Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (2014–…): Season 1, Episode 16 - Student Debt - full transcript

John provides a eulogy for the mating space geckos, and talks about student debt.

Are you wondering how healthy the food you are eating is? Check it -

Episode 16

Welcome to Last Week Tonight.
I'm John Oliver.

So exciting to be back with you.
Just time for a quick recap

of what we've missed
since we were on break.

In a word: ISIS.
In three words: Holy fuck, ISIS.

They are the terrorist group
that is scaring the entire planet.

Everyone is worried about
how to respond to them,

including, we learned this week,
their fellow terrorists.

It's all been about ISIS
in Iraq and Syria.

Al Qaeda know
they're yesterday's story.

ISIS is the flavor
of the month now.

Even Ayman al-Zawihiri, who is
now in his mid-60s,

is feeling that: no one
is really paying attention to me.

Nobody's pays attention to me,
I do bad things too,

why don't you care ?

It's not fair.

The head of Al Qaeda
is feeling neglected.

He's tried everything, from posting
sad, cryptic Facebook status updates

to even doing
the Ice bucket challenge.

Now I challenge you,
Adam Levine and Ellen Page !

Al Zawahri attempted to regain
the terror momentum from ISIS,

by releasing a new video announcing
that Al Qaeda's expanded into India.

My Muslim brothers everywhere,
I announce to all Muslims in the world

and especially in India,
the founding of a new branch.

Okay, first:
don't call it a new branch.

You are a terrorist organization,
not a Capital One.

This proves Al Qaeda
is running out of ideas.

Going to India to remain
relevant is such a tired concept.

It worked for The Beatles.
And Danny Boyle.

To some extent Wes Anderson.
Al Qaeda is supposed to be better.

But you can see why
al Zawahri's threatened:

even when media's supposed to be
talking about his videotape,

they discuss about how much more
entertaining ISIS's videos are.

One of the interesting things
about the videotape was

how boring it is, you know.

When you think about the ISIS
social media campaign,

it's highly effective,
it's well edited, it's exciting.

You've got a picture of al-Zawahri
blabbing away for a half hour.

Blabbing away ?
Am I right ?

This guy truly is a mass murderer.
He is boring me to death.

Everyone noticed ISIS's viral success.
Even the U.S. government.

They recently decided that
it would be a good idea

to try to beat ISIS
at their own game.

The State Department has produced
a counter-narrative.

A new video. We can show you a clip
of that right there as well,

that it sarcastically kind
of tells potential ISIS recruits

that they can quote learn useful
skills by blowing up mosques,

by crucifying and executing
Muslims, as you see there.

What the fuck are you doing ?!
The state department has created

a sarcastic parody recruitment
video for ISIS

that begins with the words run,
do not walk, to ISIS land.

And you are banking a lot
on any potential militants

understand that that is sarcasm.

I was about to join ISIS,
but I saw your very clever video,

telling me to join ISIS, but using
ironic juxtaposition of words

to suggest
I should do the opposite.

Just like Chandler in "Friends",
could we be any more militant ?

I totally get it.

Ironic propaganda is a dangerous
game for a government. Believe me.

This did not work for England

when we tried to pull that shit
on Germany back in 1936.

Germany ! That Hitler chap,
seems like he's got swell ideas !

Here's a thought: why
don't you all become Nazis ?

While you're at it,
Poland's nice this time of year !

Why don't you just pop over there
and take it ?

That would be a realy good idea !
Run don't walk to the Nazi land.

Are we 100 percent sure they're
going to get the sarcasm here ?

And finally this week: Libya.

It has been three years
since Gaddafi fell.

How are things going there ?

That really all depends
on your opinion of pool parties.

I've never been a fan
of waddling around

with a stomachache
in a tepid pool of human filth.

But it seems that Libyan rebels
would beg to differ.

In a country free-falling into
chaos, Libyan gunmen celebrate.

They've taken an American
diplomatic compound,

so they take to the swimming pool.

A symbolic moment
they want the world to see.

Libya seems to be descending into
chaos at the hands of Islamist militias

but on the other hand...

That does look like one
bomb-ass pool party.

Bust out the pizza rolls
and the two liters of Mountain Dew

because Tripoli has fallen and
it's time to play some Marco Polo.

Marco, we're having fun.
It's supposed to be fun.

This situation is not ideal.
Although we may have stumbled

on a useful shorthand for all
potential foreign policy fiascos.

We better be careful
how we leave Afghanistan,

or it could turn into a total
Libyan pool party over there.

Don't get me started
on Ukraine.

That's a Libyan pool party
waiting to happen.

How about we take
that sarcastic ISIS video down ?

That has the potential to end

in the biggest Libyan pool party
the world has ever seen.

And now this:

"60 Minutes" anchors prompting
people to deliver

the exact soundbite they need.

