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A billionaire technology investor stunned the entire graduating class at Morehouse College when he announced at their commencement Sunday that he would pay off their student loans __ estimated at up to $40 million.

Robert F. Smith, this year’s commencement speaker, made the announcement while addressing nearly 400 graduating seniors of the all-male historically black college in Atlanta. Smith, who is black, is the Founder and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, a private equity firm that invests in software, data, and technology-driven companies.

“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,” the investor and philanthropist told graduates in his morning address. “This is my class, 2019. And my family is making a grant to eliminate their student loans.”


The announcement immediately drew stunned looks from faculty and students alike. Then the graduates broke into the biggest cheers of the morning and stood up, applauding. Morehouse said it is the single largest gift to the college.

Smith, who received an honorary doctorate from Morehouse during the ceremony, had already announced a $1.5 million gift to the school. The student debt for the class of 2019 is estimated to be as much as $40 million though no immediate total had been calculated yet.

Smith said he expected the recipients to “pay it forward” and said he hoped that “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 that we have all 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.”

In the weeks before graduating from Morehouse on Sunday, 22-year-old finance major Aaron Mitchom drew up a spreadsheet to calculate how long it would take him to pay back his $200,000 in student loans — 25 years at half his monthly salary, per his calculations.

In an instant, that number vanished. Mitchom, sitting in the crowd, wept.

“I can delete that spreadsheet,” he said in an interview after the commencement. “I don’t have to live off of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I was shocked. My heart dropped. We all cried. In the moment it was like a burden had been taken off.”

His mother, Tina Mitchom, was also shocked. Eight family members, including Mitchom’s 76-year-old grandmother, took turns over four years co-signing on the loans that got him across the finish line.

“It takes a village,” she said. “It now means he can start paying it forward and start closing this gap a lot sooner, giving back to the college and thinking about a succession plan” for his younger siblings.

Morehouse College president David A. Thomas said the gift would have a profound effect on the students’ futures.

“Many of my students are interested in going into teaching, for example, but leave with an amount of student debt that makes that untenable,” Thomas said in an interview. “In some ways, it was a liberation gift for these young men that just opened up their choices.”


Whack reported from Philadelphia. Associated Press writer Ben Nadler contributed to the report from Atlanta.





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19 thoughts on “Black Billionaire To Pay Off Student Loan Debt Of Entire 2019 Morehouse Graduating Class

  1. African American Woman on said:

    This is how we save ourselves. These young black men are now free to pursue passions and occupations that hopefully go towards building and strengthening our communities.

  2. Beatrice L Brown on said:

    Praise God This was money well spent and sounds like a good seed to sew .I pray he get a hundredfold return. I had the blessed opportunity to get educated thru the VA career ladder program so I know what it felt like not to have that large debt over me .Having to struggle for years to repay.This now gives them the ability to help another college kid or pay someone tuition for trade school or high school senior budget for a few people .The possibilities are endless

  3. stephanie on said:

    May God continue to Bless you and your families. Now all these other Black celebrities and athletes, needs to follow. Eliminating these kids student loan is a big burden lifted from their shoulder.

  4. Mia.P on said:

    Thank God for this Man he have helped a lot of our Young Men out of debt so they can go on and get job and help the next person. Now only if we can get some of these other rich people of color to step up and do their part remember We got to help each other.

  5. Passing Through!! on said:

    Good move Robert for spending your money in your black community, now only if you could have been even smarter with your black money and married and had children with a black woman instead of that white playboy whore you would be batting 10 for 10.

    • Wow why the hate? I hope you’re not black but if you are, if you’re a black woman, my theory prove me correct, y’all dam sisters or never satisfy.
      If a man bring you’re a dozen of yellow roses, you would ask why isn’t it red, if he buy you a car that he can afford you would ask why isn’t it new. Y’all Negro woman are sure hard to please,

      • Passing Through!! on said:

        And you just proved my theory correct, any excuse to lay with a white woman especially when being called out for selling out. No go fetch you a dog to lay and breed with.

  6. Chastity on said:

    Wow!! He and his wife are such a blessing to many. I am sure this was the best graduation gift they got. May he continue to be blessed so that he can continue to be a blessing. I wish he would pay my school loans off. 🙂 But congrats to those who he helped. Such a blessing!!

  7. Ted Gravely on said:

    Interesting dude. He definitely has the heart of gold – he wived a ho. Money + Mouth = Positive Action. Now if these HBCU graduates would donate $25 per month, it would pay if forward for others.

    • Amber on said:

      Exactly. This is why I get upset when I hear people want to degrade and tell other black leaders or etc what to do. Get up and do something yourself for those in the community. We ALL can do something. Robert E. Smith did something wonderful and that will go along way.

    • Passing Through!! on said:

      @TED…Wifed a white ho indeed, the one blemish on his record. So when his kids marry white you know where his billionaire empire is going 20-30 years from now. The dumbest financial decision of his career. Black men just can’t resist that poison.

  8. Michael Middleton on said:

    My hat’s off to Mr. Robert Smith. It’s this type of generosity and caring that will help us grow and become less dependent on this power structured society. Many of us can’t give $40 million to our students but donating $40 to some struggling student will go a long, long way. Excellent story!!

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