Billionaire Stuns Grads With Commencement Pledge

Robert F. Smith will pay off the loans of Morehouse College students
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 20, 2019 12:33 AM CDT
Billionaire Promises to Pay Off Loans for Entire Graduating Class
Billionaire technology investor and philanthropist Robert F. Smith announces he will provide grants to wipe out the student debt of the entire 2019 graduating class at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Sunday, May 19, 2019.   (Steve Schaefer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

Billionaire investor Robert F. Smith received an honorary degree from Morehouse College during graduation ceremonies Sunday—and he told the rest of the Class of 2019 that they wouldn't have to worry about repaying student debt. "This is my class and I know my class will pay this forward," he said, announcing that he will provide a grant to eliminate student debt for all 396 graduating students, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. The surprise announcement from Smith, the commencement speaker at the historically black Atlanta college, was met with loud cheers and a chant of "MVP!"

"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," said Smith. The Vista Equity Partners founder, whose net worth is estimated at $5 billion, had already pledged $1.5 million to the college, the Hill reports. Paying off the student debt for the Class of 2019 will cost an estimated $40 million. Graduating student Jonathan Epps, 22, tells CNN that the "tremendous blessing" from Smith is the most generous thing he has ever seen. "It'll sink in as the years go on. I know that for a fact," says Epps, whose student loans totaled $35,000. (Elizabeth Warren says she wants to wipe out a large chunk of America's student debt.)

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