There is no doubt that higher education is costly. Textbooks alone can run $1000 a semester for some undergraduates. Waiting tables and flipping burgers won’t cover those costs. With many parents just as strapped for cash as their children, how does one pay for a college diploma?

For some young women, the answer is to sell themselves. There are websites that offer “matching” services for “mutually beneficial relationships”; that is, a young woman signs up for a “sugar daddy”. He pays for college and she has her money problems solved. One website does offer helpful information, such as “keep your emotions in check” and “sugaring is not welfare”. All just business, plain and simple. Although young men sign up for this type of arrangement, the vast majority are young women.

Another option for the cash-strapped young woman is selling her eggs. For every donation, a young woman can make upwards of $5000, which goes a long way in paying for tuition, room and board. Like getting a sugar daddy, though, there’s quite a bit involved:

The egg retrieval is performed in our Grand Rapids office under intravenous (IV) conscious sedation.  You will need to be in the office for about 2 ½ hours. Most of this time is for your instructions, starting the intravenous (IV) for pain medications, and monitoring you afterwards.  The procedure takes approximately 10-15 minutes to retrieve the eggs from the ovaries. You will need an escort to bring you to and from the egg retrieval.  You will not be able to work or go to school this day due to the pain medications, but most people return to work or school the following day.

Two weeks after the egg retrieval procedure, you will have a post-operative appointment with one of our doctors to be sure you are healing properly.  If you are interested in donating again, let us know at that time.  Future cycles involve fewer appointments because much of the prescreening is already complete.

This happens only after the young woman has been given hormones to increase her egg count. One young woman described her experience:

Finally the big day arrived, and luckily it was a pretty painless and quick procedure. I was completely sedated, and the whole thing only took 30 minutes. The next day I took the antibiotics that were prescribed, and that is is when things started to take a turn for the worst. The following four days are kind of a blur, but I know they involved a lot of puking and a lot of trips back to the clinic. I was extremely dehydrated, and they needed to administer an IV to get liquids into my body. My body was rejecting everything I tried to put into it. It was clearly screaming at me, fed up and shutting down until further notice.

Around day three the pain became excruciating. Apparently I had developed something called ovarian hyper stimulation syndrome and I needed to have a procedure to drain all of the excess fluid from my abdominal cavity. After they drained everything from my body and inserted what felt like a suction cup into my vagina and literally sucked the liquid out, I immediately felt better. I slept for another five or six hours at the clinic. When I opened my eyes, for the first time in days I didn’t feel like a zombie. I was going to survive!

My body and I learned a lot about each other during those two months, and I gained a new appreciation for what it is capable of doing not only for me but for others others. One egg donation is all my body could survive, and I would never do it again, but I don’t regret it. I needed the money, and I found a legal way to deal with my financial situation without another call to my parents. That felt good emotionally, even if it was painful physically.

There is no economic transaction that occurs in an ethical vacuum. When goods, services and money are exchanged, a contract is fulfilled and each party plays a role. Indeed, both parties must gain something for it to be beneficial. Now, one can say that these young women do gain something: they get the money they want to pay for their education. But these types of transactions are inherently flawed: one party “pays” far more than the other, and gains far less. No economic transaction that costs someone their dignity, that demeans them, that allows them to be used simply as a thing rather than an embodied, eternal soul can ever be moral. Even if one is a “willing participant” in such a transaction, it is still unbalanced. The Rev. Robert Sirico speaks to morality in the marketplace:

The market and technology lack the logic to tell us who we are and what we ought to do. For that we must look elsewhere: to the texts of Scripture, to God’s love and action on behalf of those created in His likeness and image.

The market and technology give us the how —and this how is critically important—for without it life would be burdensome and difficult. Earth would be unable to sustain the abundance that provides for human well being and prosperity. But while the free market is necessary in providing the how of technological progress, it is to the Scriptures that we must look to discover the ought of our lives; to answer the perennial questions: How ought, then, we to live? What is the purpose, the value, and the end of our society, our homes, and our lives?

Clearly, the technology we possess today allows young women to find sugar daddies on the internet and donate their eggs for the cash they want. That’s the how. But the ought escapes them. College is paid for…but at what price?