Yet another student prostitute story

HUNDREDS of university students in Victoria have turned to prostitution to pay their way through higher education, The Sunday Age has learnt. (emphasis added)

What does the Sunday Age mean it has ‘learnt’ that some prostitutes are students?

A quick search of the files would reveal that this is old news, a repeatedly re-discovered ‘finding’. That a few hundred of Victoria’s 180,000 or so university students are sex workers is no more surprising than that thousands of them are waiters.

As is usual when the media follows up on the student sex workers, they are far more level-headed about it than the people who think it is a problem:

For 18 months Amy has been combining her studies for a science-based degree with evening work in the city’s brothels.

“I’m sure that some people would be shocked at what I do, but in my mind it really is just a job,” she says.

As I have argued in the past, student prostitution is no cause for policy action. Most students work, and if some choose to work fewer hours for more money in less-pleasant jobs this is no cause for concern.


Student prostitute stories:

From the Uniting Church – Herald Sun, 10 October 2008.

45 Responses to “Yet another student prostitute story

  • 1
    Russell
    March 2nd, 2008 12:39

    So, “no cause for policy action” and “no cause for concern”. Can’t there be a gap between being concerned (at their age etc) and taking “policy action”?

  • 2
    gatewatching » Blog Archive » Outsiders - 2nd March 2008
    March 2nd, 2008 14:25

    [...] The Sunday Age reveals that some students have turned to prostitution to pay for their degrees, but Andrew Norton doesn’t mind, seeing it as just another economic choice in paying your way through higher [...]

  • 3
    siltstone
    March 2nd, 2008 15:15

    Could it be that some brothel workers have taken up university courses?

  • 4
    George
    March 2nd, 2008 18:17

    “Many of the women cite the costs of course fees, increased rent and a rise in the general cost of living for their decision to join the “oldest profession”.”

    Now I don’t understad why you would cite the cost of course fees as a reason when you are able to defer payments under HECS or whatever its called today.

    I would love to know how much $$ earned are tax free i.e. cash in hand. The article suggests pretty females can make up to $1400 in a night. That’s good coin in anyones language let alone the average student who is accustomed to living on 2 min noodles!

    Any studies done in how many students dabble in drug dealing to earn some coin? The Age could then run a headline “Govt Forces Students to Deal Drugs”

  • 5
    Spiros
    March 2nd, 2008 18:51

    Is it true that most student whores are Liberal students, or is the other way around, that most Liberal students are whores?

  • 6
    Andrew Norton
    March 2nd, 2008 19:23

    George – Some of the students would be international students, for whom fees are up-front. So as international students cross-subsidise local students, it is the lack of fees for Australian students that leads to prostitution!

    Russell – You are of course entirely correct, in principle, that we can have cause for concern without cause for policy action. I’m not so sure that would be true in all cases here – as I have noted in this post and before, the women interviewed by the papers seem to be making trade-offs that are not obviously unreasonable or harmful to them.

  • 7
    Brendan
    March 2nd, 2008 22:12

    I like to think of these girls as quite entrepreneurial. They are selling something which their classmates are giving away for free!

  • 8
    derrida derider
    March 3rd, 2008 09:02

    In 1973 a female friend of mine financed her degree this way – as you say, its hardly news. And I knew another who dealt drugs (he was always complaining about the inordinate greed of the NSW coppers), and another who was a professional “ring in” at private bridge games (the guy was a mathematical genius – his fee was 50% of the net winnings).

    But there is certainly a serious wider policy issue here. The combination of the very poorly designed parental income test on Youth Allowance, its low rate and its fairly generous personal income test means that large numbers of full-time students do considerable part time (or even full-time) work hours. We have the highest rate of people combining full time study and work in the OECD. Its a major contributor to Australia’s high rate of part time work, but it might also be a major contributor to our mediocre retention and completion rates.

    Its a situation we have drifted into by accident rather than design and one that no-one seems interested in questioning it.

  • 9
    Rajat Sood
    March 3rd, 2008 09:45

    Surely if we were to be concerned about anyone, it would be regular (non-student) prostitutes, who don’t work in brothels like the ones mentioned in the article (who also all seem to have laptops to study in their down time)? I noticed that the article also cited student living costs (ie net of fees) of $25k pa. I haven’t been a student for a while, but that sounds pretty generous.

