switch off during the act, there’s no pleasure for me. It has turned me off sex, and I haven’t had a boyfriend since I started doing this.
I know several students who work as escorts. I can make £800 a week, at least. Is what I am doing so bad?
A lot of my student friends meet a guy in a club and sleep with them that night and never see them again — at least I get paid for it.”
By ESTELLE HART NUS, Women’s Officer
FIGURES show that the average student is £8,000 a year short after Government help.
That’s money they need for such essentials as transport, food, books and rent.
We know that families are really feeling the pinch and little help can be expected from there.
Worse still, study bursaries will be cut by £80million in the next few years.
With jobs hard to find some students are turning to medical experiments, prostitution, gambling and taking out high-cost loans in a bid to pay their bills.
There are some alternatives for poor students – such as bursaries or grants – and their students’ union can help them find them.
One thing is clear, the Government must do more to help all young people.