Published: Fri, May 24, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

U.S. billionaire's gift to graduates fuels student debt debate

U.S. billionaire's gift to graduates fuels student debt debate

While delivering the commencement speech for the historically black Morehouse College in Atlanta, tech investor Robert Smith-the richest black person in America-made a surprise announcement: He would pay off student loans, in full, for each of the four hundred graduates.

Robert F Smith's gift of paying off the student loans of Morehouse College's 2019 graduating class stunned the school's students and faculty, but it was just the latest act of philanthropy by the quiet USA billionaire tech investment executive who is concerned that economic opportunities for African Americans have narrowed.

"I was very proud to see a man who was a leader, a billionaire, who felt like he could invest in me and my research and my future,"Lawrence Jr. said, "So it was incredible".

"It had been a long day", said Grant, who has about $45,000 in student loan debt. "Already paid 13m in scholarships". With college costs skyrocketing, over half of all students have taken out student loans in order to pay for higher education, according to the Federal Reserve.

All of that affects the U.S. economy, and Smith isn't the first billionaire to take notice.

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"We're looking at each other like, 'Is he being serious?' That's a lot of money", salutatorian Robert James, 21, said. In January, Smith, a billionaire, donated $1.5 million to the college to fund student scholarships and a new park on campus. By looking at the economic opportunities, career mobility, and future prospects of the debt-free Morehouse Class of 2019 versus those of the classes of 2018 and 2020, it might be possible to gain a clearer sense of the long-term effects of student debt. This is my class - 2019.

Oprah Winfrey responded to criticism she received on social media for not paying off student loans after her commencement speech.

Smith, the founder, chairman, and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, has a net worth of $5 billion and is now the wealthiest black man in the United States, according to Forbes. "We are enough to ensure we have all the opportunities of the American dream". "And we will show it to each other through our actions and through our words and through our deeds".

"I can delete that spreadsheet", he said.

Though college officials could not provide an estimate of the exact amount owed by the current graduating class, students graduate with an average debt of $30,000 to $40,000, said Terrance L. Dixon, vice president of enrollment management. With almost 400 students before him, his one mission was to inspire the men to pay it forward. "We all cried. In the moment it was like a burden had been taken off".

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