Student loans have become part of daily discourse among Americans. More than 44 million people are dealing with student loan debt, and the amount owed is nearly $1.5 trillion.
And not only is the news talking about the debt crisis daily while you’re wondering about things such as how to refinance your student loans, but pop culture is jumping on the bandwagon. Here are five moments that student loans have popped up on TV and in hit songs.
1. ‘The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon’
Jimmy Fallon has talked about student loans several times on his show. In April 2018, he brought up student loans in his thank-you note segment, saying: “Thank you, college acceptance letters, for being the nicest way to ask someone if they’d like to be in debt for 20 years.”
Former President Barack Obama revealed on the show in 2012 that he and wife Michelle had paid off their student loan debt only eight years prior. Obama later slow-jammed the news with Fallon.
2. ‘Saturday Night Live’
On an April 2018 episode of “Saturday Night Live,” cast member Kenan Thompson hosted a spoof version of “Jeopardy” with Chadwick Boseman of “Black Panther” playing the naive character of T’Challa.
When the category “I Ain’t Got It” was chosen, Thompson read the answer, “The lady from Sallie Mae says your student loan is past due.” The character Rashad, played by Chris Redd, responds: “I ain’t got it because I died and [you’re] talking to a ghost.”
T’Challa was confused because he didn’t understand why someone would pretend to be dead to escape student loans. But I think we can all understand.
3. ‘Last Week Tonight with John Oliver’
The mainstream news is no stranger to covering the topic of student loan debt, but it’s also made its way into satire news programs. John Oliver brought it up on his HBO show “Last Week Tonight” in 2014, comparing student debt to a sexually transmitted disease.
“Essentially, student debt is like HPV,” he jokingly said. “If you go to college, you’re almost certainly going to get it. And if you do, it will follow you for the rest of your life.”
He also used the opportunity to reveal shocking facts, such as that 70% of students were graduating with debt at the time and that over a trillion dollars were owed.
4. ‘The Late Show with Stephen Colbert’
In May 2017, “Jane the Virgin” star Gina Rodriguez sat down with Stephen Colbert on his late-night talk show and brought up student loans.
While the actress certainly has many accomplishments under her belt, including winning a Golden Globe, it was paying off her student loans for her education at New York University Tisch School of the Arts that she was most excited about.
“I just paid it off!” said Rodriguez. “Wait a sec,” Colbert responded. “You just paid it off?”
The actress explained that she was 32 at the time and graduated when she was 21, telling Colbert to do the math. “So, a TV star with a hit show took 11 years to pay off her student loans,” he said.
“Yeah, dude!” Rodriguez said. “College education is so expensive, but it’s so necessary. I would never change it for the world, but yes, it took me way too long.”
5. Twenty One Pilots’ ‘Stressed Out’
The Twenty One Pilots song “Stressed Out” hit No. 2 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in February 2016. It’s a catchy song about being, well, stressed out about life.
There’s one lyric that calls out a big stress point for many people: student loans. “Out of student loans and treehouse homes, we all would take the latter,” they sing.
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