Speed Reads

John Oliver Explains

John Oliver unpacks the special horrors of student debt, and for-profit universities

On Sunday night's Last Week Tonight, John Oliver tackled the sharp, crushing rise in student debt. Student loans hold a special place in the lending industry, he said — you can essentially never escape the debt, including in bankruptcy. Now topping $1 trillion in the U.S., student debt has tripled in the past decade, Oliver added, and "has surpassed Bob Marley's greatest hits album as the thing seemingly every college student has."

Oliver pointed out some reasons for this spike in student loans: States have slashed funding for education, leading colleges to raise rates and students to take out more debt; community colleges are over-capacity; and the growing number of (sometimes predatory) for-profit colleges charge more than you'd think and deliver significantly less. He dwelled on that last point for some time, finding just one thing to say in favor of for-profit schools: "They've given us all a first-class education in the depths of human depravity."

Along the way, Oliver dropped insults for a cappella groups, North Carolina, and Scientologists, but it's the for-profit colleges that will feel the sting Monday morning. At least if Oliver has anything to say about it. --Peter Weber