Morehouse College broke the internet yesterday when at the commencement ceremony yesterday, philanthropist and billionaire Robert F. Smith pledged to pay off the student loan debt for the entire 2019 graduating class. Considering the inhumane price of college, Smith’s charity was giving back in a way that no one could have imagined.
One grad, Elijah Nesly Dormeus, 22, spoke to CNN about having his student loans paid off. He is the first of nine kids to graduate college, his father passed away when he was seven and his mother made has made tons of sacrifices over the years. Dormeus said, “All her serving, all her giving was not in vain.” Dormeus had $90,000 of student loan debt and his mother also took out a loan to get him through school.
When detailing all of his student loan debt, Dormeus explained, “It’s either an investment in my future or not investment at all so to hear that it will be taken care of, now I can, literally, pay it forward.”
He also said, “The ideal thing I want to do is help my mom out because she has worked tirelessly.”
In case you missed it, the historically Black college awarded Smith with an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree for being a trailblazer in the realm of business. The entrepreneur and investor—who founded and leads the venture capital firm Vista Equity Partners—has invested in the progression of Morehouse. In January, he donated $1.5 million to the school for the creation of a scholarship fund and the addition of an outdoor study area on campus.
Unbeknownst to students and faculty, Smith planned on topping that generous donation by giving graduates the gift of being student loan debt free through the establishment of a new a grant. “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,” he said during his speech. “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.”
Watch Robert F. Smith make the announcement below:
There were 400 seniors that were a part of the graduating class and Smith’s gift is estimated to be $40 million. The graduates were overjoyed and many of them were in disbelief. Morehouse President David A. Thomas says that the erasure of debt will be a key factor in helping the graduates thrive. Student loan debt has continued to rise within our country. According to Forbes, there is currently $1.5 trillion owed. In addition, HBCU students typically owe 32% more than non-HBCU students, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Congrats to Morehouse’s graduating class of 2019!