The student loan crisis has financially crippled millions of college graduates, leaving them helpless in the face of towering debt. But the Freeform show grown-ish wants to help.

Last week, Essence magazine editors came together with grown-ish cast members Diggy Simmons and Chloe Bailey at Spelman College to announce the ‘#grown-ish & broke-Student Loan Payoff’ contest, a national competition that has both ESSENCE and Freeform vowing to pay up to $150K in student loans for three lucky winners. The prize will be divided up with $75k going to the winner, $50k to the first runner-up, and $25k to the second runner up.

The announcement comes on the heels of grown-ish tackling the intersection of race and student debt in their episode “Real Life Sh**t,” which focuses on Aaron as he tries to figure out how he’s going to handle his debt and his impending graduation.

In the episode, grown-ish presented the statistic that by 30-years-old, the average white male college graduate will have paid off 44% of their student college debt. Meanwhile, the average Black male will owe 11% more than when they graduated. In addition, a 2019 study by The American Association University of Women reported that Black women have the highest student loan debt of any racial or ethnic group, and they end up nearly 56% more in debt than the average white male.

As Doug explains in the episode, part of the problem is that bank lenders purposefully prey upon Black kids who want to attend college but aren’t able to afford it. Left with no other option, the banks lure them in with the promise of easy money. The realization doesn’t set in until after graduation that you now owe them “twice the money plus the shirt off your back.”

grownish student loan debt

With an estimated payment of $750 a month and a payoff time frame of 30 years, Aaron’s situation looked dire. Fortunately, Aaron was offered an on-campus job that netted him free graduate school tuition. It wasn’t a perfect solution. But, being able to further his education without the added burden of thousands of dollars in loans gave him an advantage, as Zoey said, “to ensure he wouldn’t become just another statistic.”

In light of everything we know about the student debt crisis, this contest is a wonderful collaboration. And while they obviously can’t help everyone, there will be at least three fewer people afflicted with outrageous loan amounts.

Student debt has encumbered an entire generation and prevented them from becoming homeowners, having families, and living financially free. That’s not even mentioning the aspiring college students of color who are targeted in an unfair bid to saddle loans on a vulnerable population.

With the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness program in a precarious position, there aren’t many avenues for those with educational debt to go. The #grown-ish & broke-Student Loan Payoff is a great step that will hopefully inspire others to act with the same generosity.

To apply for the #grown-ish & broke-Student Loan Payoff program, head to their website here.

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