Graduating from college is a difficult time in a person’s life; there are just so many unanswered questions about what comes next. One of the biggest clouds hanging over many students’ heads on graduation day is the overwhelming burden of paying off student loans for years to come.
All members of the 2019 graduating class of Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, just got a huge and unexpected reprieve from that cloud on graduation day. During his commencement speech at Morehouse, billionaire Robert F. Smith pledged to pay off all student debt for Morehouse’s class of 2019.
You can imagine the shock and surprise that the young people in the audience experienced when Smith made his announcement.
Talk about a graduation gift! Morehouse College Spring Class of 2019 Commencement Speaker Robert F. Smith will be establishing a grant to pay off the Class of 2019's Student Loans so they'll be graduating debt free! What a time to be a Morehouse Man! #MorehouseGrad2019 pic.twitter.com/uZ9RGP0RML
— HBCU Pulse (@thehbcupulse) May 19, 2019
Smith said during his speech, “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. This is my class, 2019. And my family is making a grant to eliminate their student loans.”
This guy’s reaction pretty much sums up the way everyone at the graduation felt about the news.
This facial expression from the guy behind him is everything. pic.twitter.com/jsmOZiMLvI
— Ben Weixlmann (@BWeixlmann) May 19, 2019
Take a look at the reaction from the graduating students.
— José Mallabo (@JoseMallabo) May 19, 2019
A spokesperson for Smith said the billionaire is “thrilled to invest in these young people and their future.” Robert F. Smith made his fortune by founding a private equity firm called Vista Equity Partners that primarily buys and sells software firms. He graduated from Cornell and has a Master’s degree from Columbia.
Smith told the students, “You are responsible for building strong, safe places where our young brothers and sisters can grow with confidence. Watch and learn from positive role models, and believe that they too are entitled to the American dream.”
There’s no official confirmation of the size of Smith’s gift yet, but it’s believed to be in the neighborhood of $40 million.
Just so everyone’s clear: Robert’s gift is estimated at $40 million. It is the largest ever gift to @Morehouse and the single largest gift ever provided to eliminate student debt in the United States. With student debt disproportionately strangling Black people, this is major. https://t.co/qTUCFJKAQy
— Ibram X. Kendi (@DrIbram) May 19, 2019
What an incredibly generous gesture. Good luck, Class of 2019!