Billionaire Covers Student Loans Of Morehouse University Class Of 2019

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by Sean Finucane on May 28, 2019 · 1 comment

Most people reading this know a thing or two about the veracity of student loan debt. Today, Americans owe more than $1.3 trillion in student loans, which puts serious drag on the economy. Still, we’ve all trudged along, paying those monthly payments that seem unending. The Class of 2019 will feel the sting of student debt more than their parents did, say, 20 years ago. And not only is college getting more expensive with each passing year, but young people are also attending college in record numbers. Fortunately, there’s plenty of debt to go around.

Morehouse University Students Receive A Surprise Jubilee

One very lucky graduating class received a big break during their recent commencement speech. As most cathedrals and churches have a cruciform ground plan, university commencements have particular traditions that remain cemented in the collegiate graduation process. One of them is the rewarding of an honorary doctorate degree to a person the institution finds inspiring.

Robert F. Smith was receiving an honorary doctorate from Morehouse University and dropped some very welcome news on the 396 members of the 2019 graduating class. Smith, founder of investment firm Vista Equity Partners, is the richest black person in the United States. Worth approximately $5 billion, he gave the new graduates — and his fellow classmates, honorary though they may be — a very real gift.

“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. Now, I know my class will make sure they pay this forward,” Smith said. “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.”

A complete surprise to Morehouse University officials, Smith vowed to pay off the total student debt of every single new graduate of the 2019 class.

Americans donate more than 14.3 million tons of textiles to help clothe people in less fortunate places around the world. Sometimes we forget about our own financially encumbered students. The official tally of Smith’s total donation has not yet been definitively calculated, but you can imagine that it’s a substantial amount.

The New York Times reports that in 2017, the average amount of academic loan debt per student was $28,650. Multiply that by 396 students and there’s a loose estimate of a cumulative $11.34 million.

With June around the corner, as ice cream rises to its most popular time, there are 396 students who have received a treat that’s leagues sweeter. There’s nothing better than kicking off your first post-grad summer with having the entirety of your student debt wiped out. We’re jealous while writing this, yet the gesture is inspiring. Smith became part of something called the Giving Pledge in 2017. Championed by billionaires like Warren Buffet and Melinda and Bill Gates, the Giving Pledge is an effort to get wealthy Americans to donate half of their fortunes to charity.

“When you have to service debt, the choices about what you can go do in the world are constrained,” said Morehouse University’s President David Thomas. “(Smith’s gift) gives them the liberty to follow their dreams, their passions.”

How much he’ll end up donating will likely be overshadowed by the amount of gratitude the students have for the gift that will help them start their post-grad lives without the weight of student debt. At the ceremony, upon the announcement, the new grads started chanting MVP! in response to the news.

Talking to a CBS News correspondent, Morehouse President David Thomas — who had no idea what was about to happen — summed it up succinctly:

“People were stunned. If you look at any other film footage, you will see the students turning to each other. What did he say? Did he say what I think he said? This will allow them to pursue their dreams…As opposed to serving the debt.”

An iconic and heartwarming act of charity, it still remains a mere blip in the vastness of student debt.

The Cold, Hard Truth About Student Loans In The United States

Student loan debt has reached record levels because more students are attending college than ever before. That also means that the relative value of a college degree is falling, even as the cost of education keeps rising.

Here are some disturbing facts about student loans:

  • Four in 10 U.S. twenty-somethings have outstanding student loans
  • 23% of post-grad students owe $100,000 or more
  • According to Pew Research, people with student loans are more pessimistic about the value of their expensive degree(s)
  • College is now a luxury commodity. Even adjusted for inflation, 65% of college students will pay more for their education than students did 20 years ago.

Undergrads aren’t the only ones struggling with record-breaking student loan payments. Understandably, the more college you attend, the more debt you have to pay back. That means graduate students, physicians, and lawyers in training have a lifetime of debt to look forward to.

Today, there are more than 1.3 million lawyers practicing in the United States, and according to a recent report from The Balance, the cost of law school has “more than doubled in little over a decade”. After graduating from law school, a lawyer will become the proud owner of “between $100,0000 – $200,000 worth of debt” — and there’s no guarantee they will even pass the bar exam.

The Morehouse University Class of 2019 may not need to worry about their student loans, but the rest of us do. Hopefully, Smith inspires more generous millionaires to pay it forward, and soon.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Patrick June 6, 2019 at 11:41 am

I hope that Smith doesn’t forget about the students that worked hard to not incur any debt too.

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