  • 10
    Andrew Norton
    March 3rd, 2008 09:54

    We don’t actually have good stats on retention rates because they don’t track movements between institutions, and count deferring for a year as ‘attritition’, but what we have suggests a slight improvement. For example, in 2002 19.9% of first year students did not re-enrol in second year, but in 2005 it was 18.9%. This could be improvements in university practices, but also I suspect that people with a high drop-out risk are now finding jobs or deferring to a greater extent, as seen in softer demand for straight-from-Year 12 students.

    I agree that YA is a mess, providing support for some people who don’t need it at all while encouraging others to work long hours. But as so often in higher ed, it is hard to see the evidence of it in the aggregate statistics.

  • 11
    conrad
    March 3rd, 2008 10:13

    DD”but it might also be a major contributor to our mediocre retention and completion rates”…
    AN:”I suspect that people with a high drop-out risk are now finding jobs or deferring to a greater extent”

    Actually, my feeling is that courses are simply made easier (or “targetted at the level of the broad student population” — even if that level drops), and more people get passed that shouldn’t (where I work, for example, we can’t fail above a certain proportion of people without problems — in addition, no-one is going to have a high fail rate if they think they might have to do summer school, re-run assignments etc. for people that fail). This way students can study less and work more yet still have similar drop-out levels. It’s happy city — and the statistics suggest I’m not just being cynical.

  • 12
    Andrew Norton
    March 3rd, 2008 11:11

    Conrad – For that same period, the failure rate (as a % of all units attempted) dropped from 14.9% to 14.5%, so on the surface this does not seem like the full explanation for improved retention.

  • 13
    conrad
    March 3rd, 2008 13:09

    Failure rate should drop or remain static, even if students do less university work and more outside work — because what is being targeted is the lowest common denomiator (easily shiftable), not how much students learn. Its like a game of prisoners dilemma — once enough students shift the bottom, that is where the bottom moves to (its like normalization except that grade inflation has accompanied it). Some of that is outside the control of universities — like poorer high school standards and more students working outside more (and perhaps just motivational issues associated with entitlism if sociologists are to be believed). I might note to here that 15% failure rates don’t really mean 15% of people actually tried and failed a course — around 5-10% of students will fail for reasons like not doing anything at all, pulling out midway etc. Tiny failure rates might be a good thing in some subjects (not everything is hard), but it happens across the board, and it only gets corrected in things that are political (like medical doctors and anatomy, c.f., e.g., signals and systems and physicists).

  • 14
    Sinclair Davidson
    March 3rd, 2008 14:33

    We have the highest rate of people combining full time study and work in the OECD. Its a major contributor to Australia’s high rate of part time work, but it might also be a major contributor to our mediocre retention and completion rates.

    As people realise they don’t need a degree to hold down a decent job?

  • 15
    Spiros
    March 3rd, 2008 15:01

    “As people realise they don’t need a degree to hold down a decent job?”

    Quite so. Next time you need an operation, Sinclair, I am sure you will be pleased that the surgeon was educated in the School of Hard Knocks, at the University of Life.

  • 16
    Sinclair Davidson
    March 3rd, 2008 15:17

    Spiros – only surgeons have decent jobs?

  • 17
    Rafe
    March 3rd, 2008 17:35

    How many members of the Australian cricket team have degrees?

  • 18
    conrad
    March 3rd, 2008 18:57

    “As people realise they don’t need a degree to hold down a decent job?”

    Probably not. At least not getting a job — or they realize incorrectly. Try looking at the growth by qualification graph
    here at the end of the document.

  • 19
    conrad
    March 3rd, 2008 18:59

    Sorry here

  • 20
    Sinclair Davidson
    March 4th, 2008 06:38

    Conrad, I understand the point you (and Spiros) are making. I’m wondering about DD’s point. His argument that people leave uni because they have a job makes a mockery of universites saying that they aim to produce work-ready graduates. Clearly a sizable portion are work-ready prior to graduation. Clearly, some under-estimate their work-readiness (I don’t doubt that), and some jobs require formal education.

    But DD’s point is important. Universities have been complaining that enrollments are down because potential students are getting jobs (and some students leave early because they have jobs already). That indicates that University objectives of ‘work-ready’ graduates in either inappropriate or insufficient in itself.

