Billionaire Pledges to Pay All Student Loan Debts for This College’s Entire Graduating Class

Student loan debt looms over many graduates. But for the 2019 class of Morehouse College, it’s no problem anymore.  On May 19, Robert F. Smith received his honorary doctorate from the school and gave the commencement address. During the speech, he surprised the new graduates by telling them that he is paying off the student loans for the class of nearly 400. The shocked and grateful graduates leapt to their feet and cheered the man responsible for taking away this burden.

Smith is the co-founder and CEO of the investment firm Vista Equity Partners and has already demonstrated his wealth and generosity by pledging $1.5 million to the college earlier this year. His promise to purge the debts of 2019 came without knowing how much the student loans amounted to. (It is estimated to be worth up to $40 million.) That cost, however, doesn’t seem to matter to Smith. He is committed to helping the next generation. “On behalf of the eight generations of my family that have been in this country, we’re gonna put a little fuel in your bus,” Smith said in his speech. A spokesperson later reiterated this fact, stating that Smith is “thrilled to invest in these young people and their future.”

The philanthropic gesture completely changes the lives at this historically black men's college. Not encumbered by thousands upon thousands of dollars in debt, they can take on opportunities and explore paths because of their financial freedom—rather than having to make decisions just to survive.

Aaron Mitchom is just one example of how significant Smith's act is. As a 22-year-old finance major, he made a spreadsheet to determine how long it would take him to pay back his $200,000 in student loans—it'd be 25 years of sacrificing. “I can delete that spreadsheet,” Mitchom told the Associated Press. “I don't have to live off of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I was shocked. My heart dropped. We all cried. In the moment it was like a burden had been taken off.”

In his commencement speech at Morehouse College, billionaire Robert F. Smith surprised the 2019 graduating class by pledging to wipe out their student debt.

He will pay an estimated $40 million to have nearly 400 graduates student loans repaid.

Smith's generous gift “puts a little fuel in the bus” of these young people and allows them to begin adulthood without this financial burden.


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h/t: [BuzzFeed News]

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Sara Barnes

Sara Barnes is a Staff Editor at My Modern Met, Manager of My Modern Met Store, and co-host of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. As an illustrator and writer living in Seattle, she chronicles illustration, embroidery, and beyond through her blog Brown Paper Bag and Instagram @brwnpaperbag. She wrote a book about embroidery artist Sarah K. Benning titled 'Embroidered Life' that was published by Chronicle Books in 2019. Sara is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art. She earned her BFA in Illustration in 2008 and MFA in Illustration Practice in 2013.
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