Buy me on eBay, says student

December 22, 2006

A Californian student struggling to pay his university tuition fees has offered patrons an investment he says is a sure thing: himself, writes Jon Marcus.

Ron Steen, who is 19, wants someone to invest $100,000 (£51,000) in him - to put towards the cost of his education at California State University in Fullerton - in exchange for 2 per cent of his future earnings until he is 65.

The student made his offer on auction website eBay. On Mr Steen's calculations, he would need to make an average of $125,000 a year - or $5 million in total over his working life - for the investment to pay off.

His offer received 40,000 hits and he had 600 e-mail inquiries, although eBay removed the ad before anyone had parted with their money. The company said it violated its charity policies.

Mr Steen still hopes to find an investor. In the meantime, he has drawn attention to the cost of higher education and got himself some publicity that might help him in his intended career. He hopes to become a broadcast journalist.

Mr Steen estimates that he will earn $30 million in his lifetime, meaning that a prospective backer would make six times the original investment. "I have a dynamic personality, and I am team player who is willing to learn,"

he said in his eBay offer. "I have no drug or alcohol problems... I have the drive and desire to do well in life. I want succeed, and I will."

Universities often highlight the earnings potential of graduates to justify high tuition fees. But while they may encourage people to think in terms of the value of students' investment in tuition that is nearing $200,000 for an undergraduate degree at some private universities, Mr Steen is believed to be the first person to offer a financial stake in himself.

Mr Steen's eBay appeal drew criticism. In his defence, his father posted a note on the blog conceding his son's naivety but asserting that he only wanted to pay his own way through school.

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