Robert Smith. Image via Morehouse College materials.
Robert Smith, a billionaire investor and philanthropist, has offered to pay off the student loan debt of every member of Morehouse College’s 2019 graduating class.
“When you have to service debt, the choices about what you can go do in the world are constrained,” Morehouse President David A. Thomas told CNN on Sunday. “[Smith’s gift] gives them the liberty to follow their dreams, their passions.”
The gesture, which Thomas called a “liberation gift,” will help graduates by giving them a clean slate in the commencement of their professional lives, CNN reports. Many in this country aren’t so lucky – according to Federal Reserve data, Americans owe $1.5 trillion in student loan debt.
“We’re going to put a little fuel in your bus,” Smith told the 2019 graduates. “This is my class – 2019. My family is making a grant to eliminate their student loans.”
The announcement was met with cheers and applause. “I know my class will pay this forward,” Smith added.
The university is still calculating the specific amount of the grant to cover the debt of the approximately 400 students. One graduate, Jonathan Epps, told CNN he had $35,000 in loans. Elijah Dormeus said he carried $90,000.
Watch the full commencement speech below.