When David Augustine Jr., better known as the rapper Dee-1, graduated from high school in New Orleans, Louisiana he had been offered a full scholarship to several different schools for having high grades and playing basketball. He chose to attend Louisiana State University, where he did not have a scholarship, which required him to take out student loans to pay for his education.
Dee-1 describes the process of acquiring student loans as very easy, saying he didn’t even need his parents’ help through the process. Dee-1 applied for as many loans as he could and admits he mismanaged his money by using his student loans to buy clothes, shoes, and fund his music career.
After college Dee-1 became a high school math teacher in hopes of giving back to his community but he soon decided he would never be able to pay off his loans on a teacher’s salary. This prompted him to pursue a career in music instead.
Dee-1 used the money he made as a rapper to pay off his student loans and later made the video Sallie Mae Back, where he raps about paying off his student loans. Dee-1 says he made this video because he wanted to talk about the struggle of working a 9-5 job every day but still making little progress on paying back student debt.
Today Dee-1 travels and talks to high school students, who often know nothing about student loans, about living below their means and not taking on debt they can’t afford. Realizing how easy it is to take out multiple student loans, both federal and private loans, without fully understanding the consequences, Dee-1 encourages students to spend their money wisely. Although he has disposable income and could buy a nicer car, Dee-1 still drives a 1998 Honda Accord because not having a car payment saves him hundred of dollars every month. He says this message of authenticity is what resonates with the high school students he talks to.
“I’m a young black man, with dreadlocks, from New Orleans, who is a rapper. When I walk into these classrooms with black and brown students and they look at me, they’re like, ‘Wait, that dude is one of us,’ before I even open my mouth,” he said. “My voice is authentic to them, my life experience is authentic to them, so when I hit them with the knowledge, the financial literacy piece, they’re all ears.”
This desire to educate students is what led Dee-1 to partner with the consulting firm PricewaterhouseCooper (PwC). PwC works to educate minorities about financial literacy. Dee-1 is currently working with PwC’s “Earn Your Future” curriculum which has easy-to-follow lesson plans on money, such as saving, investing, and planning for the future.
In the past 10 years student loan debt has tripled to $1.4 trillion and the average student graduates with $28,000 in debt. Enrollment has increased 62 percent over the past 20 years, annual borrowing per student has nearly tripled. This is a startling trend that isn’t new, and many wonder which direction that trend is heading.