Billionaire to pay off over $10 million of student debts for graduating class, receives thunderous applause from audience


Student loan is like a nightmare haunting over many graduates. To be able to successfully graduate is like a dream to many students, but to be able to pay student loan debts that comes with it is the real happy ending that everyone is looking for.

For the entire graduating class at historically Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, they get that happy ending when a billionaire surprises them with a pledge to pay all their student loan debts for them.

An African-American businessman with a fortune estimated at $4.4 billion, Robert F. Smith is the co-founder and CEO of the investment firm Vista Equity Partners.


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A graduate of Cornell and Columbia universities, he founded Vista Equity Partners in 2000 and had become the richest African-American by 2015—with fortune surpassing billionaire celebrity, Oprah Winfrey.

On May 19, Smith received his honorary doctorate from the school whose graduates include civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr, filmmaker Spike Lee and actor Samuel L. Jackson. He was given the honor to give the commencement address.

During his speech, he surprised the new graduates by telling them that he is paying off the student loans for the entire class—wiping out all their student debt.

According to BBC, Smith will pay at least $10 million to nearly 400 graduates with student loans and it could be significantly higher.

“My family is going to create a grant to eliminate your student loans. This is my class. I know my class will pay this forward,” said Smith during his speech.

Hearing this, the graduates and their parents give him a thunderous round of applause.

From this biggest graduation gift in the history of the school, Smith hopes to improve the lives of other African-Americans and let these young people begin their adulthood without any financial burden. Earlier this year, Smith announced a $1.5 million donation to the school, but this news came as a surprise even to the staff at Morehouse.

Thrilled to invest in these young people and their future, Smith’s gesture is making the students cry in joy.


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“I made a spreadsheet to determine how long it would take to pay back my $200,000 student loans—it’s 25 years of sacrificing. I can delete that spreadsheet now. I don’t have to live off of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I was shocked. My heart dropped. We all cried. It was like a burden had been taken off,” said Aaron Mitchom, a 22-year-old finance major.

That was the best graduation gift ever!

Credit: My Modern Met


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