Tonight’s debates between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are being hosted by Washington University in St. Louis, which means the eyes (and the news outlets) of the nation are watching the Missouri campus in anticipation of the big event. Sensing his moment, Albert Wu, an 18-year-old first-year student from Boston, decided to capitalize on all the attention his school is getting and make it work for him. In a move that can only be described as a truly 2016 hustle, Wu wrote down his Venmo (the money-transfer app) account handle on a sign emblazoned “STUDENT DEBT SUCKS” and held it up on the national news. And it actually worked.
“I remember a couple weeks ago there was a fan on [ESPN’s] College GameDay who was asking for beer money through Venmo on a poster, so there’s a possible inspiration right there,” Wu explained to me via Twitter DM. “I wanted to make a poster that was topical, but also based on that idea, so I wrote ‘student debt sucks’ because it’s a pretty relevant and topical issue for young individuals like me and an issue I hope they address during the debate.” “Student debt is arguably more important than beer money,” Wu added, dutifully noting (“hi mom and dad and WashU Dean of Students”) that he is “only 18” and would never ask for cash for alcohol on live television.
His handiwork was first picked up by CNN on Saturday, where Wu stood holding the sign for about four hours. “I was by the CNN tent yesterday, by chance actually,” he said. “I had no idea they were broadcasting, but I had a Sharpie and a WashU poster I had won so I thought, ‘what the heck!’” Today, he popped by MSNBC’s broadcast spot. “I came out again today [to MSNBC’s tent] and so many other people had Venmo signs,” Wu explained. “I kind of had a monopoly Saturday, but now it’s way too saturated with Venmo posters.”
As for profits, Wu said he didn’t “really go out with the intention of making money through it,” but has received about $400 in donations so far. The amounts range from a penny to $20. “They all come with really nice and funny comments like ‘good luck with that student debt’ and ‘I feel your pain,’” Wu explained. “My favorite one is ‘from my student debt to yours.’”
“People from both sides are donating, which is great because student debt is a problem for everyone no matter who they’re supporting,” Wu added. And they say bipartisanship doesn’t work!