Morehouse College seniors got a surprise Sunday when billionaire investor Robert F. Smith announced during his commencement speech that he would pay off the student loan debt for the historically black college’s graduating class.
“On behalf of the eight generations of my family who have been in this country, we’re going to put a little fuel in your bus,” he told the newly minted graduates in Atlanta before saying his family was creating a grant to eliminate their student loans.
“Now, I know my class will make sure they pay this forward,” he continued. “I want my class to look at these (alumni) — these beautiful Morehouse brothers — and let’s make sure every class has the same opportunity going forward because we are enough to take care of our own community. We are enough to ensure we have all the opportunities of the American dream.”
The exact amount to be covered for the 396 students is still being calculated, Morehouse President David A. Thomas said Monday, but the figure will likely be in the tens of millions of dollars. Thomas called Smith’s gesture “a liberation gift.”
“When you have to service debt, the choices about what you can go do in the world are constrained,” he said. “(Smith’s gift) gives them the liberty to follow their dreams, their passions.”
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