How’s this for a graduation present?
Robert F. Smith, a billionaire investor and philanthropist, just gave the ultimate graduation gift to the Morehouse College Class of 2019: Smith said he will pay off each graduate’s student loan debt – in full.
Here’s what you need to know.
The Gift of All Gifts: Student Loan Forgiveness
Smith has an estimated worth of $5 billion and is the founder and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, an investment firm focused on software, data and technology, and served as commencement speaker at Morehouse on Sunday. During his speech, he announced that his family would establish a grant to pay off student loan debt for all Morehouse graduates in the Class of 2019, which is approximately 400 students. The gift is estimated at about $40 million, and is in addition to a $1.5 million gift Smith already announced to Morehouse. In 2016, Smith donated $50 million to his alma mater, Cornell University.
“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,” Smith said. “This is my class, 2019. And my family is making a grant to eliminate their student loans…”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.”
Student Loan Debt Statistics
The latest student loan debt statistics show there are more than 44 million borrowers who collectively owe $1.5 trillion in student loan debt in the U.S. alone. According to personal finance site Make Lemonade, student loan debt is now the second highest consumer debt category – behind only mortgage debt – and higher than both credit cards and auto loans. Student loan repayment remains as one of the biggest challenges facing graduates.