The 396 men who graduated from Morehouse College over the weekend have a lot to be happy about thanks to Robert F. Smith.

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Smith, the billionaire investor who founded Vista Equity Partners and became the richest black man in America, announced that he’ll be paying off the student debt for the entire graduating class during his commencement speech. This is a great burden lifted off the shoulders of these young men, who can start their next chapter debt-free.

“This is my class, 2019,” he said, personally claiming the graduating seniors as his own. “And my family is making a grant to eliminate their student loans.”


It took a moment for the news to sink in, but the crowd, consisting mainly of Black men, erupted once everything completely processed. “We’re all in robes, hot, the sun was beaming on us,” said Ernest Holmes, who said he had about $10,000 in loans that his parents were going to tackle. “We’re holding our papers up, trying to block the sun out of our eyes. Everyone jumped up, cheered. People were crying. It was just the most amazing thing.”

“Let’s make sure every class has the same opportunity going forward because we are enough to take care of our own community,” Smith said. “We are enough to ensure we have all of the opportunities of the American dream, and we will show it to each other through our actions and through our words and through our deeds.”

Robert F. Smith’s donation comes at a time where there are growing calls to tackle the mounting burden of student loan debt. A few presidential candidates have made debt cancellation a key component of their campaigns. Some states and institutions are moving to make college tuition-free.