For years now, the debt load for the average American student has been at alarming levels. As a country, we carry some $1.4 trillion in student loans, with millions of these loans in default.
It’s enough for college graduates to consider downright unconventional ways to get out of debt. Enter TruTV’s unusual solution to the student lending crisis: the game show Paid Off.
What is Paid Off?
Paid Off is TruTV’s latest trivia show, where recent graduates compete to shave down their student loans debt. Its host and creator Michael Torpey (Orange Is the New Black) designed it as subversive satire. But it’s also a real opportunity for three millennials to win freedom from their loans.
Correct answers earn money toward paying off part of a contestant’s student loans, with the overall winner scoring total elimination of their debt.
Premiering July 10, 2018, the show airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET. Or catch the most recent episode on TruTV’s website.
What happens on the show?
Paid Off falls somewhere between Jeopardy and Family Feud. It starts with three contestants, typically millennials, who face off to answer trivia questions about topics ranging from classical art to the names of race car drivers.
Contestants are eliminated every few rounds, until only one remains to attempt winning the ultimate prize: all or part of their debt paid off. Everyone takes home what they win on the show, plus extras at the whims of the game show gods — like a liberal rounding up of their totals.
Round One: Things you learn inside the classroom
The first round of Paid Off introduces three Jeopardy-style categories from which contestants choose. There’s no penalty for buzzing in with an incorrect answer, but correct ones win $100.
Round Two: Life outside the lecture hall
The second round of Paid Off is closer to Family Feud. Paid Off polls 100 recent college graduates on three topics, picking the top five responses for each. For each question, whoever buzzes in with the most popular answer gets $200.
Unlike Round One, this is an elimination round: The contestant with the least amount of money is sent packing. At least in the first episode, Paid Off rounded up their amount to the nearest $1,000. Not bad for losing.
Round Three: First lightning round
The first speed round comes with a twist. It kicks off with Torpey revealing two categories — race car drivers and famous generals, in the premiere. The contestants then sprint toward a buzzer to win a chance to pick their opponent’s category and, interestingly, the sound they have to listen to while answering, like people screaming.
For the game, Torpey announces a name, and the contestant must guess which category it falls into. Players have 20 seconds to answer as many questions as they can. Each correct answer wins $200.
Nobody is eliminated at the end of this round.
Round four: Second lightning round
In this elimination round, contestants have 30 seconds to answer as many questions as they can about a specific category. If a contestant buzzes in with an incorrect answer, their opponent gets a chance to answer it. Here too, each correct answer wins $200.
The contestant with the least winnings is eliminated, leaving one contestant.
Round five: Final round
The show culminates in a round that finds the last standing player answering eight questions. Each correct answer shaves a percentage off the constant’s loan:
- One correct answer: 5%
- Two correct answers: 10%
- Three correct answers: 15%
- Four correct answers: 20%
- Five correct answers: 30%
- Six correct answers: 40%
- Seven correct answers: 50%
- Eight correct answers: 100%
Answer all eight questions correctly, and you walk home free of your crippling student debt.
But wait, kind audience. You too could win!
Like The Price Is Right and more recent game shows that reward the audience, so too does Paid Off. After the final round, Torpey selects person from the crowd to potentially win money toward their student debt.
In the first episode, the chosen audience member answered questions about boxing, punching holes in a fake wall to retrieve prizes. Along with winning a sandwich and cantaloupe, he scored $1,000 to pay down his loans.
How do I sign up?
Paid Off is a lot like signing up for a reality show. Look for local casting calls on sites like Backdoor. Some cities offer open casting calls, where anyone can audition for the show’s casting director or a production coordinator. You can also apply online for a chance to appear on the show.
Who can play?
Paid Off is looking for millennials who are:
- Between 25 and 35 years old.
- Legal US residents.
- Burdened by demonstrable student debt.
You’re more likely to get cast if you have a:
- Charismatic personality.
- Basic trivial knowledge on topics like pop culture and history.
- Strong grasp of your college major.
Not interested in being on a game show? Consider these 4 other ways to pay off student debt
Going on a game show to eliminate your student debt is admittedly extreme — some writers go as far as comparing it to the Hunger Games. But that’s kind of the point: Torpey sprinkles facts about student debt throughout the show, advising the audience at the end of the premier, “Call your representatives right now and tell them we need a better solution than this game show.” Even fast-food joints agree that something needs to be done, with Burger King launching a student loan forgiveness sweepstakes in May 2019.
In the meantime, millions of Americans struggle to build a life while paying off massive student debt. If this is you, consider your many other options to successfully managing your loans.
1. Refinance your loans
When your payments are too high or you can’t seem to make progress on repayments, look into student loan refinancing. Refinancing involves taking out a new loan to pay off your existing ones, ideally one with a lower rate or more manageable monthly repayments.
But watch out if you have federal loans: Refinancing with a private lender means you’ll lose access to key benefits like income-based repayment and forgiveness programs. You might not qualify for refinancing if you’ve just started to build your credit score or are unemployed.
Compare refinancing offers now
2. Change your repayment plan
Federal loans and some private student loans come with multiple repayment plans, though federal loans tend to be more flexible.
Contact your loan servicer to ask about your options. If your financial circumstances have changed drastically since you applied for your loan — say, your parents got divorced — your lender might be willing to put you on an income-based repayment plan, even if they don’t advertise it.
3. Apply for student loan forgiveness
Becoming a game show contestant isn’t the only way to eliminate student debt. Depending on your career, you might be eligible for forgiveness of part or all of your student loan.
If you work in public service for 10 years while paying off federal loans, you might be eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which forgives your entire loan balance.
Doctors, lawyers, teachers and members of the military in particular have several forgiveness program options for both public and private student loans.
4. Consider deferment and forbearance
When you’re facing a temporary financial setback, you might want to ask about your deferment or forbearance options. It won’t decrease your debt load — in fact, it’ll likely increase it, because interest typically accrues while your repayments are paused.
But it could help you from becoming delinquent or defaulting on your loan. Defaulting can damage your credit for years to come and make it difficult to buy a house, rent an apartment and even qualify for some jobs.
Compare top student loan refinancing offers
Regardless of your thoughts on Paid Off, this game show could be an answer for select charismatic millennials struggling to rid themselves of student debt.
But it’s not for everyone: TruTV just doesn’t have enough cash to cover all $1.4 trillion in American student debt. To learn about options open to a wider audience, read our student loans guide.
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