  • 21
    Spiros
    March 4th, 2008 08:32

    “some students leave early because they have jobs already”

    Bill Gates famously dropped out of Harvard to start Microsoft, and I’m sure there are plenty of other less famous examples, as well as examples of unemployable university graduates, but it’s average effect that matters.

    And, of course, at the margins, there are students doing useless degrees, badly, who are better off in the workforce, but again, so what?

  • 22
    conrad
    March 4th, 2008 08:33

    SD,

    First of all, enrollments to universities are not down across the board — its mainly individual areas complaining (teaching, chemistry, computing, mathematics etc. — all things with percieved poor job opportunities). Also, universities are supposedly making people “work-ready” — its just the type of jobs universities make people work ready for are not the subset of all jobs (does anyone disagree?). Given that the outcomes for university graduates have diminished in Australia over the past decade and the outcomes for those digging holes has increased (or at least that is the probably the common perception, which is reinforced by the government and television — despite the real stats), its no surprise students are getting more jobs rather than going to university. In addition to this, lots of the courses have become easier, which means that students can work more whilst doing their degrees (of course, thats a vicious cycle, but as a whole — not to the individual student).

  • 23
    derrida derider
    March 4th, 2008 09:04

    I’m mildly agnostic on whether making people combine work and study at a given time rather than doing it sequentially is a good thing. I suspect it’s mostly not as it gives some people a big head-start in their studies at others’ expense, but I’m open to evidence-based persuasion otherwise. My point is that no-one is bothering to collect the evidence, preferring anecdotes.

    But surely SD is confusing things with “work ready”. There’s a big difference between ready to work as a waitress and ready to work as an engineer. And its making people into good engineers, not waitresses, that the issue here.

  • 24
    Sinclair Davidson
    March 4th, 2008 09:55

    I don’t disagree with any of the points being made. Like DD says, we need more empirical evidence, like Spiros indicates some jobs do require formal education and Conrad suggests that education isn’t being well delived.

    What does it mean to be ‘work ready’ and should that be a university objective are very good questions. Not enough people ask them, despite ‘work ready’ appearing in many university strategic plans.

  • 25
    Spiros
    March 4th, 2008 10:09

    Actually Sinclair, in the good days, surgeons weren’t university educated. They learnt on the job, like plumbers. This is the origin of the reverse snobbery whereby a surgeon’s title is Mr (or less commonly, Mrs or Miss).

    Of course, a lot more patients died on the table back then.

  • 26
    conrad
    March 4th, 2008 12:41

    SD,

    there is what I’ll just call anecdotal empirical evidence — there are number of surveys that look at perceived performance (including one on the DEST cite which may have been taken off by now), and the results arn’t very pretty. I haven’t seen any proper formal anaylsis of the data (which should be pretty easy in some areas — like mathematics — I can look at what I did in first year almost two decades ago, for example, and it completely overlapped 2 years of a similar course. These comparisons should be easy). However, the reason that this not likely to happen is that most universities are of course not going to co-operate on this (excluding ANU). They won’t even co-operate on “graduate skills” measures as suggested by Ian Chubb (although of course there are multiple reasons for this).
    Other things we can look at are obvious correlates:
    1) It seems impossible that the same standard could be maintained with the same number of staff but greatly increased student numbers. Only the the government believes that.
    2) Migrants now take 50% of the professional jobs, but are only 25% of the workfoce. Are Australians doing the wrong courses, or are they just not learning enough?
    3) Degree inflation. Many employers only take the best of the best students (apparently), despite a shortage in some areas (e.g., accounting — there are whing stories from students who only got “pass” degrees).
    4) Degree inflation II. We now start moving to “generalist” degrees like the US so it takes many more years to get to the same point as when you do a specific degree.
    5) Degree inflation III. Why do we now have vast numbers of post-graduate courses. Is it that life is really that much more complex, or is it that people didn’t learn as much? This is completely true of some areas where the professional bodies force increased requirements.
    etc.

