In May of this year, multi-billionaire and philanthropist Robert F. Smith. pledged to pay off the student loan debt of an entire graduating class. Now, he’s intent on paying off the debt of the students’ parents, as well!
Smith is the founder and CEO of Vista Equity Partners. His generous donation of $34 million will go toward the new Morehouse College Student Success Program to pay off the loans that students and parents of the class of 2019 accumulated to fund their educations.
As GoodNewsNetwork reports, the Morehouse Student Success Program is a scholarship, loan debt, research and education initiative established by the Board of Trustees as a national investment strategy to reduce student loan debt, as well as helping graduates prosper faster. Funds that are received through solicitation and by donation are used to eliminate the student loan debt of Morehouse Men and their parents or guardians.
Over 400 students, parents, and guardians of the Class of 2019 will benefit from the inaugural gift under the Student Success Program.
“This liberation gift from Robert Smith—the first of its kind to be announced at a graduation in higher education—will be life-changing for our new Morehouse Men and their families,” said David A. Thomas, the President of Morehouse College. “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.”
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It’s not uncommon for students of Morehouse to graduate with $35,000 to $40,000 in student loan debt. Because debt can exacerbate the wealth gap that exists between black families facing generational poverty, the initiative could provide more opportunities for greater financial freedom for new alumni and their families.
“Morehouse’s program to provide debt relief to new graduates is a fund-raising opportunity that should be studied and duplicated nationally,” said Michael L. Lomax, president and CEO of the United Negro College Fund. “The impact of such a gift, particularly for minority or economically disadvantaged families, could accelerate the growth of a more diverse and robust middle class.”
Alumni who graduated in May or who completed their degree requirements during summer school 2019 are eligible to receive gifts in the inaugural offering from the Morehouse College Student Success Program. Furthermore, their parents are guardians are eligible, as well.
Recipients must show supporting documents to prove that loans were taken to finance a Morehouse College education and processed by Morehouse. Inaugural gifts will cover the full payment of principal and interest for education loan balances as of August 28, 2019, according to the Department of Education.