Satire vs Cynicism – Rolling Stone and Daily Currant Take on Student Loans
August 29, 2013

We tend to write seriously about student loans here at except for an occasional foray into absurdity to relieve the tension of dealing with student debt (see our recent pieces on the Student-Loan-Nado and How to Unsuccessfully Ignore Your Student Loans). As grave as the issue of student loans is, we can certainly appreciate a lighter hearted look at it like the recent satirical piece in The Daily Currant that sparked incredulity and then outrage. Another recent article that gained national attention was a cynical (if apt) piece in Rolling Stone.

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Today we’d like to compare and contrast these two high profile articles that share much the same message even if they went about it differently. The Daily Currant article purports to be a speech at Scranton University where President Obama promises to forgive all student loans immediately. Rolling Stone’s piece is a multi-page scathing critique of how student loans are crippling our country by Matt Taibbi that has also similarly drawn criticism and ire.

Necessity of a College Education

The Currant “quotes” Obama saying, “In today’s economy a university education is more important than ever. Where would successful people like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Tom Hanks, Brad Pitt or Mark Zuckerberg be without their college diplomas?”

Rolling Stone cited a New York Times story that said a college degree is “the new high school diploma” describing it as essentially a minimum job requirement. Taibbi mentions the Times “found an Atlanta law firm that requires even clerks, secretaries and runners to have four-year degrees.”

Analysis: The Currant selected rich successful people who never bothered to complete their degree and the Stone piece points out that we’re mostly doomed without a degree. Both speak truth that a degree is pretty much de rigeur unless you’ve got star power or genius potential…

Utility of a College Education

The Currant also “quotes” Obama advising, “We need colleges to teach our young people useful skills like sociology, gender studies and postmodern Moldovan literary analysis.”

Rolling Stone’s Taibbi wrote about a 24 year old graduate who told him, “Nobody sits down and explains to you what it all means” and who took out $45,000 in loans to get what he describes as “a degree in bullshit” (i.e. public relations) and now pays 50% of his income in loan payments.

Analysis: The Currant mocked college degrees that are largely useless and the Stone piece breathes life into the satire by showing a real world example of a student loan debtor saddled with a degree he can’t use and student loan debt that’s drowning him. As mentioned above, a degree is a prerequisite to getting a foot in the door, but a degree should prepare you to make a living not live a life of debt.

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Ultimate Cost of a College Education

The Currant continues their Obama “quotes” with, “…the most important thing we need to teach them [college students] is responsibility. And what better way to teach responsibility than to hold these banks accountable for the terrible loans they’ve made.”

Taibbi interviewed one student loan debtor – Alan Collinge – who turned his own struggle into activism and founded and said, “Only a small minority of those who’ve been to college have been told very simple things, like what their interest rate was. A lot of straight-up lies have been foisted on students.”

Analysis: The Currant jests in suggesting that banks pay (by not getting paid) for irresponsibly making loans to teenagers, but again the Stone supports the satire with reality by revealing how little young people know about the loans they take on and it can be seen as instances of predatory lending.

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Rethinking College Education

What’s interesting about The Daily Currant piece is that many readers didn’t immediately get that it was satire. They left comments and tweeted their excitement that President Obama was forgiving all loans. Is that a statement on how strung out many borrowers are dealing with student loan stress that something this unlikely sparked hope? Unfortunately, the Prez is not writing off student debt and you’ll need to keep making payments. This oh-so-dry bit of satire is well worth reading – click here to read the full text of The Daily Currant’s Obama Announces Plan to Forgive All Student Loans.

And the Rolling Stone article is nothing short of revelatory, insightful and cuttingly critical of the back-slapping politicians that have lauded themselves over the recent student loan interest rate legislation which is nothing more than a flimsy levee that will erode soon enough and leave more students than ever drowning in overwhelming student debt. Be sure to take some time to read all four glorious pages – click here to read the full text on – of Matt Taibbi’s Ripping Off Young America: The College-Loan Scandal.

In addition to offering a free tool to help grads optimize their student loan debt, our blog and student loan help center provide tons of information and tools to help you get your student loans under control. For those who are done with school and stuck with their debt, we encourage you to try these tools. And for those of you just starting your college search, check out our recent piece Consider the Dollars and Sense of Your College Search and join us along with other college affordability experts for a Twitter chat next week – keep an eye out for #CollegeSearch.