  • 27
    Sinclair Davidson
    March 4th, 2008 14:41

    Spiros, you’ll recall Mrs D I. is a medical doctor, so I’ve met many surgeons both pre and post qualification. The worst insult to them was to be called Dr. Except in one case I know where Mrs was a GP and was called Dr. and Mr was a surgeon and called Mr. He seemed to think that people (who did’nt know) accorded more respect to his wifes title than to him. :)

  • 28
    Sinclair Davidson
    March 4th, 2008 14:54

    Conrad – there are heaps of horror stories and stats – i’m not going to disagree with you there.

    Let me comment on some of the points.

    Australia deliberately moved from an elite model of university education to a mass model. Yes the (average) standard is different and even lower than it was before. But I don’t call that a fall in standards – a fall is something inadvertant – a deliberate choice was made. Now we can debate whether it was a good choice or not – that is a whole different debate. But we can agree standards are different, and lower, than they were before. That was a policy choice made by government.

    When looking at how many migrants there are in Australia in professional positions, we should also consider how many Australians are overseas in professional positions. So it’s not clear from your stat that Australians are taking the wrong courses.

    I’m not convinced that generalist degrees are no good. I’ll be watching the Melbourne model with great interest. For most people a liberal arts degree is probably a good thing (I wanted to do one myself, but my parents wouldn’t pay for a general education believing that people wouldn’t ever employ someone with an arts degree – mind you, neither of them completed high school).

    The other thing to consider is that some university courses have become filters for immigration into Australia. Now purests may be appalled by that, but I’m in two minds.

  • 29
    Jage
    March 4th, 2008 15:04

    Anybody who is sufficiently ‘together’ to cope with being a prostitute would be made to finance their studies in any other way. Good luck getting even the nutty Greens to get Ausstudy to pay $200 per hour! :)

  • 30
    Jage
    March 4th, 2008 15:08

    I organised a stripper for a bucks night a couple of years ago. She stayed on for a while afterwards. Turns out she was finishing a Ph.D in Financial Mathematics!

  • 31
    Jason Soon
    March 4th, 2008 15:13

    “I organised a stripper for a bucks night a couple of years ago. She stayed on for a while afterwards.”

    In for a penny, in for a pound?

  • 32
    Spiros
    March 4th, 2008 15:45

    “I organised a stripper for a bucks night a couple of years ago. She stayed on for a while afterwards. Turns out she was finishing a Ph.D in Financial Mathematics!”

    No doubt she was a whiz at pricing the options.

  • 33
    Jage
    March 4th, 2008 16:02

    Her particular skill was in pricing spreads.

  • 34
    Jason Soon
    March 4th, 2008 16:38

    So you must be quite conversant with Slutsky models by now …

  • 35
    Jage
    March 4th, 2008 17:13

    Indeed. We even persuaded her to change the direction of her research. You see, she was, quite rightly, interested in vertical spreads, particularly the bear spread. After a few sly wines we cajoled her into creating a beaver spread!

  • 36
    Adrien
    March 4th, 2008 18:43

    I’ve got a little experience as a friend of mine did this. Her working environment was (probably unusually) pleasant and she graduated with HECS fees paid off and $25000 in the bank.

    She also says that her experiences were quite helpfulm in many ways. Something about seeing powerful men in a different light and also there’s an enpowering aspect to it.

    Of course she was beautiful and young. If you’re otherwise I suspect you’ve got less power.

    But if someone wants to use this as an argument for student welfare they should realise they’re not going to stop sex work. How else are you going to earn $1000+ a week doing a part-time casual job?

    At least until you get your law degree.

  • 37
    Spog
    March 4th, 2008 19:24

    …At least until you get your law degree….

    Just a different type of prostitute really.

  • 38
    conrad
    March 4th, 2008 19:24

    SD:

    1) The government never said standards would fall (I doubt they’d admit standards are worse now). It has always been argued as a “productivity for pay” trade-off, which didn’t work. Obviously they knew what was going to happen, so that might be pedantic on my behalf.
    2) I’m not against generalist degrees — but the problem will be if everyone turns to that model, or if those that don’t are basically the trash of the university system. I think they are more relevant now due to things like advanced maths, physics, high levels of literacy, and so on basically dissappearing from the high school system. Its worthwhile noting there is an overall cost to this — if it takes 3 years more to get your degree, that is basically 8% of people’s working lives, so one would hope the initial degree would substantially improve people’s productivity.
    3) I agree with you on the migrants working here point — its a very complicated situation. Unlike most people, I don’t think we should add people that come and people that go together, even if they could be qualitatively matched. Thats useful for population measures, but you should be able to win in both games.
    4) I’m not against universities being used as filters for immigration either — I think it is a good way to get smart young people, and university hopefully socializes them a bit into the Australian way of life. In addition, some courses in many places would have almost died without them (electrical engineering, for example), so they are often really filling a gaping hole in the labour market that Australians are evidentally to thick or lazy to fill themselves.

