A growing number of Canadian university students confronted by rising tuition costs are turning to an unlikely source for financing their education: generous "Sugar Daddies" willing to pony up cash in exchange for a "mutually beneficial relationship."

The trend is highlighted by the makers of the website SeekingArrangement.com, an online service that connects those looking for a benefactor (the Sugar Babies) with the Sugar Daddies who want to help them.

According to the site's founder and CEO Brandon Wade, the ratio of female "Babies" vying for each man's attention is roughly 12:1

There are Sugar Mommies, too. And even though they are outnumbered by a ratio of more than 100:1, Wade told CTVNews.ca for each one, there are 150 male Sugar Babies hoping to make a connection.

"At the very basic level, Sugar Babies are hoping to meet a successful, wealthy, generous person to take care of them, spoil them and pamper them," Wade said in a telephone interview Thursday.

And on the flip side, he said, "Sugar Daddies are hoping to meet somebody who's beautiful and attractive."

Considering the rising cost of university tuition and the widespread unemployment that makes it hard for young scholars to find well-paying work to fund it, Wade says his site has seen the number members who are university students grow from 30 per cent in 2006 to approximately 50 per cent last year.

And the upward trend show no signs of slowing in Canada, where the website reports a 46-per-cent increase in the number of university students who signed up in 2012.

According to its latest membership data, the website ranks Ryerson University in Toronto, with its 183 new members in 2012, at the top of its list of Canadian post-secondary institutions.

The Top 20 list of universities in Canada (in descending order with the number of new sign-ups in parentheses) also includes:

  • University of Ottawa (179)
  • University of Toronto (156)
  • McGill University (148)
  • University of Alberta (125)
  • University of Victoria (117)
  • University of Western Ontario (104)
  • University of Guelph (84)
  • York University (77)
  • University of Windsor (65)
  • University of Saskatchewan (63)
  • University of British Columbia (60)
  • L'Université du Québec à Montréal (58)
  • Dalhousie University (55)
  • Simon Fraser University (52)
  • University of Calgary (51)
  • Université Laval (49)
  • University of Manitoba (44)
  • Brock University (39)
  • Université de Montréal (38)

Addressing the skeptics who think there's something illicit about his service, Wade noted his experience growing up as a shy, socially inept "nerd" who had little luck on the dating scene.

His mother would constantly tell him to study hard and find a good job so that his eventual success would turn the tables in his favour, he said. His sister, on the other hand, was also told to work hard, but with an eye toward ultimately finding a good man to take care of her.

"So a lot of parents are telling their children the same thing," he said, likening that often-heard advice to the types of arrangements promoted on the Seeking Arrangement website.

"Financial exchange occurs in all sorts of relationships," he said. "The money aspect is just a fact of life."

So how does it work, exactly?

After agreeing to its terms of use and indicating which side of a "mutually beneficial arrangement" they hope to be on, new members create and activate a profile that's then posted to the site.

Once that's done, like-minded users wait to make a connection.

"Because of how our society works, it is awkward for someone to walk up to another to ask them if they would like to get involved in a mutually beneficial relationship," the site advises in its how-to section.

Just don’t confuse the service with a “millionaire dating site,” as the site notes potential Sugar Daddies and Mommies don’t need to have millions in the bank, they just need to be generous with whatever amount they do have.

"We see a wide range of Sugar Daddies," Wade said. "From billionaires to those who only have $1,000 in disposable income at the end of the month."

Since it was created in 2005, the U.S.-based website claims to have become the world's leading "Sugar Daddy dating website" with two million members in North America, Europe, the U.K. and Australia.