Imagine waking up on graduation day with a tiny bit of dread in the back of your mind, knowing that in just a few months Sallie Mae would be calling to collect on student loans, only to have that debt erased in an instant.
That financial dream became a reality for Morehouse College graduates on Sunday morning, as the billionaire tech investor and philanthropist Robert F. Smith pledged to eliminate the student debt of the entire class of 2019, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Yup, the entire graduating class.
"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. “This is my class, 2019. And my family is making a grant to eliminate their student loans. I know my class will make sure they pay this forward…and let’s make sure every class has the same opportunity going forward because we are enough to take care of our own community.”
— Morehouse College (@Morehouse) May 19, 2019
Smith served as the keynote speaker at Morehouse’s commencement exercises and received an honorary doctorate degree. No surprise that his announcement drew big cheers from the nearly 400 graduates, and the gift is estimated to be $40 million, 11Alive reported.
Smith is the founder, chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, a private equity firm founded in 2000. In 2017, Vista Equity Partners had more than $30 billion in assets under management, and in 2018 Smith was named the richest African-American by Forbes.
Previously, Smith donated $1.5 million to the college, which they say will go towards scholarships and a new park on campus.
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