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7 Celebrities who had Student Debt

We know paying off student loans can take years, and in most cases decades. The Department of Education reported that the average repayment period for borrowers with federal student loans between $20,000 and $40,000 is 20 years. This means most students graduating in their twenties will only pay off their debts in full by the time they are 40, this shocking fact is backed by a Federal Reserve report that indicates that there are 6.8 million student loan borrowers between the ages of 40 and 49 and together they hold $229.6 billion in debt.

Knowing this, it may come as no surprise to know that some celebrities were stuck paying off student loans before they made it big. And it may serve as a comfort for some to know that these celebrities were struggling with student debt as well (and some even still are).

Here’s a list of celebrities who had to take out student loans to pay for college, along with some words for fellow borrowers:

Barack Obama


The President of the United States took out student loans to pay for Law School and only finished paying them off when he was in his 40’s. He notoriously said in a 2013 speech: “I was in my 40s when we finished paying off our debt. And we should have been saving for Malia and Sasha by that time.”

Michelle Obama


Both the former President and the First Lady had student debt which they paid down together. Going back to the previous speech, Obama also said: “Michelle and I, we’re only where we are today because scholarships and student loans gave us a shot at a great education.
And we know a little bit about trying to pay back student loans, too, because we didn’t come from a wealthy family.”

Kerry Washington


Actress Kerry Washington struggled with student debt and couldn’t pay them off until she landed the role of Olivia Pope on Scandal. She has attested that she would not have been able to afford college without the help of student loans.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC)


Last year, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made a payment towards her student loan debt during a committee meeting while she called on Congress to take action on the issue.

“I literally made a student loan payment while I was sitting here at this chair, and I looked at my balance and it was $20,237.16” the New York Democrat said at a meeting of the financial services committee focusing on student debt.

“I just made a payment that took me down to $19,000” she added, “so I feel really accomplished right now.”

Cecil Shorts

Former Tampa Bay Buccaneer wide receiver Cecil Shorts took out student loans to pay for college, unlike many athletes who receive athletic scholarships. He took out $70,000 in loans to pay for tuition while to study physical education while working part-time jobs. When Shorts signed a $2.6 million deal in 2013, he revealed he was still paying off his student loans. He recalls taking side jobs like lawn-mowing while his teammates would go partying, and this helped him prevent taking on more debt.

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Kate Walsh


Actress Kate Walsh, known for the hit TV show Grey’s Anatomy, struggled with student debt early on, and worked at a Burger King before her career as a model and actress.

In an interview for Refinery29, she said:
“The only way I was, honestly, able to pay off my student loans was at age 37, because I happened to get on a big, fat TV show called Grey’s Anatomy.”

Because of her experience with student loans, she has been very vocal about the issue, urging her followers to go out and vote for better education in the June 2016 California’s primary elections.

Miles Teller

Actor Miles Teller racked up over $100,000 in student loans to afford for acting school in New York University. Even though he has starred in blockbuster movies such as Fantastic Four and Divergent, and has multi-million dollar contracts, he did not make it a priority to pay off his student loans because the interest rates were so low.

What to do if you have student debt

If you are unsure about the best way to pay down your student debt, Snowball Wealth can help. Snowball will create a student loan plan for you based on your goals –– whether it’s saving more money or changing your monthly payment. On average, we’ve saved our users over $6,000. You can sign up here.

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