Annie (not her real name), 22 turned to escorting as a means to fulfil her dream of qualifying as a psychologist and offers her services in Liverpool, charging rates between £40 for 15 minutes to £450 for an overnight stay.
“I want to be a psychologist or a doctor and this is how I plan to pay for it,” she told the Echo.
The English Collective of Prostitutes, which campaigns for sex workers’ rights, told how a paucity of jobs and high tuition fees meant more and more students had turned to prostitution to avoid becoming saddled with debt.
Calls to their helpline have trebled since 2011.
Sarah Walker, from the ECP, said: “Most are actually working for themselves or through agencies. It’s not that they are being coerced by force – it’s the economic climate that’s forcing women to weigh up their options.
“Traditional high-street jobs are scarce – we heard of one bar job that had 800 applicants – and these women know that they can earn 500 times more than stacking shelves in a Tesco supermarket.
“In 2011 we reviewed our log of calls from student sex workers and we thought they had increased by around a third.
“They are both young students and mature students with kids who are going back to try and get a degree, a certificate or skill.
“There has probably been a similar increase since 2011. They call about safety, that’s a primary concern, and they want to know about the laws.”
Prostitution itself is not illegal. However, “controlling” prostitution is.
One escort agency’s terms state: “Money exchanged in legal adult personal services is for time and companionship – anything else that takes place is a matter of personal choice between two or more consulting adults of legal age.”
The investigation revealed that some agencies are even using the fact their escorts are at university as an advertising ploy.
One Liverpool firm brags to customers: “Looking to date an intelligent escort” that the “university in Liverpool is one that is the crème de la crème.
“We have fresh faced beautiful students with not only beauty but also brains."
It is understood the agency has students from Liverpool, Manchester and Oxford were among the 50 escorts on its books.
One madam, who runs six escort girls told how the number of students turning to sex work had continued to grow.
Asked if people would be surprised at the levels of students in the sex trade , she replied: “Yes, very”.
She added: “It’s tripled every year for the last three years. There’s not many jobs out there and this is the one paid job they can do.
“It’s easy money. They can make a lot – it just depends on how they look and how they perform.”
The student union NUS has launched a research project aimed at better analysing the numbers of students involved in sex work.
It said: “Most of what we know about students working in the sex industry is anecdotal, we want to move beyond hearsay.”
Charlotte Fox, 27, has been an escort for two years and has more than 200,000 Twitter followers.
She turned to prostitution after working as a lap dancer in Liverpool for five years and said she knew a lot of girls who fund their way through university by escorting.
She said: “Students want their main focus to be on their studies so working in a bar for eight hours then having to study and go to university can be hard.
“So if they can earn in one hour what they would earn in eight then this would seem really appealing to them.
"It has become more accepted due to the younger generation being a lot more open minded and more open about the likes of one-night-stands. To most they just see it as a paid one-night-stand.”