- You got to hand it to him.
- Yes.

He was off and running.

- One way of dealing with the anxiety.
- Is to laugh at it.

So it drives the price up.

You did everything together.

With that cartoon.

He is sort of
the father of hot sauce.

- Does that surprise you ?
- It does.

- You're saying we shouldn't ?
- We shouldn't.

There's no reason to prepare.

And that's essentially
a commercial for GoPro.

- All of them banned ?
- All of them banned.

With the crowd there ?
That's quite an image.

- It was almost a cakewalk actually.
- A cakewalk ?

To beat the system.

To cheat.

Moving on
to our main story tonight.

Hundreds of thousands of students

started classes
at colleges and universities.

By the time they graduate,
most students are going to be leaving

with a lot more than just
a tacky polyester robe

and a copy of "Oh The Places You'll Go"
that their tearful aunt got them.

They'll be leaving with this:

Seven of ten graduating students
left college last year in debt.

The total bill due for students
in America tops one trillion dollars.

Student debt in the US is now bigger
than debt from credit cards

and auto loans
and is second only to mortgages.

Essentially student debt is like HPV:
if you go to college,

you're almost certainly going
to get it, and if you do,

it will follow you
for the rest of your life.

Legally student debt
is a special kind of debt.

It is the most collectible
kind of debt there is.

It is non dischargeable
in bankruptcy.

They will garnish your wages.
They will intercept your tax refunds.

They will sue you.

They'll steal your wallet.
They will pawn your baby shoes.

They will shrink themselves,
hide in your pocket

and take that money back
one dime at a time.

Student debt has tripled
in the past decade.

It has surpassed Bob Marley's
greatest hits album

as the thing seemingly
every college student has.

How did this happen ? More
than 90 percent of student debt

is subsidized
by the federal government.

It all started
with such good intentions.

One of the Federal Student
Loan's programs' early champions:

Poverty must not be
a bar to learning

and learning must offer
an escape from poverty.

Escape From Poverty,
by the way,

the "worst" Kurt Russell
movie ever made.

A higher education system open to all
was one of LBJ's top priorities,

along with creating of course
a Libyan pool party in Vietnam

and finding a pair of pants that
could contain his gigantic testicles.

That might sound like a joke,
but listen to this conversation

he had in the Oval Office

with a representative
from the Haggar Clothing Company.

The crotch, where the nuts hang,
is always a little too tight.

So when you make 'em up
give me an inch I can let out there,

because they cut me,
it's like riding a wire fence.

Let's see if you can't leave me
an inch from where the zipper ends

round under back
to my bunghole.

That's real.

We all thought the "b" in LBJ
stood for Baines,

but it actually stands for
"balls balls, my big bulbous balls"

"are too close to my bunghole."

Isn't history fun ?
But like LBJ's testicles,

the federal student loan program has
swollen to uncomfortable proportions.

One reason for this might be
that in recent years

states have slashed funding
for higher education by 23 percent,

public institutions responded
by raising tuition rates,

forcing students to take out
ever larger loans.

Why do you think colleges
have so many a cappella groups ?

They know they sound stupid,
they just can't afford instruments.

Another consequence of these cuts
has been that community colleges

have been forced to reduce capacity,

leading to things like
a nursing program in North Carolina

with a waiting list
just to get on the waiting list.

That is what you need in
the land of tobacco and barbeque,

a shortage of nurses.

But all this shows: that people
in this country,

they want to go to school
to better their lives.

It is good they have broad access
to federal funds to help them do that.

The problem is,
this is where we meet

one of the biggest drivers
of student debt:

for-profit schools, like University
of Phoenix and ITT Tech.

Most of them are publicly
traded on Wall Street

and run
commercials like these !

I was watching TV and
an ITT Tech commercial came on.

I decided to give them a call.
My education's paid off.

I got into the field of aerospace,
it's been over 12 years now.

There's nothing I would change
about my life.

We've been married over 10 years,
have two boys, everything is perfect.

That's nice.

There's something about
the phrase "everything" is perfect

that I find suspicious.

Because the only other person
who says that is Janice in accounting

and she secretly puts Jim Beam
in her coffee cup

and repeats "keep it together,
you can do this Janice"

into the bathroom mirror
five times a day.

For-profit schools account for
nearly a third of all student loans,

despite having just 13 percent
of our country's students.

That is way out of proportion.

Part of why for-profit schools account
for so much student debt

is that they are not cheap.

I was surprised to learn how
expensive tuition at for-profits is,

five to sixe times the cost
of a community college

and as much as twice a four-year
state university.

Five to six times the cost
of a community college.

Plus, you don't even get to hang out
with a study group of lovable scamps

for let's say
six seasons and a movie.

If you wonder
why they charge so much,

it's nothing to do
with the quality of education.

