Difficult To Heed Polonius’ Advice These Days

Some notable news via American Theatre, for those who have found it difficult to heed Polonius’ advice of “neither a borrower nor lender be.” (aka pretty much all of us)  The Acting Company has created a program to pay off up to $10,000 of student loan debt for any actor that is cast as in their 2022-2023 touring company.

The loan payment is made directly to the lender at the end of the repertory season. There is language about the available grant funds being split equally between all the actors, up to a maximum of $10,000 which makes me wonder if this is funded by an endowment whose value may fluctuate due to the stock market. Or perhaps they are projecting a set number of actors will have student loan debt and if the number exceeds their projections, the share of the pool will be less.

In addition to receiving the debt relief, the website says the actors will have the opportunity to:

  • Participate in a financial literacy seminar designed to ensure their understanding of the financial impact of grant funds, and to provide overall guidance on financial management and self-advocacy for theater artists. The Actors’ Funds, Artists’ Financial Support Group, or a similar organization will be engaged to conduct a program specifically for our actors.

  • Participate in teaching artist training sessions led by TAC teaching artists and education consultants. This will add to the pool of qualified alumni available to lead The Acting Company’s education programs and provide a potential new source of income to the actors.

  • Complete a season-end survey documenting their experience with the program and its impact on their artistic, professional, and financial wellbeing

Companies have long offered to pay the tuition of employees in order to help with their career advancement. The fact that The Acting Company is offering student loan debt relief is a reflection of national conversation about student loan debt. It will be interesting to see if the tuition payment benefit is replaced or joined by debt relief as an employment benefit.

I suspect it may not be offered to the degree college tuition is. Not every employee will be interested in attending college, but a large percentage of employees may be carrying student debt.  But companies seeking skilled labor may choose to offer debt relief in order to remain competitive.

 

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

I am currently the Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.

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