Early this summer, billionaire Robert Smith made national headlines when he surprised the 2019 Morehouse College graduates by pledging to pay off all their student loan debt. A pledge that is estimated to cost approximately $34 million.
Now Smith has pledge to take that gift even further by including the parents and legal gaurandians of the graduates.
According to an email students, parents and guardians received Friday from the Atlanta school, the grant will also include federal educational debt amassed by parents.
“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,” David Thomas, the school’s president, said in a statement.
Smith’s gift is the first in a new Morehouse program in which the historically black college will solicit donations made specifically to reduce or eliminate its students’ debt, either as individuals or a class.
More than 400 borrowers will be covered by the donation for loan balances held as of Aug. 28, the school said. Six types of loans are eligible. In addition to federal and a type of Georgia state loan, certain private student loans processed through Morehouse will also be paid. The school expects to complete the disbursement to loan service providers by spring 2020.
Some 68% of Morehouse undergraduates have taken out federal loans, in keeping with the national trend, government data show. Morehouse said Friday that the student loan debt at graduation is $35,000 to $40,000, which is higher than the average for students at historically black colleges and universities.Smith’s net worth is estimated at about $6 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.