An increasing portion of students in the United Kingdom looking for a way to pay for their tuition are turning to prostitution, according to a new paper by a British medical student.
The problem may be particularly acute among medical students, who generally go to school longer, accrue more debt and have less time for paid employment, according to the paper by Jodi Dixon, who is studying at the University of Birmingham.
Dixon pointed to a study of about 300 British university students, in which 10 percent reported knowing a student who had worked as a prostitute or escort in 2010. That's up from about 6 percent in 2006, and 4 percent in 2000, Dixon said, a rise that coincided with an increase in college tuition fees.
"With escalating debts, students in the United Kingdom may view prostitution as an easy way to get rich quick," Dixon wrote in her article, published on Feb. 28 in journal Student BMJ.
Some consider prostitution their only choice for paying for their education, "which I think is awful; I think it’s a shame," Dixon said, though she said she can understand why people would arrive at that conclusion.
In the U.K., the act of prostitution per se is not illegal, but related activities are, including soliciting sex.
The English Collective of Prostitutes, an organization that offers support for sex workers, has received an increased number of calls from students considering sex work and has medical students within its network, Dixon said. Jobs in retail stores and bars that students might take instead are increasingly scarce and offer low pay, the ECP says.
While the ethical implications of soon-to-be doctors working as prostitutes are unclear, "what is unacceptable is a student being forced into prostitution out of financial desperation," Dixon said.
It's not clear whether a similar problem exists in other countries. In 2008, a French student published an autobiography of her time spent as a prostitute to fund her education. And a French student union has claimed that as many as 40,000 students work as prostitutes, but this is difficult to prove, Dixon said.
The United States also has seen a rise in medical tuition fees. The average medical student graduates with more than $140,000 in debt, according to 2007 data from the Association of American Medical Colleges.
Prostitution is illegal in all states expect Nevada, which allows licensed brothels.
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