The self-made billionaire Robert F. Smith surprised the entire Morehouse College class of 2019 during his commencement address. The entrepreneur announced he was paying the student debt of the whole class of the historically all-male black college.
As many as 400 students would benefit at the cost of nearly USD 40 million, Atlanta Journal of Constitution estimated. The students and the academic staff were stunned at the news. Moreover, it was not the only donation Smith made to the school.
He also announced a USD 1.5 million gift to be used for scholarship and the development of a new park on campus. Commenting on the news, a spokesperson for Morehouse College confessed it was the most significant single contribution in the school's history.
The billionaire attended the college to receive his honorary doctorate. When addressing the students, he said he wanted to ''put a little fuel in the students' buses'' on behalf of the eight generations of his family that has been living in the country.
Morehouse College president David A Thomas did not expect the news too. In his words, the grant would allow students to follow their dreams and passions.
The billionaire was at Morehouse College to receive an honorary doctorate and had already announced a donation of USD 1.5 million to Morehouse.
According to Forbes, Smith is the richest Afro-American person in the United States with a net worth of USD 5 billion. Born in a family of educators, Smith is the founder of Vista Equity, a venture capital firm investing in tech.
At the early days of his career, Smith used to serve as a chemical engineer for Goodyear and Craft. After he graduated from the business school at Columbia University, he worked at Goldman Sachs. Subsequently, he founded Vista Equity in 2000.
Outstanding student debt has turned into a major national problem in recent years. In 2018, it stood at USD 1.5 trillion, according to Forbes. Despite the impressive numbers, the federal education department in the face of Betsy DeVos has been found to have rejected 99 percent of applications for student debt forgiveness, the National Public Radio reported.
The student debt issue has also been a hot potato in the ongoing presidential campaign. The Massachusetts senator, Elizabeth Warren announced plan last month to make public college free and cancel student debt. She proposed to fund education by a tax on the super-rich.
Do you support or oppose the idea of rich people covering student debts?