Black billionaire Robert F. Smith has been dedicated to helping Morehouse College students overcome their financial obstacles. In May, he made a monumental announcement during the school’s commencement ceremony; sharing that he would eliminate the student loan debt for the entire 2019 graduating class. Smith is taking his philanthropic efforts a step further. According to Business Insider, he has vowed to pay off the student loan debt for the parents of those graduates.
The gift is being donated to the Morehouse Student Success Program. Through the initiative, 400 Morehouse students and their parents and guardians will have their debt paid off in an effort to bring them closer to financial freedom and provide a solid foundation for building wealth. The donation that the Vista Equity Partners founder made in May was reported to be worth $34 million.
“With the Student Success Program in place, there is a model for all colleges and universities, starting with Morehouse and HBCUs, to receive gifts from alumni and other supporters that can offset the burden of student loans and give students the freedom to pursue their dreams, the capital to invest in the economic growth of their families and the time that they can give back meaningfully to strengthening their communities,” Smith told the news outlet.
President of Morehouse College David A. Thomas says that Smith’s gift will be transformative in the lives of Morehouse alumni and their families. “It is our hope that our graduates will use their newfound financial freedom to pursue their career goals, to lead and serve the community, and to remember the spirit of the gift given to them by paying it forward to support the education of future classes of Morehouse Men,” he said in a statement. As part of the program, Morehouse will conduct a research study exploring the impact that the elimination of debt has had on the trajectory of their lives. The initiative will also provide current students with financial literacy resources and scholarships.
Programs like the Morehouse Student Success initiative are needed. Student loan debt has continued to rise within our country and has disproportionately impacted students who attend historically Black colleges and universities. According to the United Negro College Fund, one in four HBCU students borrows at least $40,000 to attend college.