After a low-profile African American billionaire delivered what is likely the most memorable graduation speech in the prestigious HBCU’s history, investor Robert F. Smith’s pledge to pay off the student loan debt of 400 strong Morehouse grads the value of that gift has been calculated.
Smith, a chemical engineer has donated $34 million to Morehouse’s 2019 graduating class. through the Morehouse College Student Success Program — a fundraising and research initiative that will allow graduates to begin their careers without having to worry about debt holding them back.
Smith’s graduation gift is one that will allow graduates of one of the most storied all-male historically Black college to start their careers with no student loan debt.
“You great Morehouse men are bound only by the limits of your own conviction and creativity.” –Robert F. Smith @RFS_Vista#MorehouseGrad2019In a statement released by the HBCU, Morehouse President David A. Thomas referred to the money as a “liberation gift.””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,” Thomas said. “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.”
A study done by the United Negro College Fund found that HBCU students “borrow at higher rates and, consequently, graduate with substantially higher debt than their peers at non-HBCUs.”
The UNCF reports that as of 2013 an average of about 80% of HBCU students take out federal loans as opposed to 55% of non-HBCU students.
Although HBCU students tend to have greater debt than the non-HBCU student, HBCUs generate $14.8 billion in economic impact annually, according to the UNCF.
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