OK, so Columbia didn’t qualify for the men’s NCAA basketball tournament. They didn’t join their fellow Ivy Leaguers at Harvard — nor their fellow New Yorkers at Manhattan College and St. John’s University — in the Big Dance. But who cares about a silly basketball tournament when there are sexy coeds at your school to be bought online for hundreds of dollars?
Despite this blow to its otherwise formidable athletics department, Columbia can still claim victory in the form of a coveted (?) No. 8 spot on the “March Hotness” Sweet 16 bracket created by the ethically ambiguous date-auction site WhatsYourPrice.com. The Harvard Crimson and Princeton Tigers may have crushed the Lions on the court, but Columbia triumphed where it really counts: babes.
The site, which claims to “make dating more rewarding for everyone,” released the bracket in celebration of the famed regional-semifinal round of the NCAA tournament. The rankings were calculated using a scientific and statistically sound method: WhatsYourPrice rounded up all of the female users with .edu email addresses and averaged first-date prices by school. The Columbia female student body (sorry) averaged a respectable $225 for a first date, crushing the national average of $120. The University of Kansas clinched the top spot with an average of $324 for a first date — not too shabby for a state that ranks smack in the middle in the U.S. for mean household income.
“We thought it would be a fun take on the time-honored Sweet 16 and March Madness tradition,” says Hannah De La Cruz, public relations manager at WhatsYourPrice. The list was released on March 23.
WhatsYourPrice.com has more than 800,000 members worldwide and 592,000 members in the United States. Approximately 70,900 female members on the site are college students (or have cunningly co-opted a .edu email suffix). De La Cruz says that while the site also caters to enterprising daters of all sexes and sexual orientations, WhatsYourPrice chose to focus on the normative male-seeking-female structure for the bracket because it constitutes the largest active group on the site (clearly they sought a solid n for these hard-hitting data).
When it’s not compiling statistics of questionable moral and scientific value, here’s how WhatsYourPrice works: Date-seeking, or “Generous,” members place an offer on the chance for a date with an “Attractive” (broke or business-savvy and desirable) member who can then accept the date. Attractive members also have the option of creating a fixed first-date rate. It’s like eBay Buy It Now or Best Offer, but with a romantic twist. After the date, the Generous member presents his or her date with the promised cash and, depending on how things go, arranges a second date offline without the clear-cut monetary incentive.
Created in 2011, WhatsYourPrice almost immediately came under fire for sanctioning digital-age prostitution, but founder Brandon Wade has argued that his site does nothing of the sort. “It’s all about economics, demand and supply,” he told ABC’s 20/20 in November 2014. The site offers busy and successful guys who can “shell out some cash” a chance with a beautiful woman, he says. De La Cruz adds that it helps women cut through the online-dating noise: “You know they are serious because they are offering a monetary value for your time.” With the glut of online and mobile options for lady-daters, it’s not hard to see how cold hard cash could be more alluring than tepid conversation over sweaty PBRs.
De La Cruz says the study speaks to the notion that New York singles will pay a premium for the right combination of looks and education. “In this case, men are happy to shell out more money to date someone who is the complete package.” It’s unclear how this translates for top-earning University of Kansas students (the school ranks 106th among the nation’s universities, according to the U.S. News & World Report), but they’re probably too busy opening offshore bank accounts from all that date money to worry about such trivialities.
Students from all eight Ivy League schools are registered on WhatsYourPrice, but Columbia has the highest membership on the site, with 186 students currently monetizing their single years. If the Sweet 16 tradition continues, it could be time to call your bookie.
If you wish to, you can see the entire “March Hotness” rankings here.