Education

Commencement Speaker Says He’ll Pay Off Student Debt For Graduating Class At Historically Black College

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Neetu Chandak Education and Politics Reporter

A commencement speaker announced Sunday he would pay off student debt for the graduating class at an all-male historically black college in Atlanta.

Billionaire technology investor Robert F. Smith, the founder and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, made the announcement to about 400 students graduating from the Morehouse College, Fox Business reported Sunday.

“On behalf of the eight generations of my family who have been in this county, we are going to put a little fuel in your bus,” Smith said.

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“My family is making a grant to eliminate their [class of 2019] student loans,” Smith continued as he was met with cheers and applause from the audience.

The grant is estimated to be $40 million. Smith had already announced a $1.5 million gift to Morehouse, according to The Atlantic Journal-Constitution.

“I feel like it’s Mother’s Day all over again,” Tonga Releford, whose son Charles Releford III is part of the class of 2019, said, AJC reported, adding that his student loans are around $70,000. (RELATED: Nation’s Only All-Male Historically Black College To Start Accepting Transgender Men)

This is not the first time Smith has donated to an institution. Smith gave $50 million to Cornell University, his alma mater, in 2016.

Smith’s net worth is around $5 billion, Fox Business reported.

Students at historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) tend to take out more student loans than those who attend other four-year universities, according to The Wall Street Journal. Additionally, 75% of undergraduate students take out federal loans if they attend a private HBCU.

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