Billionaire offers to pay college students’ loans worth $40m during graduation speech

Technology investor tells 400 graduating seniors he plans on giving back to historically black college in Atlanta

Clark Mindock
New York
Monday 20 May 2019 06:20
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Robert F Smith announced he was going to pay off the entire graduating class's student debt
Robert F Smith announced he was going to pay off the entire graduating class's student debt

A billionaire investor has pledged to eliminate the student loan debt for everyone graduating this year from a college in the US state of Georgia, at a cost of some $40m (£31m).

Robert Smith, a billionaire technology investor and philanthropist, announced to 400 graduating seniors at Morehouse College on Sunday morning that he planned on giving back to the historically black college in the form of the grants.

“On behalf of eight generations of my family that have been in this country, we’re gonna put a little fuel in your bus,” said Mr Smith, the founder and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, a private equity firm that specialises in technology issues.

“This is my class, 2019. And my family is making a grant to eliminate their student loans,” he continued.

Mr Smith said that he hopes the graduates will “pay it forward”, and that he hopes “every class has the same opportunity going forward".

Morehouse College president David A Thomas said the gift would have a profound effect on the students’ futures.

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“Many of my students are interested in going into teaching, for example, but leave with an amount of student debt that makes that untenable,” Mr Thomas told the Associated Press. “In some ways, it was a liberation gift for these young men that just opened up their choices.”

The donation comes as the US experiences a student loan debt crisis, with the amount of debt held by former college students reaching record highs.

AP contributed to this report

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