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Tackling the Student Debt Crisis on TV

Student debt is occupying a prominent spot in the platforms of the Democratic presidential hopefuls and an emerging position in television, too. Docuseries Going From Broke has launched on Crackle, with 10 episodes offering a look at how mounting student debt cripples a large percentage of the millennial population.

Dan Rosensweig (l.) hosts Crackle's ‘Going From Broke,‘ a 10-episode docuseries chronicling the nation's student debt crisis. 

Dan Rosensweig (l.) hosts Crackle's ‘Going From Broke,‘ a 10-episode docuseries chronicling the nation's student debt crisis. 

Ashton Kutcher is executive producer, as is Michael Winter, senior VP of programming at Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, which acquired a majority stake in Crackle from Sony last year and is making this the first new original program on the ad-supported streaming service. The idea for the series came from Kutcher.

“Ashton is intrinsically involved every step of the way,” Winter said. “He literally hand-wrote the treatment for the show and what it should look like.”

More than 44 million Americans owe a stunning $1.5 trillion in federal student loan debt, according to Crackle, and the number is climbing. Winter noted the tech bubble of the late ’90s and real estate bubble of the late aughts, and said a student loan bubble may be poised to burst.

The series checks in with millennials living in Los Angeles, and a duo of financial experts challenges the young people to rethink their financial habits.

“There’s no financial show for millennials,” Winter said. “They’re not watching CNBC or reading The Wall Street Journal.”

Winter said the financial advisers, Dan Rosensweig, CEO of education firm Chegg, and entrepreneur Danetha Doe, teach the young folks “financial literacy.”

“The student debt crisis in America is devastating to young people and their families,” Rosensweig said. “We need real solutions, in real time, to end the vicious cycle of debt and get hard-working young people on the road to financial freedom.”

Student debt may not automatically play on television, but the producers tell the story from the perspective of the young people forced into hard decisions based on the ills of their college loans.

Over the summer, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) introduced legislation aimed toward wiping out around $640 billion in student debt. “Student loan debt in this nation has reached crisis proportions,” the presidential candidate said.

Elsewhere on the dial, 32 episodes of Paid Off with Michael Torpey have aired on TruTV. A humorous game show, the Paid Off contestants compete to have their student debts wiped out by the show.

The student debt issue has long been a personal one for Torpey, host and executive producer. “We’ve helped push back against the stigma of student debt,” said Torpey. “People avoid the reality of their debt out of shame, but there’s no reason to be ashamed.”

Paid Off will not go on on TruTV. “We’re hoping to find a new home for it,” Torpey said.

The show has given away $1.6 million to its debt-ridden contestants since it debuted in July 2018. “We freed people up and gave them the opportunity to chase their dreams,” said Torpey.

Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment and Crackle, for their part, are bullish on Going From Broke. The Chicken Soup books tell “first-person, authentic, real-life stories,” said Winter. So does the new series.