When the men of Morehouse’s Class of 2019 went to graduation on Sunday, we’re pretty sure they had no idea they were walking away with no student loan debt. But thanks to billionaire philanthropist Robert F. Smith, that’s exactly what will be happening.
According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, during a speech he gave on Sunday, Smith, the founder and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, announced that his family was creating a grant to eliminate the nearly 400 graduates’ nearly $40 million debt.
“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,” the 56-year-old told the crowd in Atlanta on May 19.
Adding, “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.”
This news came as a surprise for not only Smith’s staff, but also for Morehouse’s administration.
Tonga Releford, whose son Charles Releford III is a member of the Class of 2019, claims this gift will erase his $70,000 in loans.
“I feel like it’s Mother’s Day all over again,” she told AJC.
This isn’t Smith’s first contribution to the HBCU. Earlier this year, he donated $1.5 million to the prestigious all-male college.
All we can say is that we hope this type of generosity becomes infectious, especially given that studies show that Black college students are more likely to take out federal student loans compared to white and Latino students. That, and African-American students were more likely to default on those loans within 12 years of entering college, CNN pointed out.