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Reality TV’s ‘Going From Broke’ shows true cost of Parent PLUS loans

This Sicklerville, N.J., native moved to Hollywood loaded with student loans and ended up on Ashton Kutcher's new show "Going From Broke" about student loans.

Sicklerville, N.J., native Amanda Kochey, 24, stars in an episode of "Going From Broke," produced by Ashton Kucher. Here she's coached by co-host Dan Rosensweig.
Sicklerville, N.J., native Amanda Kochey, 24, stars in an episode of "Going From Broke," produced by Ashton Kucher. Here she's coached by co-host Dan Rosensweig.Read moreSony Crackle (custom credit)

Amanda Kochey is loaded with six-figure student debt, and she’s starring in a new show — about student debt.

Kochey, 24, a Sicklerville native and graduate of Winslow Township High School in 2013, went to Emerson College, then moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting. She got a gig playing herself, on a new Sony Crackle series called Going From Broke, produced by Hollywood A-lister Ashton Kutcher.

Working as an office manager by day, as a bartender by night, and walking dogs in her free time, Kochey worked three jobs, 80 hours a week, and was still struggling to pay off her student loan debt — which totaled just over $200,000.

Going From Broke reveals — in horrifying scope — how Parent PLUS and other loans can create a staggering burden for students. Kochey’s $200,000 in federal, private, and Parent PLUS loans, paid off over roughly 20 years, will total $372,000, or nearly double the original amount.

Parent PLUS loans were designed as a bridge for whatever grants and tuition don’t cover, but they can saddle parents for decades. The loan was cosigned by her mom, and Kochey feels responsible for it. She balanced three jobs while paying off her monthly nut.

“I don’t want to disappoint her,” Kochey says on the show, especially since she says her mother’s loans are backed by her home as collateral.

Going From Broke features hosts Dan Rosensweig, CEO of educational software company Chegg, and financial journalist Danetha Doe. They advise Kochey on how to refinance her student loans and get her budget in order.

Parent PLUS loans are a common route to pay for college. But lenders only make money “by having high interest rates, which they claim is the result of your bad credit,” explains cohost Rosensweig, who says these are often tied to some sort of collateral such as a home.

“The goal of the bank is for you never to be able to pay off more than your interest into your principal, because they make a lot more money. So Parent PLUS loans … are actually worse than you think.”

The 10-episode series is streaming on Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment. And Sony Corp.’s Crackle show is reality TV, with tips for young adults to cut credit-card debt, pursue the best-paying jobs, restructure student-loan payments, and save them from themselves financially.

Kochey isn’t alone. More than 43 million Americans carry federal student loan debt, and 20 percent of those borrowers default. Many consumers struggle to make payments in what is the second largest credit market in the United States, according to the Pew Trusts.

What’s happened since filming? A performance and theater major at Emerson, she has stopped bartending and gotten hours as an office manager and a nanny. She also moved in with her girlfriend and started saving.

Kochey has yet to find a bank or lender willing to take on refinancing her Parent PLUS loan.

“Unfortunately, I haven’t made any steps in that route. I am paying the minimum balance on that one. I called SoFi and Earnest, using NerdWallet to look at financial companies, but no luck yet,” she said.

She also just got a bump-up in hours. "I’m walking away with more money every month. And then for nanny and babysitting, I do date nights, and one family I’m with for 14 hours a week regularly. It’s my life that comes first, not this money. There are days where I’m still overwhelmed. But I really try to let the loans be the loans and focus on living my life.”

Going From Broke premiered Oct. 17. To watch the show online, visit:*&utm_source=gfb-com.

MBA survivor

A 2019 Wharton graduate will appear on Survivor’s newest season. Kellee Kim, who now works in real estate in Los Angeles, managed to squeeze in filming on the reality TV show in her final few months of classes, all while studying for her MBA.

The graduate business education blog Poets & Quants first alerted us to Kim’s prowess in a show in which “tribes” compete in challenges. Kim, who appeared last week in Episode 6, was recently considered one of the two most powerful players on the show by the prediction website

Kim told Wharton’s blog that two classes “helped me think about strategy on the show: Influence with Cade Massey and Power Labs, an experiential learning course. They gave me frameworks on how to think about the power dynamic between people and within groups to better understand what was happening. Despite what school often teaches us, being successful — or in this case winning Survivor — doesn’t come from being the best, most likable, or the most athletic. It often comes from one’s ability to exert influence through social skills. These classes gave me frameworks on how to think about the power dynamic between people and how I might maneuver.”