Americans have more than $1.5 trillion in student loan debt, and that total is growing by $3,000 every second. One out of every three millennials is currently paying down educational loans, on which they owe an average of $47,671, according to NerdWallet. In some case, that debt is so crippling that people are putting off buying homes, getting married, and having kids.
Or they’re putting leeches on their body. Total Forgiveness, a new series from CollegeHumor, is putting a funny-yet-serious spin on the very real problem of owing so much in student loans that you’d do anything (or almost anything) to escape them.
How far would you go to pay off your loans?
On the show, which premieres February 6 on CollegeHumor’s subscription channel Dropout, Grant O’Brien and Ally Beardsley test just how far they’re will to go to get out from under their loans. They propose a competition show with each completing increasingly bizarre challenges in order to win money that they can put toward their debt.
In the first episode, O’Brien explains that he owes more than $95,000, which he expects to pay off “maybe before I die.” Beardsley is on the hook for about $60,000 and says, “My credit is so bad I can’t get a credit card. I don’t have a credit card.”
To get $500 to help reduce their debt, O’Brien agrees to do an interview with a student loan expert while having leeches applied to his body. Beardsley eats a ridiculously spicy meal while doing a video chat with their ex.
Each completes their challenge (barely), but will they rise to the occasion as the stunts get even more extreme – and the prize money gets even larger? Other challenges involve getting in bed with a giant anaconda, reading your middle-school diaries out loud at a bookstore, and selling all your belongs.
New installments of the 10-episode series will be available weekly on Dropout. (A Dropout subscription is $3.99 a month with an annual package.)
The show is funny, but the problem is serious
Anyone starring down a seemingly insurmountable mountain of student loan debt is likely to see the humor in the situations Total Forgiveness dreams up. After all, maybe a few minutes of discomfort and humiliation is worth it for the chance to get your financial life back?
Past surveys have revealed the lengths people say they’d be willing to go to erase their debt. Twenty-eight percent of people said they’d name their first child Sallie Mae if it meant they’d have no more debt, while 57% would take a punch from Mike Tyson, a 2016 survey by LendEDU found. More than half would be willing to give up Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook for life, and 20% would wear the same outfit every day until they died.
Not only is total student loan debt closing in on the $2 trillion mark, but new generations of graduates are looking at a future where they may never be able to repay what they owe, according to a report from Bloomberg. And with tuition and interest rates on the rise, paying off loans is only going to get harder for many.
The problem is especially acute for borrowers of color, people who attend for-profit schools, and those who borrowed by never earned a degree. Delinquency rates are “at crisis levels” for those groups, Judith Scott-Clayton, a Columbia University associate professor of economics and education, told the magazine.
Experts are worried not just about the effect on individual borrowers, but also the impact ballooning debt and increasing default rates could have on the broader economy.
“You do stand to see longer-term negative effects on people who can’t pay off their student loans,” Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said in March. “It hurts their credit rating; it impacts the entire half of their economic life.”
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