Significant financial burdens caused by the severe student loan crisis in the U.S. (link to the previous material) are impacting the ways Americans save, spend and live their lives ...and have inspired them to create new non-standard methods of staying afloat.
A new game show, Paid Off with Michael Torpey that premiered July 10th on truTV is giving students the chance to compete on TV to have their debt paid off. “Paid Off” is a kind of traditional game show like “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” but it has a decidedly more practical premise: win money to pay off your student loans.
“It's a comedic trivia show that's an absurd answer to an absurd problem,” said the host, Michael Torpey, who got the idea for the project from his wife. “I learned from a student debt when I met my wife. She owed about $40,000 at that time,” he said.
“Because it’s absurd, we can tell jokes and laugh at it, but there’s still a tragedy there,” since debt “is holding back millions of people. It’s holding back our nation’s economy,” Torpey said in an interview to the Washington Post.
Torpey admitted the concept of Paid Off is “a little ridiculous.” “I finish every show saying ‘Call your representatives and tell them we need a better solution than this game show.’ And I absolutely mean it,” he said. “Get my show off the air. Get someone to fix this thing and I’ll happily go away and sell underpants again.”
The series is aimed at starting a conversation about the student debt crisis, not trivializing it, an executive from TruTV told the Guardian. Still, there is something inherently dystopian in the fact that America has reached a place where the only hope some people have for getting out of debt is winning a game show. “It’s a show that shouldn’t exist,” Torpey told to The Atlantic. “When people see this as the best avenue for paying off their debt, it’s crazy.”
Another bizarre way to pay for college is starting a “sugar baby career”. Anyone who is seeking financial support can easily become part of Sugar Baby University “where beautiful, ambitious people graduate debt-free.” Maybe it’s somehow connected to the fact that women hold nearly two-thirds of all student debt in the US, according to a report from the American Association of University Women. The average woman owes $2,740 more than a man upon finishing a bachelor's degree, as per report. Women are also repaying their debt more slowly, which can mean they're paying more in interest over time. That is a promotion video for an...unconventional way to avoid student debt.
Tammy, 21, a George Mason University student, had to pay the $6,000 a semester required for her tuition which was too much even with her part-time job at a research center and federal loans that covered only a little more than half. After her bank account dipped into the negative three times in one week she tried Seeking Arrangements. “I've always been a sexual person and I'm newly single so the idea of having sex for money is kind of like an easy buck. However, I soon learned sugar daddies (on here at least) aren't into underground prostitution. They want to make a young woman their pet. Like a trophy wife they can show off and spoil, more so than an escort type of thing,” Tammy wrote.
Sara-Kate Astrove published an essay in Marie-Claire about her time as a sugar baby in 2016 and is currently writing a book about her experiences. “When I started in Boston, I didn’t know anyone who had done it. Now there are millions of girls on the site and less sugar daddies, but at the time I felt like I had them all to myself.” A senior at Tufts University, Sara-Kate was not really fascinated by the prospect of working long hours at a boring job after graduation and ended up registering at SeekingArrangement.com. This website was designed to help students in the red meet their wealthy benefactors in exchange for dates. “I treated it like any other dating site,” she says. “If you think of it like a normal dating site, it’s just like Ok Cupid, but for money. So then you think, what’s the point of doing it for free if you can do it for money?”
For the next four years, Astrove met with 30 different men aged from 42 to 75 and got around $1,000 for a one-time meeting to make nearly $300,000 in total — enough to pay for her living expenses and a master’s degree in creative writing from The New School in New York City. “I think it’s becoming a lot more socially acceptable now,” Astrove said. However, far from all Americans share her point of view.