The graduating class of 2019 is in full swing for students across the nation and this past weekend Morehouse grads got a gift that made their ceremony just a little bit sweeter. Robert F. Smith, a billionaire investor and philanthropist, gave the ultimate graduation gift to every member of the Morehouse College Class of 2019: Smith said he will pay off each graduate’s student loan debt – in full.
“Smith will pay off each graduate’s student loan debt – in full”
This is obviously a huge win for Morehouse grads and clearly life-giving given the current state of student loan debt that has quite literally become a national crisis for America. But this gift from a black billionaire means so much more for these black men and is the ultimate show both figuratively and literally of leveling the playing field for black men who despite their prestigious degree and knowledge are being ushered into a world where the playing field is stacked up against them. Let me show you why.
Among the Class of 2018, 69% of college students took out student loans, and they graduated with an average debt of $29,800, including both private and federal debt. Meanwhile, 14% of their parents took out an average of $35,600 in federal Parent PLUS loans.
I could go on. But the statistics are clear: black and Hispanic students have more student loan debt than their white counterparts and African Americans are disproportionately burdened with student loans. They are a population that struggles more than others because of the racial wealth gap, labor force discrimination, having less resources and more. This gift from black billionaire Robert F. Smith quite literally shakes the table and changes outcomes not just for these black students but for generations. Any thing that anyone can do to level the playing field for black students in general should be done. We celebrate Robert and his family for paying it forward in a way that changes lives for these black students in a way that words can’t quite articulate.
“Anything that anyone can do to level the playing field for black students in general should be done”
Want to learn more about how being born black makes life unequivocally more challenging?
Robert F. Smith is the richest black man in America, who founded Vista Equity Partners, a private equity firm that focuses on buying and selling software firms.Vista has about $46 billion in assets under management, according to Forbes. The company is privately held and does not publicly report its results, but it is believed to be one of the best-performing firms in the country, with annualized returns of more than 20 percent since its founding.