If you look at for-profit colleges,
the analysts will tell you

that between 20 and 25 percent
of the total revenue of a company

is in sales and marketing,
about a quarter.

In most cases, the faculty are
in the 10 to 20 percent range.

They spend half the amount on teachers
that they do on marketing.

He's basically saying: "Teachers,
we're not saying you don't matter,"

"we're saying ads about you
matter twice as much."

One for you... Two for
a spot during Wayne Brady.

From a purely business perspective,
that disparity makes some sense.

When I go and buy
perfume for my mom,

the chemicals in the bottle and
the bottle amount to about $0.50.

The advertising amounts
to five or six bucks.

Stop buying perfume for
your mom, you fucking creep.

I like the way you smell, mom.

You smell good.

And secondly:
perfume is not education.

Although I will say both
do market themselves aggressively.

With perfume, it's spraying it
into people's eyes in a store.

And for-profit schools,
it's even worse...

Zarah Crowley was a recruiter
at the for-profit Westwood in 2007.

Crowley quit because she couldn't
continue preying on low-income youth

and using something
called pain points.

A pain point would be something,
they work at McDonald's.

They don't want to be
like their parents. We turn it on them:

Do you want to work at McDonald's
for the rest of your life ?

They are told to
"hit people's pain points".

The only professionals
who should be doing that

are dominatrixes
or emo bands, that's it.

And this "pain point" approach
seems to be an industry-wide technique.

This is an actual slide some ITT tech
recruiters were shown,

that photo is from "Marathon Man",

where Lawrence Olivier
played a Nazi Torturer.

It's maybe not saying much
for your business model

if your essential logic is:
"This worked well for the Nazis,"

"let's at least give it a go !"

If you sign up for one these schools,
what education are you going to get ?

Remember this ITT Tech
Graduate from earlier ?

And his absolutely
perfect fucking life ?

It says on screen that he graduated
with an associate's degree

in engineering
from the ITT Sylmar campus.

We checked their public filings
and out of 115 students

who enrolled in that program
in the class of 2012,

three quarters didn't graduate
and 13 found work in that field.

Everyone else would've been
better off studying at Hogwarts.

At least that way, they'd have
an owl to show for it.

Even for those who do graduate,
job-hunting might be difficult.

As students from a Corinthian
College nursing program have found.

I have been
on countless interviews.

They all ask
if I've ever been in a hospital.

I have to tell them we never
set foot in a hospital. Ever.

We went to a Museum of Scientology
for our psychiatric rotation.

What ?! Scientologists
do not believe in psychiatry.

Their museum is called
"Psychiatry: An Industry of Death".

Going to the Museum of Scientology
for psychiatric rotation is insane.

Or evidence of a buildup
of thetans in your system.

You teach the controversy.
We asked Corinthian about this

and they requested that
we point out a few things:

such as the fact that those
women later sued the school.

A financial settlement was reached.

Those women later went
on to become registered nurses.

And also that us not mentioning
those facts to you would constitute

"reckless disregard for the truth."

Not the kind of reckless disregard
for the truth that would lead you

to send medical students
to a scientology museum.

Pretty reckless none the less.

They also wanted us to take

"clear and extensive note
of subsequent events."

In doing that,
know that this summer,

after a government investigation
of their job-placement numbers,

Corinthian Colleges have agreed to sell
or close every school they operate in.

I presume that's what they wanted
us to tell you, so job done.

To be fair here, we're good...

The federal government does try
to regulate these schools.

They are allowed a mere 90% of their
funding to come from federal loans.

For-profit schools found themselves
a horrifying loophole.

The 90/10 rule says schools
can only have 90% of their money

coming from loans, the other
10% could come from veteran loans.

These schools have gone
after the veterans benefits

as a way to leverage their
ability to sign up more students.

Yeah, they're going after veterans.

The only time "going after veterans"
is okay

is when you let them walk
through the door in front of you.

Not when you try
to take their money.

For-profit schools took in
$1.7 billion in GI Bill money

in the last reported school year.

And this is the length to which
Ashford University was willing to go

to get that sweet
budget-assisting veteran dollar:

I went to a marine base
in North Carolina

and I found that one
of the for-profit colleges

was sending a recruiter to
the wounded warriors barracks,

where she was signing up
brain-injured marines

who had difficulty remembering
what courses they were taking.

Holy shit. I will say this
for for-profit schools:

they've just give us all
a first-class education

in the depths of human depravity,
we all have a diploma in that now.

Here is where I have some
good news and some bad news.

A few years back, the Obama
administration proposed

"gainful employment" standards.

The bad news is,
everything that happened after that.

For-profit industry spent $10 million
in lobbying that year.

And also, their trade group
inundated the government

with letters from
"ordinary" students and educators

asking them not to tighten
the regulations.

Let me read on to you:

I am a career college student
at institution studying program.

