This Game Show Gives Contestants A Chance To Have Their Student Debt Paid Off

Jul 10, 2018
Originally published on July 16, 2018 9:53 am
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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Forty-five million Americans are burdened by student loans. A new quiz show lets a handful of them use what they learned in school to pay off their debt.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "PAID OFF")

MICHAEL TORPEY: One of these three contestants is 30 minutes away from a chance to pay off their student debt. Let's meet them, huh (ph)?

(APPLAUSE)

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

"Paid Off" is a game show where contestants are tested on trivia and basic knowledge.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "PAID OFF")

JAY: Hey, I'm Jay. I have $20,462 in student loan debt.

NICO: My name is Nico (ph), and I have $17,350 in student loan debt.

MADELINE: Hey, I'm Madeline (ph), and I have $41,222 in debt.

UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE: Oh.

SHAPIRO: Host Michael Torpey had an epiphany about student debt after he paid off his wife's loans.

TORPEY: We write the checks, we put them in the envelopes, and my wife just starts crying. I felt very ashamed that I didn't really appreciate what she'd been going through, how much carrying around this invisible burden of debt affects every decision you make.

CHANG: Torpey, who's a fan of quiz shows, wanted to find a way to free others from that burden. And so "Paid Off" was born.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "PAID OFF")

TORPEY: First question - what's the ology that studies illegal activities and the people who commit them?

(SOUNDBITE OF DING)

TORPEY: Jay.

JAY: Criminology.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHIME)

TORPEY: Correct for a hundred.

SHAPIRO: "Paid Off" is a game show first, but it also tries to illustrate the pain of student debt. To get the balance right, the producers sought the help of a nonprofit group called Student Debt Crisis. Its executive director and founder, Natalia Abrams, gave them this advice.

NATALIA ABRAMS: 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.

SHAPIRO: And even though Torpey loves a good game show, he acknowledges that it is not the answer to the overall problem of student debt.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "PAID OFF")

TORPEY: We helped four people pay off their student debt today, but there are 45 million Americans out there struggling with their student loans. Doesn't have to be this way. Call your representatives right now and tell them we need a better solution than this game show. I'm Michael Torpey. I'll see you next time on "Paid Off."

(CHEERING)

CHANG: The TruTV show starts next Tuesday. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.