  • 39
    Sinclair Davidson
    March 5th, 2008 07:08

    Sure the government never said standards would change – or go down. I have difficulty explaining that to some of my colleagues who argue that mass education is a good thing but they just don’t understand why standards aren’t what they were. Massification would not have been acceptable on that basis.

    The other great irony is that a lot of the people complaining about declining standards and the evil of Dawkin(s)ism hold themselves out to be egalitarians – but that is a whole other argument.

  • 40
    conrad
    March 5th, 2008 09:02

    SD: The trend in education in Australia over the last decade or two has been very egalitarian — its has basically brought the right tail of the distribution back toward the means (if you look at the distribution’s of performance from Andrew Leigh’s recent paper looking at the 1975 comparison you can see this. You can also see the more recent trend away from the hard subjects in high school). That is of course bad news for everyone except some socialists that don’t compare about that end of the distribution and an anti-intellectual idiots, but it is egalitarian.

  • 41
    Sinclair Davidson
    March 5th, 2008 10:11

    I think we’re in agreement.

  • 42
    David
    March 7th, 2008 12:43

    I think there are always going to be female students who sell their bodies to make it easier to get through university. I had a classmate who posed nude on the Internet for money. Many of her male classmates subscribed to her site. Nice hairy pussy, Lisa!

  • 43
    George
    July 3rd, 2008 10:48

    My classes were a bit of a joke I never attended and didn’t study much more than a week for a single subject. I feel a little ripped off by the system because it did not challenge me at all.

    The way it should work is that you have to pass a set of challenging exams set by an independent body. The school sets assignments and work requirements that you have to pass in classes to sit the exam. At the end of the year you sit the exams, you either pass and get your degree or you fail. Or you can sit it independently and pay a fee similar to the cost of a University course.

    That way the school must prepare and educated you instead of a bunch of old farts blowing hot air to make their balls feel big. I am sure they’re highly intelligent and really know their stuff, but god were they awful teachers.

    Why are students working as prostitutes ? Because there will always be lazy women. There are an abundance of jobs out there for cute little girls. Almost all retail/hospitality/customer service will hire them on the spot and pay $20 an hour or more. Thats not even real honest work ! My heart just is not bleeding for these people. My male class mates and I had a little more trouble finding work to put ourselves through.

    After 6 months of searching I got a job at a petrol station and did graveyard shifts all the way through my degree. Then I got a second job on my holidays and worked by ass off in a shitty, boring job. Unlike these girls who work in pubs and restaurants. I’d love to have worked there while I was a young student. Being around other young people all the time, all you do is drop off beer/food and clean. Surely would have been a lot more exciting than talking to the milk rep at 3am in the morning for my $17 an hour. Don’t get me started on working retail.

    The point is this is not an angle for policy change this is just an example of a few lazy people with no morals who prostitute themselves instead of taking the hard and decent road. These are also people who have more opportunities than anyone for flexible student friendly work in a clean, well paying environment.

  • 44
    Angel
    July 20th, 2008 00:47

    Well, education is no one priority for everyone today. I had been learning for my first degree as a doctor and yet it costs me too much money. Therefore i spend most of my night as a prostitute. I know it is a wrong path to take but without money i can’t do anything.My parent has been helping me a lot but i don’t really want to put too much weight to them.
    My life being a prostitute isn’t very bad and painful but sometimes you might feel you don’t want to do it or etc…I had become sexually active since 1 year ago when i started to be a prostitute and now i’m not getting any STI.

  • 45
    Colleen
    December 1st, 2008 22:53

    I’m interested in sharing messages with other sex workers not necessarily uni educated (I’m long retired but still negatively affected by my experiences and would like to discuss). I worked in the “industry” for many years and met very few uni students, the majority of the girls were either drug addicts or struggling single mums/ housewives.