Even the rich and famous still have student loan debt
Soon, revealing your student debt load can be as trivial as talking about where you went to college.
“Whiplash” star Miles Teller recently made headlines when he told New York Magazine’s entertainment site Vulture that he still hasn’t repaid his student loans, although he starred in blockbuster movies like “Fantastic Four”.
And when Texas Senator Ted Cruz introduced himself to voters as a presidential candidate, he winked at the $ 100,000 in student loans he said he recently paid off. He follows in the footsteps of President Barack Obama, who told an audience of students during his 2012 re-election campaign, that he and Michelle Obama had only finished paying off their student loans eight years earlier.
With about 40 million Americans struggling with student loans exceeding $ 1,000 billion, demonstrating an understanding – and in particular experience with – the problem has become a way for celebrities and politicians to connect with the normal ones.
“This is the new bootstrap statement,” said Jeffrey Williams, professor of English and literary cultural studies at Carnegie Mellon University, who also writes on student debt.
Williams notes that in the past, politicians and other celebrities who wanted to appear grounded spoke of making their way to school. But at a time of tuition fees are skyrocketing, those days seem to be a bygone era. (Unless you’re lucky enough to be related to Apple CEO Tim Cook, who plans to give away most of his fortune after pays for his nephew’s college educationThis new generation of public figures are more likely to be personally affected by student debt than their predecessors, so they are likely to come back more often, Williams said.
“There was a shame attached to the debt” that made people more hesitant to talk about it, Williams said. “Now the shame is gone because people realized that almost everyone was in debt. “
Statements like Teller’s of politicians incorporating their loans into stump speeches and celebrity reporting helping to pay off fan loans have helped push the student debt problem into the mainstream, but the tension of student debt is not portrayed realistically on television and movies.
“I don’t see it as much as I would like,” said Stefanie O’Connell, actor and founder of The broken and beautiful life, a personal finance site for young people. “There’s this story of being broke and not paying rent that we carry on in pop culture and entertainment.” But this television and movie cliché rarely touches on student loans, which in reality are often a major reason young people struggle to pay their rent or afford nice things.
She cited a recent plotline in HBO’s “Girls”, where Lena Dunham’s character (spoiler alert), Hannah, goes to the University of Iowa for graduate school, then drops out.
“She’s talked about money so often” on the show, O’Connell said. “And then she goes to a masters program, which is horribly expensive, and then she goes and we don’t talk about the implications.”
Even when famous people raise the issue of student debt, it is based on their own experience, which can sometimes be misleading for average Americans struggling with loans. Teller cited his business manager’s advice (“the interest is so low that it doesn’t make sense to pay it back”) as the reason he has yet to fully repay his loans.
“As great as it is to have a celebrity to relate to, giving people an excuse not to pay off student loans as aggressively as possible is probably not a good thing,” said O’Connell.
Still, as an aspiring actor, O’Connell said Teller’s statement makes her optimistic for the 98.6% of theater performers who took out student loans, according to a survey of the Theatrical Communications Group.
“If he did it with his $ 100,000 student loan, there is hope for the rest of us,” she said.