Institution is providing me
with the education and training

necessary to obtain the job
I've always wanted as a career.

Many people didn't even
bother filling in the blanks !

Couldn't they at least do it
like mad libs ?

You could have gone
Butt-Cheese University

seeking a degree in Weiner studies,
go the extra mile !

And the worst thing is,
the campaign worked !

The gainful employment rules
were weakened and struck down.

The latest version of the rules
are expected by November

and the for-profit trade group, APSCU,
is still lobbying hard against them.

If you'd like to um let APSCU know
how you feel about their behavior

we've prepared a form letter
for you which reads:

To whom it may concern:
I am name here,

a human being with describe
at least some level of sense

who is sick of your
synonym for "bullshit".

Whatever the benefits
of for-profit schools,

your trade group is protecting
some of the worst actors

and additional insults.

Ideas for places to cram
this letter once rolled up.

Proposals for human waste
products to be eaten.

Thank you for your time.
Name here again.

Feel free to go online,
copy this letter,

do not bother to fill it in at all
and send it to APSCU at this address.

That might make you feel
a little bit better.

But it will only be temporary.
The student-debt problem

is far bigger
than just for-profit schools.

If they all went away,
the student debt would still be here.

Our leaders have decided that
while education is important,

it's not important enough
to actually pay for.

So with that in mind,
let me speak right now

to all current freshman in college
who have student loans.

Stop watching this show right now.
You don't have time.

Get out there and enjoy your college
experience because you may be paying

for the rest of your life.

Drink beer from a funnel !
Kidnap a mascot !

Find out if you're gay or not.
Even if you are not,

have some gay experiences,
do it now, it doesn't count !

Become that weird guy on campus
who rides a unicycle.

Find out whoever the Winklevoss
twins of your school are

and steal their idea for a website.

Shoot fireworks out of every
bodily orifice you can find.

Do it now ! Make sure your college
years are the best ones of your life !

Thanks to the debt that
we are saddling you with,

they almost certainly will be !

Get out there and do it !
Go nuts ! Go crazy !

And now this:

Even more '60 Minutes'
anchors prompting people

to deliver
the exact soundbite they need.

they do this all the time.

You don't hear the call.

You don't see the name.

- And that was you.
- That was me.

- You were chased.
- I was chased.

It didn't turn out that way.

- Only in America.
- Right.

There was a backup plan.

- Is that essentially it ?
- That's it.

Old heart, new heart.

Ended up
with the national championship.

It was a proposal.

To destroy computers.

- It's like you can't let go.
- You can't let go ?

You can't let go.


Finally tonight. Before we go,
you might remember

that a little over a month ago,
I brought to your attention

the single most urgent crisis
of our time.

Russia lost contact with a satellite
full of possibly mating geckos.

They were trying to observe their
mating activities in zero gravity.

Their pod stopped responding
to mission control.

It was terrifying.
Now, you may remember:

that in response to that, we launched
"#go get those geckos" campaign,

uniting all fans of astro-reptilian
fornication from all across the globe.

Soon after we launched
our campaign, we were victorious.

We even released a web video
announcing the good news.

Russia has regained communication
with their interstellar orgy-mobile !

Ladies and gentlemen, we did it !
The geckos got got !

I remember those days.
Such pure distilled joy.

I may have been a little premature.
The satellite landed this week

and Russia had a tragic
announcement to make.

Officials say five geckos that
were sent to space have died.

No ! I would ask for a moment
of silence, but that's not enough.

In honor of the five brave geckos
who lost their lives,

join me in five mournful
flicks of the tongue.

I want answers now:
how did this happen ?

They froze to death
because of equipment failure.

Fruit flies on that same mission

Who gives a shit ? I don't care
about the fruit flies !

I only care about
the frozen fuck lizards !

Up in that shuttle there were
four females and one male.

We sent those geckos to have sex
in space not because they were easy,

but because he was hard.

Thank you.

This is devastating.

And these brave, horny space
reptiles deserve a dignified send off.

Those geckos may not have been
able to speak English, being Russian.

They may not have been able to
speak Russian, being geckos.

I am sure they could understand
the universal language of music.

So with that in mind,
to help me honor their memory,

singing their hit song
"Say Something",

please welcome
"A Great Big World".

We're all going to miss
those horny little fuck lizards.

But let's remember they died
doing what they loved.

Fucking in space.

I know that right now,
they're up in heaven, right up there...

And they are having high-pitched sex
on the ceiling of God's bedroom.

And I swallow my pride.

You're the one that I love.
And I'm saying goodbye.

Say something,
I'm giving up on you.

I'm sorry that I couldn't get to you.

And anywhere I would follow you.

Say something,
I'm giving up on you.

Thank you for watching.
My deep thanks to "A Great Big World".

Please, do join us next week.
Goodnight to you !