American billionaire surprises students with Sh4 billion pledge to pay their loans
A billionaire technology investor and philanthropist on Sunday surprised graduating students with a promise to wipe out their debt for the entire 2019 class at Morehouse College.
Robert F. Smith made the announcement in front of nearly 400 graduating seniors, eliciting the biggest cheers of the morning.
“My family is going to create a grant to eliminate your student loans,” Smith said, according to a tweet from the school.
The 56-year-old, a former chemical engineer and investment banker – who was ranked by Forbes as the 163rd richest person in America last year will pay an estimated Sh4 billion ($40m) to cover the debts.
“On behalf of the eight generations of my family that have been in this country, we’re gonna put a little fuel in your bus,” he told the graduates at the private, all-male, liberal arts, historically black college.
He added, “This is my class, 2019. And my family is making a grant to eliminate their student loans. I know my class will make sure they pay this forward… and let’s make sure every class has the same opportunity going forward because we are enough to take care of our own community.”
Morehouse College is an all-male historically black college located in Atlanta.
Smith is the founder and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, a private equity firm that invests in software, data, and technology-driven companies.
According to Forbes magazine, Smith’s net worth is about $5 billion. He has given generously before, to Cornell University, one of his alma maters, and cancer research and the arts.
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.