Paying student loans by becoming a ‘sugar baby’? ‘What Would You Do?’

"What Would You Do?" explores how some students are paying for their education.

August 4, 2020, 7:22 PM

Tonight, “What Would You Do?” takes on an issue many college hopefuls and their families are grappling with: How will they pay for college?

Many college graduates in America are starting the next chapters of their lives in serious debt, with some struggling to make their monthly payments on student loans. According to the U.S. Federal Reserve, as of June 2019, there are over 44 million people with a total of more than $1.68 trillion in student debt nationwide.

Many students work a series of odd jobs to get through school, but some students, like the one our actor Scarlett Sperduto portrays in tonight’s episode, entertain the idea of becoming a “sugar baby.”

Watch "What Would You Do?" at 10 p.m. ET on ABC

In the scene, another college student, played by actor Lenique Vincent, is worried about her friend’s plan. “What Would You Do?” spent a day at the Jefferson Diner in Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey, where diners were within earshot of our scripted conversation:

“By the time I finish college I’m going to be tens of thousands of dollars in debt… I have a plan to avoid that. Have you ever heard of a sugar baby?” Sperduto says.

“A sugar baby?” Vincent responds.

PHOTO: WWYD Actor Scarlett Sperduto
WWYD Actor Scarlett Sperduto

“Don’t laugh!” Sperduto says. “There are women who find men to pay their bills and buy them things … you just have to go on dates and hang out with them.”

Customers ears perked up immediately once they caught wind of Sperduto and Vincent’s conversation. A few people spoke up, expressing concern for the safety of our actor, Sperduto. Others suggested becoming a “sugar baby” may have negative, career-ending consequences for Sperduto’s future.

“What Would You Do?” came across a career counselor of 15 years who told our actors that there are other ways to pay for college and even graduate debt-free. He suggested applying for scholarships and grants.

The counselor even decided to join our actors at their table.

“My whole motto to all my kids has been like this… Ask yourself this question… ‘Would I do it if my daddy was here?’” he said. “Think about what you did before you do it.”

When asked by John Quinones in our post-scene interview why he felt it was important to step in, he responded, “It’s important to know that you don’t have to do all these things to get where you want to get in life.”

As the scene played out, two women shared differing opinions. In support of Sperduto, one of the women exclaimed, “Go girl!”

PHOTO: WWYD host John Quiñones sits down with diner for post-scenario interview
WWYD host John Quiñones sits down with diner for post-scenario interview

The enthusiastic and supportive diner was familiar with these sorts of arrangements, telling Sperduto, “There are men that are wealthy that just want a companion. They just want someone to go out to dinner with.”

“She’s probably going to get propositioned, but that’s her choice,” the diner added. “But there are people who just want to take care of somebody. I don’t see anything really wrong with that as long as you know what your limitations are.”

The diner even suggested drafting up a contract to make the limitations clear.

But sitting across the table, the diner’s friend warned our actor, saying, “I don’t think it’s safe.”

Although the two diners disagreed on Sperduto’s plan, the underlying message to the young actor was the same: “Be careful.”

Tune in to “What Would You Do” Tuesdays at 10/9c on ABC.