One of the best episodes of Hasan Minhaj’s Netflix series Patriot Act was a deep dive into the student-loan debt crisis, so the comedian did all his homework before testifying in front of Congress today on the same topic. Speaking before the House Financial Services Committee this morning, Minhaj said the episode of Patriot Act focused on the student-loan debt crisis “really hit home with our audience,” illustrating his point by revealing that after polling his live studio audience at the time, he learned that they alone were in over $6 million in student-loan debt.
Minhaj went on to note that the members of the Financial Services Committee paid far less for college than the millennial generation. “We looked up where the 60 members of this committee went to college and what your school’s tuition was at that time, even adjusting for inflation, college costs way less across the board,” he said. “On average, this entire committee graduated from college 33 years ago and paid an inflation-adjusted tuition of $11,690 a year. Today, the average tuition at all of your same schools is almost $25,000. That’s a 110 percent increase over a period of time when wages have gone up only 16 percent. So people aren’t making more money, and college is objectively way more expensive. You see what’s happened? We’ve put up a paywall to the middle class.”
Like he did in Patriot Act, Minhaj singled out predatory loan services like Navient. “Now look, we know the deck is stacked against student borrowers in ways that it wasn’t 10 or even 15 years ago, and they deserve some basic protections. Americans should not have to go bankrupt pursuing higher education, and they should never be preyed upon by underregulated loan-servicing companies. So, members of this committee, we know the government is capable of stepping in during a financial crisis, so really all I’m asking today is: Why can’t we treat our student borrowers the way we treat our banks? Because 44 million Americans — that is too big to fail.” Minhaj closed his statement by saying “Thank you so much for your time, and I will now go back to where I came from,” which prompted an extremely amused look from Maxine Waters.
Elsewhere during the hearing, Minhaj asked Florida representative Bill Posey if he was familiar with Lil Uzi Vert while bringing up the trend of fans asking celebrities to pay off their student-loan debt. “It’s a huge problem that the youth of America have to bombard their favorite rapper or pop musician and ask them to pay back their student loans. They’re not even asking for selfies anymore,” Minhaj said. “Are you a fan of Taylor Swift? Are you a Swiftie? ’Cause even her fans have gone up to her and said ‘Will you please pay back my student loans?’ That’s how desperate student borrowers are.”
When asked about doing research for his episode of Patriot Act by Colorado representative Ed Perlmutter, Minhaj called out Navient for intentionally misleading borrowers and called it “the Comcast of loan servicing” and “an arranged marriage you can’t get out of.”
Representative and former Real World star Sean Duffy framed an argument by saying “the smarter the kid, the better school they get into” and tried to get the panel on board by saying, “Here’s the idea: If you have a 20 on your ACT you’re not going to Harvard.” Minhaj offered up a counterpoint: “Or, if your mom’s Aunt Becky, you can just pay your way to USC … You and I, we’re both former MTV stars. You get it!”
We’d offer more reactions, but Maxine has it covered: