Escort agencies are encouraging students to take up work as prostitutes.
The Irish Independent has learned that many students are turning to prostitution to fund increasingly costly college lifestyles, in some cases estimated at more than €7,000 a year.
One student confirmed he was working as an escort to fund his way through college and was earning from €160 for an hour to €500 for a 12-hour overnight stay.
And adverts by male and female students, some as young as 18, are selling their services on the internet forum "Escort Ireland Network".
One agency said students could earn up to €135 an hour as an escort, with the potential of earning €2,000 a week.
Student prostitution has become a serious problem in other European countries, particularly in Britain.
Education Minister Mary Hanafin said she was "appalled" that any young person would turn to prostitution and pointed out there was assistance available for students with financial difficulties.
But Labour's Education spokesperson, Jan O'Sullivan, called on the department to take "responsibility" for the situation.
"This is definitely an indication that going to college is getting increasingly costly. It's very worrying that student's feel they have to go to such lengths," she said.
Some of those advertising their services on websites include: * "A good looking 19-year-old Waterford student" who said he was a "tall, fit and attractive student badly in need of a few quid".
*A 21-year-old female student called "Lady Lisa" who was "trying to earn some cash.
"I am new to this, but very open minded," she added.
One student, who did not want to be named, told how he got involved through another friend who was also on the game.
'Alan' deals only with gay men and is using it as a way to fund his studies.
The final year student has been working as a male prostitute for the past three years but says he would "die" if his family or friends found out.
The 21-year-old started off with a gay escort agency in Cork and there were four other students also working there.
In Dublin, he said, there were more students on the scene.
At least three escort agencies, Teasers in Limerick, Dublin-based CityWest Models and Dublin Models, advertise the fact they have student on their books.
"Some of the girls are college students, studying at the University of Limerick," according to Teasers.
Thousands of British students are believed to have turned to the sex industry.
Research by Kingston University in southwest London found that one in 10 students had friends who had stripped, lapdanced or worked at massage parlours and escort agencies to support themselves.
President of the Union of Students (USI), Richie Morrisroe, said it was "not surprising" that people felt they had to turn to prostitution given the shortfall in financial support available to students.
"It really is shocking. It's really sad that people are turning to prostitution," said Mr Morrisroe.
"It's definitely a concern. But I can understand why people feel they have to turn to something like this. It is extremely expensive to manage all of the expenses that come with going to college," he said.
The prostitution aid and lobby group, Ruhama, said it was seriously "seriously concerned" that anyone would consider prostitution as an "easy option" to meet any financial commitments.
"When entering prostitution, you are entering an environment which is extremely harmful and dangerous to women", said Ms Geraldine Rowley, head of the group.