Billionaire Robert F Smith to pay entire US class's student debt

Clay Curtis
May 20, 2019

As graduation season approaches, many are thinking of their next move whether it's looking for a career or figuring out how they are going to pay Sallie Mae. He also received an honorary degree from the school and had committed to a $1.5 million gift to the school that Morehouse College planned to use for scholarships and a new park, the school said in a statement. "(Smith's gift) gives them the liberty to follow their dreams, their passions".

Graduate John Jacob Burns of New Rochelle, New York, was "amazed" by Smith's grant, and said he has $35,000 in student loans.

Smith, a billionaire technology investor and philanthropist, said he will provide grants to wipe out the student loan debt of the entire graduating class at Morehouse - an estimated $40 million.

His immediate request that the class try to "pay it forward" in return.

The exact cost of Mr Smith's latest act of generosity is unclear, as the college has yet to calculate the total debt of the students who will benefit, but it is estimated to be at least $10m (£7.7m) and could be significantly higher.

Talk about a blessing and a sense of relief! "For me, I discovered the missing piece was God in Jesus Christ", the tycoon said.

"After each person confirmed to me, yes, in fact, what he said is true, it was elation, it was surprise, but most of all it was respect for someone who stepped forward and did such a meaningful act for so many people", the senior Burns told ABC News.

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Smith, who has a net worth of about $5 billion according to Forbes, is the chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, a private equity group he founded in 2000 that specializes in investing in software companies.

Student loan debt is a crushing burden in the United States for many people - a total of $1.5 trillion in unpaid debt, with the average 2019 graduate owing almost $29,000 the day they get their degree. Epps said he has about $35,000 in student loan debt that his parents in Pleasanton, California, had pledged to help him pay off.

Smith is a former chemical engineer and investment banker.

Morehouse College is an all-male college, and one of the 101 historically black colleges and universities in the United States.

That, he said, was the foundation for his success.

Smith is the first African American to sign the Giving Pledge, a campaign started by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett that encourages the world's wealthiest individuals to commit to dedicating the majority of their wealth to philanthropic causes.

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