University students find a new way to earn quick cash
With tight budgets and scarce free time, students at the University of Wisconsin- Madison are using their bodies as a resource to earn extra cash. These students are selling their plasma at commercial plasma donation centers near campus.
According to Dr. Jerry Ryan, Director of Medical Services at University Health Services, donating plasma is about an hour-long process that involves extracting and centrifuging whole blood from a donor and the returning the non-plasma parts to the donor. Many student donors find plasma donation appealing because they are able to earn an income without the constraints of a job. Some students are committed to selling their plasma on a weekly basis to create a steady stream of spending money. Others sell their plasma when they need extra cash for a specific purpose
“I never really considered it until I got a noise ticket a month ago” said Hanna Schweitzer, a University of Wisconsin sophomore. “We needed to come up with a fast way to get money so this is probably the easiest way to do that,” she said.
Students can donate up to two times a week at the Interstate Blood and Plasma Inc. located on W. Gorham St. Brennan Leong, a University of Wisconsin senior, finds it beneficial to donate twice a week because the second donation always pays more than the first.
According to a study taken at Ohio University, 70% of student donors come from families with income over $50,000. Around 75 percent of students reported spending the money on non-essential items, particularly on beer, cigarettes, and partying in the student bars near campus.
Schweitzer said she was interested on donating plasma even after she pays off her noise ticket. “I’d probably spend it on alcohol,” said Schweitzer. “It’s defiantly going to be towards extracurricular things like that,” she said.
Interstate Blood and Plasma Inc. pays its customers by putting money on a debit card each time a donor donates. Leong uses the cash he earns from selling his plasma for expenses such as buying alcohol, eating out and paying for vacations. He earns $25 for his first donation of the week and $35 for the second.
Dr. Ryan believes that because students are interested in donating to collect extra cash, college campuses are the perfect place for plasma donation centers. A younger population, such as one on a college campus, is less likely to have blood-carried diseases, making them prime candidates for plasma donation according to Ryan.
“When you look at the potential pool of clean blood products a college age population is perfect,” said Ryan. “ You’ve got young people, who are healthy, who can recover quickly and they need money,” he said.
Ryan believes the reciprocal needs of plasma donation centers demand for healthy donors and students’ demand for fast cash makes plasma donation centers near college campuses ideal.
According to Ryan, selling plasma is a safe way to make money as long as the commercial plasma donation centers are abiding by all the standards enforced by the Federal Drug Administration. To control contamination problems, each plasma donation should be labeled with a number that links it directly to its donor, according to the FDA.
While Ryan does think that plasma donation is safe he urges students to take caution when donating on a regular basis.
“The more times your do something the more chance you’re going to have one of those weird things happen,” said Ryan. “If you’re doing it twice a week, chances are something bad is going to happen is there” he said.
So far neither Leong nor Schweitzer have experienced any negative side effects after donating plasma.
“ I was kind of worried because I read that you might be more tired or nauseous but I actually didn’t have anything besides being a little more dehydrated than usual” said Schweitzer.
After the initial visit to the plasma center, which takes about two hours, each additional donation takes around one hour. Leong said he passes the time it takes him to donate by studying for one of his classes. Schweitzer explained that she feels she is being “paid to study” when she goes to donate plasma.
“This is practical for me, I get money without spending a lot of time or effort,” said Schweitzer.
Selling a product that is produced by the body may raise ethical questions. Leong and Schweitzer both said they had not thought about the ethics of selling plasma and tend to focus more on the fact that they are able to profit. Ryan also has a difficult time taking a position on the subject.
“On the one hand you say, hey it’s my body and I should have the right to do anything with it,” said Ryan. “The problem is you also have to think about the negative repercussions from that kind of thinking, mainly getting into organ donation,” he said.
Doctors use plasma to treat serious disorders such as immune system deficiencies and to make products that help prevent diseases, according to BioLife Plasma Services.
“They use it for extensive research,” said Leong. “It’s amazing how much stuff they can get just from offering up a small cash incentive,” he said.