College students are always looking for creative ways to make money to pay their bills and other necessary expenses, and some students have used sperm and egg donation to make money while also helping out families in need.
Making a deposit at the sperm bank
Conner Jensen, a junior studying intermedia art, has produced three children and has contributed to six current pregnancies from donating his sperm to Phoenix Sperm Bank.
Jensen was 18 when he first started and has now been a donor for two years. Jensen says his friends would always joke about donating their sperm in high school.
“It’s actually really difficult to get in the program because you have to have a high sperm count. One day, I was like 'I’ll just give it a shot!'” Jensen said.
Jensen’s mom didn’t know anything about him donating sperm until he got a tax form in the mail from Phoenix Sperm Bank a year after he started donating.
“I was surprised that she laughed!" Jenson said. "She isn’t keen on the idea that I have kids all throughout the world."
Though his sperm has impregnated nine recipients so far, the only legal tie he has to the kids is one Skype call they are allowed when kids turn 18 through the OpenID option, which allows contact between the donor and the donor child.
Jensen said he donates three times a week and is paid $70 each time. Within Jensen’s weekly schedule, he must be abstinent for a 48-hour period before donating to ensure a higher sperm count.
“You have to be dedicated in the program; it does affect your sex life,” Jensen said.
When Jensen donates, he walks up to the front desk to check-in using a finger-print scanner and signs paper work. After going through procedures, Jensen is handed a cup, offered lubricant and paid $50. Then he proceeds to a small medical room where pornography or a magazine is optional and upon completion is awarded an additional $20.
Payment for donating differs by state, with California donors earning $125 per donation.
“In the United States, you can donate as much sperm as you want, but it can only go to up to 25 different families maximum,” Jensen said.
Jensen works at Sprouts Farmers Market and uses the money from donating to supplement his monthly income and pay his bills.
Angelo Allard is the general manager for Seattle Sperm Bank, which oversees the Phoenix Sperm Bank on Mill Avenue. Recipients can go online and browse donor profiles and select a donor based characteristic and personality traits, though the identity of the donors is never revealed.
Once a sperm donor is selected, the sperm bank then sends the sperm to the recipient at their fertility clinic for insemination.
“We wanted to expand Seattle Sperm Bank to Tempe where it is close to students and a decent amount of fertility treatment clinics in the area,” Allard said.
To qualify, students must be 18 to 39 years old and go through a three-step application process that involves a background check and provides free screening of disease and genetic medical testing.
“Only about 9 out of 100 applicants become sperm donors,” Allard said, usually due to genetic abnormalities or insignificant sperm count.
Victor Briggs, a junior majoring in public health, has considered being a sperm donor, but has decided not to from a moral standpoint.
"It's a great opportunity to make fast money that can buy some groceries and possibly pay off student debt, but I couldn't do it because of the possibility of my parents finding out," Briggs said.
Briggs said he was raised in a religious household that discourages masturbation.
"In Christianity, masturbation is often looked down upon as an act that can be addictive or break up marriage relationships," Briggs said.
Overall he said he can see the benefit and need for students who do decide to donate their sperm.
Counting your eggs before they hatch
Paula Ngon, an ASU alumna who graduated in 2017, was a sophomore when she donated 10 eggs at Southwest Fertility Clinic. During the time Ngon donated, she was a pre-medical student and worked as a Suicide Sitter at a hospital.
Southwest Fertility Clinic has been open for 39 years, offering a diverse variety of families a way to conceive through choosing an egg donor.
Ngon said she made $3,500 and put the money toward buying a car.
“I needed the money and wanted to help someone else who wants to be a mother,” Ngon said.
The application process involved Ngon’s profile being put into the system anonymously where an anonymous family looked at a description of what she looks like, as well as her personality.
Then when chosen by a family, Ngon went to the doctor's office where she underwent a physical and testing for sexually transmitted diseases. The testing, along with the surgery to remove her eggs was paid for by the anonymous family.
She was also trained on how to give herself hormone shots in the stomach twice a day for 10 days to become the most fertile.
“I was super emotional and felt bloated and uncomfortable,” Ngon said.
Then three days after taking two weeks of hormones, Ngon was put under anesthesia to continue with the medical procedure of removing 10 eggs from her ovaries.
After the procedure Ngon remembers “feeling really weak and passing out on the ASU shuttle where I had to lay in the aisle of the shuttle until we got to Tempe from downtown Phoenix,” Ngon said. “I felt like crap for two days and then got my period and felt back to normal.”
Although the family was anonymous to Ngon, she knows through the fertility center that she has one child from her egg donation.
"Egg donors age from 19 to 28 and about 2 to 3 students a month apply to be an egg donor," Egg Donor Coordinator for the Southwest Fertility Clinic and registered nurse Agatha Videla said.
Money paid and the number of times a donor can donate depend on individual state laws. In Arizona, egg donors can donate up to six times for example, and in California donors may receive anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000.
Though an egg donor generally donates one to two years worth of eggs, donating does not make women any less fertile.
Naturally, most women drop 12 eggs a year, dropping one egg during each menstrual cycle. However, the amount of eggs donated can be between 10 to 20 depending on how they are stimulated and respond to the medication.
"Naturally women can produce one mature egg per month, the medication makes all the immature eggs mature eggs," Videla said.
Jenna Kozak, a freshman majoring in nursing, said that she personally would never consider donating her own eggs because she fears the effects it might have on her ability to reproduce.
Kozak said she has been looking for a job online after moving to Arizona from New York and while job searching, often sees advertisements encouraging students to become egg donors.
"I understand some students just need money, but I couldn't personally do it myself," Kozak said.