This Billionaire Will Pay Off the Student Loans of an Entire Graduation Class

For the 396 graduates, Smith’s loan repayment is a life-changer

May 29, 2019

Close to 400 graduating seniors at Morehouse College in Atlanta just received a graduation present that they will never forget. During his commencement speech, billionaire Robert F. Smith announced that he and his family would relieve every graduate of their student loan debt.

The president of the college, David Thomas, explained that the exact amount is still being determined, but that it will probably be in the tens of millions of dollars.

The crowd, shocked, erupted in cheers, chanting “MVP! MVP!”

Morehouse College is an all-male and historically black college and is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s Alma Mater.

Smith encouraged the graduates to pay it forward and keep the benevolence alive, thus ensuring that future generations also have the opportunity to achieve the American dream.

“We are enough to ensure we have all of the opportunities of the American dream,” Smith said in the commencement speech, “and we will show it to each other through our actions and through our words and through our deeds.”

Mr. Smith, like many progressive Americans, has been getting increasingly concerned over the massive amounts of debts that young people accrue before joining the workforce.

His donation shocked students, many of whom limited their post-college aspirations due to the crippling debt.

For the 396 graduates, Smith’s loan repayment is a life-changer. It means being able to take on internships at Goldman Sachs, pursue opportunities abroad, and focus on real career growth. And Each Morehouse graduate has a story more inspiring than the next.

Elijah Nesly Dormeus was able to graduate due to the many sacrifices his mother made. Dormeus’ father died when he was 5, leaving his mother to work minimum-wage jobs. Now, Dormeus is the first of nine kids to graduate college.

Alongside Dormeus, Brandon Manor exclaimed “A blessing, a blessing!” Manor, who is applying to medical school, can now think more widely about where he wants to go. “Now all of a sudden, I can look at schools I might not have considered, because I am not applying with about $100,000 in undergraduate loans."

Charles Releford is an illustrator who accumulated close to $70,000 in debt and is officially excited to start this new phase in his life.

“I'm really excited to see where my life can go now because all different avenues are open now so I'm not held down. There's no burden, student loans -- I'm debt-free."

His mother also explained that due to Smith’s gift, she can now afford to send her other children to college, as well.

Smith is not new to charity. He has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to health, the arts, the environment, and to African American communities. In 2017, he signed the Giving Pledge, a campaign that billionaires Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet founded to encourage billionaires to donate half their life’s worth to charity.

Smith is the wealthiest African American in the US. His foundation, the Fund II Foundation contributes to causes surrounding human rights, the environment, preserving the African-American experience, music education and sustaining entrepreneurialism and other core American values.

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HILLA BENZAKEN, CONTRIBUTOR
Hilla Benzaken is a dedicated optimist. Her happy place involves cooking, acting, gardening, and fighting for social justice. She writes about all things sustainability, innovation, and DIY.