Towards the end of this week’s Netflix NFLX episode of Hasan Minhaj,
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show “Patriot Act,” viewers are presented with a comedy skit that illustrates the obstacles many borrowers face in paying off their student loans better than allegations buried in court documents, complaint databases and the media.

Mark and Shannon participate in a fictional game show. The price? Have your student loan debt paid off. It’s a riff on a real game show with that premise. The fictitious couple are grappling with private student loan debt from their son, who died in a Parkour accident.

“I don’t want to be the harbinger of bad news, but patience actually increases your interest over time. An income-based repayment plan would be more fiscally responsible.


– —Comedian John Hodgman on his fictional student loan game show

Comedian John Hodgman, host of the show, asks bereaved parents, “In the long run, is it better to be on an income-based repayment plan or forborne?” for a chance to win $ 15,000 on their son’s debt. They use one of their lifelines – a call to their student loan company – where a representative tells them, “Forbearance is the best option, I would go with that. ”

Of course, that’s the answer they give Hodgman.

His response, “I don’t want to be the harbinger of bad news, but abstention actually increases your interest over time. An income-based repayment plan would be more fiscally responsible. Both are ushering in the game show without student loan assistance.

This moment reflects allegations of several lawsuits filed by state attorneys general and the Office of Consumer Financial Protection, alleging that student loan companies are steering borrowers for forbearance to save time and money instead. to do what is necessary to help them with the repayment plan that makes the most sense to them.

Several lawsuits allege that student loan companies are directing borrowers for forbearance to save time and money, instead of doing what is necessary to help them with the repayment plan.

And this is one of many across the 28 minute show where Minhaj and his editorial team use comedy to expose a factor that borrower advocates say is exacerbating our country’s $ 1.5 trillion student loan problem – the conduct of student loan companies, which they say , is made possible by the lax oversight of the Ministry of Education.

It is widely recognized that stagnant wages and rising university fees weigh on today’s youth with debts that would have been unfathomable in their parents’ generation. But the episode “Patriot Act” is one of the few pop culture artifacts to highlight the reimbursement experience.

Minhaj, the 33-year-old comedian perhaps best known for his four-year stint as a correspondent on “The Daily Show” and his viral outbreak 2017 during the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, said in an interview that student debt was one of the most requested topics by “Patriot Act” fans asked the show to cover.

“The key thing we were trying to figure out is what is it? How do we talk about that? ” he said. “When our press team started to take an interest in loan services, this is really where the story started for us. “

MarketWatch photo illustration / iStockphoto, Getty Images


During his research, Minhaj said he began to understand the role of the Department of Education and the student loan companies he hires in our country’s student loan problem. Finding out that the Department is the biggest bank in terms of lending, Minhaj said he had a “Wow, how could I not know that, moment.”

But the department “outsourcing their work to loan officers was the start of how I really wanted to show how this system got flawed,” he said.

The show is particularly critical of student loan giant Navient, which is the subject of lawsuits in several states over allegations the company mistreated student loan borrowers. The company says that these the claims are false. To explain to viewers the damage caused by Navient’s alleged practice of steering student loan borrowers toward forbearance, Minhaj uses a familiar analogy.

Income-based repayment, which allows borrowers to pay off debt as a percentage of their income, is like Hinge, an online dating site, which uses connections with Facebook FB,
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friends to make matches, says Minhaj. “It takes longer to complete, but it’s reliable,” he says. Forbearance, which temporarily suspends payments but allows interest to accumulate, is more like Tinder IAC,
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he says. “It’s quick and easy, but over time you end up regretting it.”

The show is particularly critical of student loan giant Navient, which is the subject of lawsuits in several states over allegations the company mistreated student loan borrowers.

In addition to digging deeper into the allegations against Navient, Minhaj introduces viewers to the history of the student loan program and the role of businesses in it to show how far we are from the program’s original goal of strengthening our hand. – educated work. and make university possible for any student, whatever their financial need.

To make his point, Minhaj uses a combination of jokes, examples of borrowers being rejected by their student loan companies, including a disabled man whose student loan company automatically debited his two monthly student loan payment. times from his bank account, and interviews with critics of student loan companies like Seth Frotman, the former student loans ombudsman at CFPB.

Minhaj was able to avoid the experience of paying off a student loan by living at home while attending the University of California-Davis. But he said he had watched friends, relatives and even members of his audience – there was around $ 6 million in student debt spread among fans who watched the recording of the episode – fight back. their own student debt.

Part of what he hopes the episode achieves is putting these challenges in the context of the hurdles borrowers face in paying off their debt.

There is a stigma attached to debt, he said. “It’s like a black dot on your permanent record of whether or not you are a responsible adult,” Minhaj told MarketWatch. “It couldn’t be further from the truth.”

Indeed, the episode “Patriot Act” highlights some of the obstacles defenders claim borrowers face, including Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ policy of shielding student loan companies from the forces of state order, a loan forgiveness program that fined civil servants. to print.

After highlighting some of these roadblocks, Minhaj – dressed as a caricature of a college freshman in a fuzzy white supreme hat, Beats By Dre AAPL,
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headphones and smoking a vape – ask Frotman what freshmen need to know before starting their studies.

“You have to realize that once you leave school you have to be on top of some pretty awful companies,” Frotman told him.

That young adults are grappling with this obligation is troubling, Minhaj said. “Expecting the average student who has so much responsibility and has so much on their plate to find their way around without the proper information is asking a lot. ”


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