Overinflated college tuition facilitated by a bottomless ocean of cheap student loans has so far trapped forty-five million Americans with a record $1.48 trillion in non-dischargeable debt – an amount which has more than doubled since the 2009 lows.
As we reported in January, approximately 40 percent of student loans taken out in 2014 are projected to default by 2023 according to the Brookings Institute.
However, a new game show on TruTV offers millennial contestants a chance to answer trivia questions – and if they win, the game show will pay off their student debt.
“Paid Off,” a new trivia game show that premiered this week tries to illuminate the student debt crisis that has entrapped countless millennials. To get the balance right, the show’s producers partnered with a nonprofit group called Student Debt Crisis.
Its executive director and founder, Natalia Abrams, gave this advice to producers: “Every step of the way, from signing up for college to paying back their loans, it’s been a confusing process. So make sure that there’s some heart to this show.”
Video: Paid Off with Michael Torpey Season 1 Trailer
Michael Torpey, a New York-based actor (“Orange is the New Black”) who is the host of the show, acknowledges that student debt is a crisis and one of the most difficult financial issues plaguing millennials in the gig economy.
“We’re playing in a weird space of dark comedy,” said Torpey, who developed the show with TruTV producers and various nonprofit groups. “As a comedian, I think a common approach to a serious topic is to try to laugh at it first.”
Video: Paid Off with Michael Torpey – The Story Behind Paid Off with Michael
The rules of game show are simple: Three millennial contestants, all of whom have an exorbitant amount of student debt, go head-to-head in a few rounds of trivia questions, hoping that their useless liberal arts degree enables them to answer enough questions right. If they win, well, the show will cover 100 percent of their outstanding student loans.
“One of the mantras is ‘an absurd show to match an absurd crisis,’” Torpey told The Washington Post. “A game show feels really apt because this is the state of things right now.”
Earlier this year, the show had a casting call in Atlanta – this is what the casting flyer stated: “truTV’s new comedy games show PAID OFF is going to do something the government won’t – help people get out of student loan debt! If you’re smart, funny, live in the Atlanta area and have student loan debt, We Want You!”
Video: Paid Off with Michael Torpey – Finger The Masters
Torpey told NBC that “he strives to balance the light hearted trappings of a game show with an earnest, empathetic look at the student debt issue.”
“I want to be very respectful of the folks who come on our show, who opened their hearts and shared their struggles with us,” Torpey said. “I hope this show de-stigmatizes debt. I mean, there are 45 million borrowers out there. It is a huge number of people!”
Google searches for “paid off game show” have been rising since June.
Meanwhile, “student loans forgiveness” searches have been surging over the cycle.