If you didn't chug a Natty Light while surrounded by bros, did you even really go to college? Natural Light is not “good” beer per se, but for many novice drinkers, who gives a shit? It successfully serves as an introduction to cheap beer and hangovers, unrivaled in frat-house coolers and shitty apartment mini fridges.
Now, Natty is inserting itself into another near-universal college experience: encountering a crippling pool of student loans upon graduation (kind of like a financial hangover, if you will). After the revelry of flip cup games and shotgunning contests come to an end, the average American leaves college with over $37,000 in student loan debt—and Natty Light is swooping in to ease that burden.
As reported by Business Insider, the Anheuser-Busch-owned company is bringing back its College Debt Relief Program, which will “give away $10 million dollars over the next 10 years to help pay down student loans.” It’s a reboot of a contest that ran last year, which gave $1 million to 25 Natty drinkers, and it’s meant to help Natty fans “remember college for the good times.” So instead of just drinking to forget your debt problems, you can drink and hope it’ll pay down that debt.
According to a press release shared with MUNCHIES, entrants must post a video sharing their “inspiration for going to college,” that includes the right hashtags; features the limited edition green-tabbed cans of Natty; and displays Natural Light’s “spontaneous, fun, and irreverent” lifestyle. Up to 70 people will win either $10,000 or $40,000, depending on how well their video scores.
On Super Bowl Sunday, Natty will also give 151 fans $351—which they calculated based on the average monthly student loan payment—to make sure that loan payments don’t prevent them from partying with “seven-layer dip, an extra order of wings, and another rack of Natty.”
Already one of the top ten most popular beers in the country, Natty Light is appealing to a very (depressingly) broad base by tapping into student loan anxiety. As of mid-2018, American student loan debt totalled about $1.5 trillion, affecting an estimated 44 million people.
Millennials and younger are taking on more loans than previous generations; more half the people going to college now are taking on debt, according to the Federal Reserve. And with the average cost of private college now over $50 thousand a year, it’s getting increasingly difficult for young grads to pay off their debt. In 2017, 20 percent of people with student loans couldn’t make their payments on time; and that figure has gone up each year.
Natural Light’s intentions are, obviously, to sell beer and garner good press. But it’s hard to take issue with a promotion that eases the crushing weight of starting out your career deeply in debt. And the multinational company can certainly afford to toss a little cash towards the little guy. Still, maybe there’s someone else who should do this, like…the government? Don't hold your breath, but a few politicians are pushing to end student loan debt.
Even in an age when Americans increasingly need to leverage social media fame to crowdfund healthcare costs, sign agreements to AirBnB extra bedrooms to even get a mortgage, and take out loans from Uber in order to drive for Uber, the prospect of a Natty Light student loan bailout feels extra dystopian. Cheap beer that tastes like stale water might not be the hero we want, but it’s the hero we deserve.